This new Alter Bridge album actually fared quite well on a metal site that is normally well-known for its rough reviews and I became a bit curious as to why it did so well. Alter Bridge is as you know, a sort of Creed spin-off, but with a guitarist who’s clearly not afraid to voice his metal opinion, such as with Blackbird’s opener “Ties That Bind” clearly reminding me of power thrash acts like Brainstorm. Yes, really. Have you actually heard it? There’s been such an unwarranted stigma about these guys that not a lot of metalheads have really gotten the chance to sit down and listen to these albums, but like most things, I gave it a shot and was actually impressed with some of the band’s past material. This leads us into the new album, Fortress. At first glance, I could tell that there were some meatier songs on the release as far as length was concerned and that was a good sign. It is widely known that pop tracks are usually around the three or four minute mark, because it makes it easier for the radio to play multiple tracks in one session. But when the album opened up with “Cry Of Achilles” and its multi-structured approach, and powerful chorus – I was certain that this was going to be a winner for me. This is a band that is truly trying to put as much metal as they can into the pop construct, which isn’t terrible – there are certainly some wonderful solos here and it’s an amazing effort like Creed’s earlier work.
“Bleed It Dry” pounds down heavy on the drums, with yet another memorable solo and it just continues from there. This is such a muscular rock record that I’ve yet to hear anything quite like it in the mainstream. Then you’ve got the chorus on “Peace Is Broken” which will find its way into your head quickly, as these are easily some of the best vocal lines that I’ve heard from the frontman in years. He sounds completely unreal in most aspects, combined with riffs that are anything but ordinary d-tune. What it honestly sounds like, is that these musicians sat down and thought about how they could write a complex hard rock album with metal tinges that would still maintain viability in the mainstream. I will admit that it’s still a way off from true power metal, or power thrash even, but it does get pretty damned close at times, which is refreshing. And for further reiteration, this thing is certainly solo-heavy, which is just not something you hear in hard rock records these days. When a verse/chorus style is usually all that matters, it’s good to hear a band redefining the hard rock genre and making something that in all actuality is pretty damned good. Even if you can’t get by the poppier bits on the album, it’s going to be tough to cast off what they’ve done here as ordinary or run of the mill. Now I wish that the members of Alter Bridge would get on a bus and hand Fortress out to all of those other simple verse/chorus artists and attach a post-it note to each copy of the album with this simple message: This Is How It’s Done.