30th September 2013 – Roadrunner
Metal/ Hard Rock/ Alternative
The fourth studio album from American alternative metal band Alter Bridge kicks off with a hard hit of solid riffs, brain mashing drum beats, and growling bass, but, as fast as these few opening bars catch you, the whole thing runs out of steam. I mean, the group’s high level of technical proficiency and conservatorium movement linking skills are laudable in themselves (these boys obviously think long and hard about these sorts of things), but I just couldn’t shake the feeling that they were more interested in showing off than actually entertaining anyone.
After snoozing through the bloated six minute epic of Cry Of Achilles I really did try to get involved with the great thrash undertones of Addicted To Pain, but as the band jumped from riff to riff I once again found myself drifting off. I mean, I appreciated each individual instance of good, hard-rocking, head-banging material, but the multitude of ideas crammed onto this record just keep clashing and jumbling together to the point where it’s almost impossible to sort the wheat from the chaff. Not to mention the fact that whatever sincerity and force of feeling might have originally been in this overblown collection of tracks has been almost completely lost during the overzealous production process.
There are a few tracks where Alter Bridge do let their grungy thrash roots speak for themselves, however. Peace Is Broken and Cry A River, for example, work well in their reliance of crunchy guitar lines and the drumming throughout the entire record is quite brilliant. On the whole, however, Fortress just flits about through a melange of indecisiveness about where all these tracks are going. One minute we’re listening to a Metallica inspired intro followed by an Eddie Vedder impersonation thrown in for good measure and the next we’re being disappointed by a Pink Floyd masturbation fantasy of a guitar solo. I mean, what are we meant to make of all of this unfocussed musical drifting? If it’s meant to appeal to my sense of ‘too-deep-for-you’ art-wankery, then I’ve got to say it fails.
I think that really is the main problem with this overblown record; it just makes the listener work far too hard for far too little payoff. There’s just not enough substance that a listener can connect with or enough opportunities to get lost in heavy-metal abandon to justify all of the ‘look-what-I-can-do’ time signatures and pointlessly epic vocals. Perhaps if all of the tracks were pared back to half their length one might get a surprisingly brutal record full of head-banging glory, but as it stands Fortress comes across as little more than an excuse for Alter Bridge to masturbate in public, and, while that may sound like a shockingly lewd activity, I can assure you that in this case it is incredibly boring.
So, in conclusion I have to say that Fortress is an exceptionally dull album. There is some fun to be had with the riffs on a few of the tracks, but overall it just bores from start to finish. Their musicianship is commendable, an if ego were an instrument then they would surely be masters of their craft, but really it’s just not enough to boost this record out of its deep pit of pompous dullness.
And here is Peace Is Broken, one of the more straightforward tracks from Fortress.
- ALTER BRIDGE – Myles Kennedy Reveals Essential Elements Of Fortress In New Video Interview (bravewords.com)
- An Early Look at the New Alter Bridge Album (pluginsoundoff.wordpress.com)
- Fortress (joehartwell.wordpress.com)
- ALTER BRIDGE: Entire ‘Fortress’ Album Available For Streaming (blabbermouth.net)
- Alter Bridge – Fortress-2013 (beatsofaleakyfaucet.wordpress.com)
- ALTER BRIDGE: New ‘Fortress’ Track-By-Track Breakdown Posted Online (blabbermouth.net)