In a recent interview with Mark Tremonti, he told me that Alter Bridge are a band constantly looking to evolve and change. With Fortress, the band’s fourth album released today, they certainly prove their point. From the rockers on this disc to the slower songs, you can just tell something’s different, and they took some chances, yet it sounds like classic Alter Bridge. Wow…classic. Hard to believe they’ve been around long enough for me to say that about them. Yep, it’s been almost a decade since One Day Remains and Alter Bridge shows no sign of stopping anytime soon. So let’s get into it.
Opening track “Cry of Achilles” starts with a soft guitar intro written by vocalist/guitarist Myles Kennedy then kicks into full badass mode before you can say “What the hell?” The last minute of this song features just one of the MANY sensational solos from guitarist Mark Tremonti, too. First single and video “Addicted to Pain” is next and is a lesson in How to Rock 101. Alter Bridge has always been very adept at writing fast-paced rockers, and this one is no exception, and they’re gonna crush it live. Scott Phillips’ drumming leads the way and sets a heavy tone for “Bleed It Dry”, and bassist Brian Marshall and Tremonti are stuck together like glue in a deep, dark groove on what is definitely one of the album’s best. The solo on this tune is mind-blowing, also. The man coaxes a tone out of a guitar most people didn’t even know existed.
“Lover” showcases Myles using a breathy voice on the verses in this slowed-down affair about betrayal, and infidelity, from what I can gather. Then about halfway through you FEEL, rather than hear his powerful cries of despair. Myles Kennedy is no stranger to capturing real emotion in his delivery, and it is one of the things that make Alter Bridge such a great band. Up next is one of my favorites, “The Uninvited”. This is another one anchored by Phillips heavy beats and Tremonti’s serpentine riffs coiled around each other like a damn snake. I can’t believe it almost didn’t make the album; that would’ve been a crime. The revving build-up of “Peace Is Broken” has Tremonti going up and down the fret board with the speed of light, all while maintaining his trademark heavy sound. With so many killer tracks good luck picking which ones to play live, guys!
The intro to “Calm the Fire” had the hairs on the back of my neck standing up as Myles sings in his falsetto over the guitars, then switching to his full-on belt. After a pause, the band comes crashing in putting up a wall of sound faster than a bricklayer getting an incentive bonus! This one could very easily break your REPEAT button, be warned. “Waters Rising” is very different for the band because it’s Mark Tremonti making his lead vocal debut on the verses before Myles joins him on the choruses. This was the first song I was drawn to like a magnet, and packs one of the bigger punches on this disc. Tremonti nails every note and nuance without trying to overdo it, either. “Farther Than the Sun” is one of the heaviest cuts and its theme of liberation and defiance should resonate very well with the casual and the die-hard fan.
The theme of betrayal is found once again on “Cry a River” which goes from mid-tempo to off to the races at the drop of a hat. My personal favorite on the entire record though, is “All Ends Well”. It’s melodic, soulful, and rocks in all the right places. It’s so good I have to put it in my Top 5 Alter Bridge songs all-time. Yes, I’m serious!! This brings us to title track and album closer “Fortress” which serves as a nice bookend to the record with “Achilles”. Clocking in at 7:38, it pretty much runs the gamut. Fast, slow, hard, soft, they cover everything here, and Tremonti uses some otherworldly guitar effects which only enhance the song’s depth. This song, as well as much of the Fortress album, is rather experimental, and the results are in: Brilliant, guys. Just brilliant. I highly recommend you stop whatever you’re doing right now, and pick this one up.
STANDOUT TRACKS: “Calm the Fire”, “Waters Rising”, “The Uninvited”, “All Ends Well, “Peace Is Broken”, “Bleed It Dry”