27 November 2013

Alter Bridge - Fortress

Alter Bridge (aka Creed with a different singer) has had a strange journey of sorts from the point of view of the ATTIWLTMOWOS people (I would say office, but that would be a lie).  Anything to do with Creed will send some of them running for the hills; others have a love/hate relationship with them.  For me I have always had a soft spot for what they do, it is sort of like Pearl Jam and other grunge bands of that like, Myles Kennedy is an awesome vocalist and the playing is a step up from Creed.  But there is something that keeps me from being a fully pledged up fan of Alter Bridge and I cannot put my finger on it.  Their first three albums have been decent affairs but lacking something for me, something is just not quite right in the state of Alter Bridge for me.  Will their fourth record 'Fortress' the album to break the mould here and be the first album I like out for the beginning....

For this album, the band worked again with Michael "Elvis" Baskette who produced their last two albums.  It is obviously a fit that they feel comfortable with and makes for a continuous feel in the sound quality and overall warmth to the sound.  For some people this could be one of the reasons not to like them as they could say there has been no development in sound or a creative burst.  I will come onto this after I have gone through the songs.  Starting with acoustic opening "Crying For Achilles" launches into a full stomping classic which will no doubt look great in their shows with the lights and crowd roaring.  The song goes on about searching for something and Myles Kennedy's vocals are on top form again from the beginning.  Following up is lead single "Addicted To Pain" which you will probably hear on a wrestling PPV very soon if I am honest.  It is a standard song from these guys, well played but in no way, shape or form anything different from them.

Next up though is "Bleed It Dry", the opening riff is monstrous and so towering it feels like it could go on forever, but soon it gives way to the usual angry response to someone who has done the song writer wrong.  The solo in the middle is one of those top draw classic guitar solos, that will have the noodle heads reaching for their own guitars to figure out how it is was done.  It is a very good song indeed, which brings us to "Lover", a moment that is designed to be the tender lighter moment (or mobile phone moment for modern audiences) of the band's new set, and it takes a little while to really kick in.  The first half of the song just drags if the truth be told that when they finally make dramatic change to full guitar and solo mode that I have already switch off in my head; it took a little too long to get there and what they deliver for the sonic shift moment here does nothing to raise my interest on the song.  "The Uninvited" restore a sort of balance here, back to the stomping riff and that familiar bound that made bands like Stone Temple Pilots international stars.  I do say that fully aware the Mr Kennedy sort of replaced Mr Wieland for Slash, but that is beside the point.  Whilst this is not the most original of material, "The Uninvited" is a really good number.

Coming quickly behind is "Peace Is Broken", a anti war song which is quite possibly the best song the band have done, let alone just on this album.  It has that classic rock feel that an anthem really needs, the riff sounds like a fine tuned machine, the drumming by Scott Phillips drives the song forward and the bass work from Brian Marshall is out of this world.  I cannot over praise this song, it is the jewel of this album and rightly so.  Coming up next then is a sharp down turn with "Calm The Fire", I think any song that followed that last one would suffer; but this song takes two minutes to get to the start and Alter Bridge are neither Boris or Mono, they are not a drone band, noise band or progressive rock/metal band.  Something’s are left to the experts and that beginning to an average song which steal a riff from "Chop Suey" from System Of A Down (honestly, it does) and does nothing for the record. "Waters Rising" is a slow number which would have been better placed to follow "Peace Is Broken" if truth be told; it is not trying to change the world and has that well trodden light verse/heavy chorus movement that has graced many a rock station for years.  It is a clever (if not original) little number.

"Farther Than The Sun" has a good stomp to it, but I now have the feeling that I have heard this song before; I don't mean just elsewhere in the world but on this album itself.  It is a decent number, but it whiffs of filler to be honest.  "Cry A River" on the other hand is all out manic compared to the rest, comes out in the beginning like a bat out Hades and just runs along dragging the listener in its slipstream.  Much more enjoyable and slightly different to the rest of the work here (please note, when I say slightly it is like two different types of cheddar cheese - it is basically the same thing).  "All Ends Well" is the traditional hands swaying number that almost ends these types of albums, and for once it is not awful.  Again there is no originality on this number, but it is a very good song and not the same as the rest of the album which is a good thing.  Closing the album is the title track and it is your standard Alter Bridge number, epic solo, quite/loud movement and a powerful vocal display.  I know why they do these sorts of numbers as Mr Kennedy's vocals fits nicely to this type of music, sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't.  It works here due to the way they mix up the riffs and the solos are really good, but it was a close thing to be honest.

After getting to the end of this album I have figured out a few things about Alter Bridge which I will mention here before the verdict.  They are obviously stupidly talented musicians and with Myles Kennedy, Messrs Tremonti, Marshall and Phillips, they have a much more talented and powerful vocalist than when they are in Creed.  That being said, they do tend to get stuck in a rut with the light/loud vocal movements of their work and even though they are brilliant musicians sometime they over reach themselves with their work.  Also, they are hardly the most original of bands and I can see why people have problems with them; but the same could be levelled at AC/DC, Motorhead and others, yet they don't get half as much flack.  The jury is still out on the band as a whole for me at the moment, but I have made up my mind for the album.  Overall the quality of the playing makes this a really good record, there is a few filler moments on here which loss it marks and if they were shaven off it would have gotten a lot higher.  It will not win too many new fans if I'm honest, but it will be perfect for the converted.

7.5 out of ten - This is good and well worth a check

You can purchase the album from Amazon here

You can visit the Alter Bridge website here

You can listen to the album on Spotify here

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