Album Review – Alter Bridge – Fortress

I’ll start by mentioning that Alter Bridge was not on my list of bands I would intentionally listen to. I’ve never paid enough attention into any of their previous albums or singles – that could be my fault as I have lost love with the radio and out of touch with certain bands formed in the last ten years, or it could be when I do get a chance to hear released singles or streams, they just simply don’t impress.

So, with that in mind, I heard the lead single from the new album – Addicted to Pain, and instantly handed two thumbs down for it. Addicted to Pain is a song that belongs in the era of Iron Maiden’s Peace of Mind album. (Aside from the obvious classics that album has, it isn’t a good album from start to finish)

Let me explain …

For a non-fan of this band and hearing that as the lead single, I would not have pursued listening to any other song. I don’t know, there’s that familiar rhythm that sounds like a train running over some old tracks in a lot of metal or hard rock that’s been done a thousand times before by a thousand different bands. It just seems songs like, Addicted to Pain easily falls into that pit of boring, done before train track rhythms, with little fills here and there accompanied by mediocre lyrics that seemingly have no meaning and straightforward vocals that sound bland and old – something, I feel, that a relatively new band shouldn’t do.

Anyway, I decided to give the album a chance for change, and started from the first song on the album, Cry of Achilles.

Aside from the opening riff, again I was not impressed – a thousand times by a thousand bands. I yawned and moved on after its six-minute run, everything was just too predictable.

However, the song that eventually changed my mind and forced me into enthusiasm was the forth track, Lover – hands down that saved the album for me.

A song that starts acoustic and melodic with husky vocals, then slowly amalgamating into something a little heavier until reaching the bridge and second chorus; that is when the song turns into crunching rock.

Now this is a song that would stand out as a single to promote their new album, one I think should be their first single as it would bring new listeners like me into acknowledging something a little different from what seems to be that standard, done before, sound.

Lover is the song that made me think twice and feel that there actually could be another layer to this album and to this band.

I was right; shedding its skin like an onion with songs like The Uninvited (my favourite) then, All Ends Well and Waters Rising, they completely altered my opinion of the album and the band. I just cannot shift the thought of why they didn’t keep the album diverse as a whole, carry on the unique opening riffs treated with phaser and delay or flanger noises, keep the interludes in the middles of certain songs more widespread through out the album, keep things different!

If they would do such a thing, they wouldn’t have to fall into categories such like, “Oh, AlterBridge? Yeah, they’re just another shitty hair metal group from the states.”

Hey, I could be so wrong, and I can guarantee AlterBridge fans to slay my opinion down like a flaming dragon. In my defence, I haven’t heard too much of AlterBridge to say quotes like that, and by their following they are obviously doing something right and maybe found a gap in the market. On doing a little research on these guys, there seems to be some history involving the lead singer Myles Kennedy. A boy who grew up and was trained musically within a jazz environment, a young man who taught guitar as a paying job. To a man, who was rumoured to be writing songs with Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones, a rock star, touring as lead singer with Slash on his solo album and now a respected musician with his biggest project in the musical industry.

After listening to Fortress as a whole album, personally I would rate 3.5 out of 5 stars.

I would have rated it with a flat 1 because for the same old sound I heard on a few of the tracks. However, it earned the 3.5 with the most interesting and genuine tracks that stood out and seemingly broke the mould, such as my favourite, The Uninvited and All Ends Well, Lover and Calm The Fire – where Myles, I have to say, sings very fucking well.

For myself, I see this band can do something different, even if they like to play it safe with their older fans. Where I stated saying that AlterBridge was not on my list of bands I would intentionally listen too, well, “was” being the verb of the past tense.

After listening to Fortress, I will pay more attention to AlterBridge in future. I’m sure their previous albums differ in sound and style and I’m sure with the success of Fortress they will also continue to push themselves and evolve their sound further. So would I purchase this album as an outsider listening in?

Yes, I would, and that’s still regarding the tracks I personally thought were weak, poor, and same old.

I still would skip those few tracks, keeping the thought of Iron Maiden in the back of my head, and maybe I ought to have brought an album of them with me in the car for the original train track rhythms.

But don’t take my word for it, go and have a listen for yourself and offer me YOUR opinion.

Jack Buxton 

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