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It's a behemoth of an album.....
on 1 October 2013
In which our heroes discover Tool, unleash their inner prog, and in this reviewer's opinion cross the dividing line from "great", to "timeless".
I've followed Alter Bridge's career from its inception as "the good bits of Creed ditch that awful singer and get a really good one instead", through their first 3 albums (One Day Remains - solid if a little one paced, Blackbird - slightly less solid but redeemed by the frankly astounding title track, AB3 - not a bad album but so unremittingly doomy it's hard work, and that's coming from a Peter Hammill fan), and saw them from their first gigs at the sadly departed London Astoria, to their current UK arena headlining status. So it's pleasing, and a little surprising in an era where a four album career is such a rarity, to be able to report that Fortress is Alter Bridge's best album by a distance.
There's a whole load of advances from AB3, from the Spanish guitar and slightly proggy structure to Cry of Achilles, to the Jeff Buckley-esque vocal on Lover, through to the title track, which has a twin-guitar section that is up there with anything I've heard in god knows how many years. The incredibly Tool-influenced Uninvited (which features in a really niftily clever recapitulation (how prog is that?!) in the companion piece Cry a River), and the anthemically riffy Addicted to Pain are also worthy of mention. There's a really epic feel to a lot of this album - an earlier reviewever mentioned Physical Graffiti, and I can definitely see the comparison - it's very much the work of a band who are sufficiently comfortable in their own skin to take a song idea wherever they want.
One of the most positive things about the album is the work of the rhythm section, particularly Scott Phillips on drums. It may well be his powerful yet not overly-flashy, almost Bonham-esque approach to the grooves on the album that elevate this to one of my favourite albums of a long time. Myles Kennedy still has probably the best voice in Rock, as well as a very, very good ear for guitar orchestration, and Mark Tremonti hasn't recorded a finer album.
I like it. A lot. You will too, if you're a fan of hard rock done well. Highly recommended.