Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Alter Bridge Builds Upon Its Fortress

Alter Bridge
Anticipation for Alter Bridge to produce a fourth album began almost immediately after AB III was released. Better than half the album hummed along, especially the darker, heavier sound. They had forever established themselves as their own band, clearly distinct from previous connections.

This time out, there is no half an album. Fortress is a continuation of an aggressive direction, with the band being conscious that this material plays better on tour. Of course, that doesn't mean Alter Bridge has abandoned everything else they've ever done. They balance experimentation with expectation.

Fortress is more collaborative and the resulting sound is more cohesive. 

The real distinction in direction was established early on with Myles Kennedy recognizing that Mark Tremonti has an affinity for writing metal riffs. So rather than trying to fit those riffs into whatever he brought to the table, Kennedy brought in more aggressive riff-ready tracks to match whatever Tremonti had brought along. The matchup was near perfect.

After the initial structure was complete, Kennedy and Tremonti turned the work over to Brian Marshall and Scott Phillips. Marshall, on bass, and Phillips, on drums, were able to flesh out their their always unique rhythm together, sometimes altering songs in the process.

This all worked really well. Kennedy and Tremonti have become a true duo as songwriters. Marshall and Phillips have become their essential filters. It's also a far cry from previous albums, with Tremonti writing most of the first, Kennedy writing most of the second, and the pair more or less splitting the difference on their last outing.

While this collaborative approach is not necessarily apparent on first track released in support of Fortress, Addicted To Pain still foreshadows a tighter cohesiveness. It's straight-up rock.

Relying heavily on guitar riffs and melodic choruses, Addicted To Pain is decidedly radio ready (one of only a few on the entire album). Bleed It Dry is a better first listen, with its percussion-heavy open and powered-up vocals. It earns its place as one of the best tracks, with the guitar solo exceeding anything Tremonti has contributed to Alter Bridge.

There is a lot to like about the opener too. Cry Of Achilles begins with an acoustical front before dashing ahead with more than six minutes of alternating rock-metal arrangements. It largely sets the pace for the album while it seals a captivating live show pace for Fortress.

Expect the power ballad about betrayal to get plenty of attention with Kennedy underscoring the emotive quality of the lyrics. Like many of the immediately popular tracks, Lover proves Alter Bridge has mastered the ability to play accessible rock as much as its metal influenced counterparts.

Still, it will be the harder parts of Fortress that will make it memorable. The metal leanings of The Uninvited and bottomless textures of the experimental cut of the title track Fortress put Alter Bridge in a different class of music.

In contrast, tracks like Calm The Fire and Waters Rising ease off just enough to retain their rock sensibilities. The latter also gives Tremonti a chance as a lead vocalist, further underscoring how Alter Bridge will become even more dynamic over time. And it will take time.

Although all four members will be busy touring with Alter Bridge in the immediate future, Kennedy, Tremonti and Phillips all have side projects. Tremonti might use an upcoming window in December and January to write some new material. Kennedy is also chipping away at some new material with Slash.

Fortress By Alter Bridge Stands At 8.2 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale. 

Fortress makes it exceedingly clear that there is a ton of life left in Alter Bridge. It is easily their most compelling album, one that demonstrates their growth as musicians who aren't afraid to take more risks. There might be one or two tracks that someone might call traditional Alter Bridge, but the balance is better, making Fortress their best album to date.

You can pick up Fortress on Amazon. The album can be downloaded on iTunes or ordered from Barnes & Noble. Alter Bridge is currently touring in the United Kingdom and across Europe. For more information about the band, visit them on Facebook.
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