Alter Bridge, “Fortress”

alter-bridge-album

Alter Bridge hit the scene in 2004, and was at the time known to many fans as being essentially a continuation of Creed. Their first album had a ring of the same post-grunge flavor, but starting with their second album “Blackbird,” they’ve set themselves apart as a hard rock band, unblemished by previous ties, despite the fact that three of the band’s four members are now also reunited with Creed. They created a niche based on heavy guitar riffs and dark lyrics, which combined with Myles Kennedy’s outrageous vocal range to make a signature sound. It’s a sound that relies on the dark and dreary aspects of life, a niche they haven’t departed from with their fourth album.

Alter Bridge doesn’t write “story songs,” so their worldview is often shown in a more conceptual manner. Their worldview is a whole is a mixture of two things: the hope of the nearly forsaken, and the hopelessness of the truly forsaken. They straddle the line between the two. The truly forsaken is often a depraved and evil individual.

The thing that’s missing is hope of redemption for the sinner (wrongdoer). There’s a sense of eternal doom and the one being unforgivable. It may be an outlet for frustration for the wronged, but what about a wrongdoer, what is there for him? Ask Alter Bridge, and their music says “He can burn in Hell.” Quite literally, really, with lyrics such as “Now your fate has been decided” and “No more saving innocence at all.”

Musically, the album is a fantastic addition to Alter Bridge’s material. It’s energetic hard rock, but not without melody. It’s crunching guitars and killer solos, but not without the softer moments. This, however, can easily be undone by the depressing lyrical concepts. The dark and the gritty does have some redeeming qualities, but do they do enough to offset the negative? In most albums, I would say that is not the case. In “Fortress,” I would say that is the case, except in the songs “Cry Me a River,” and “Waters Rising.” With the exception of these two songs, the negativity does redeem itself through contemplation on consequences of lifestyle choices, and admission of hope in the darkest of days.

Track-by-track

1. Cry of Achilles
The album starts out with a wicked acoustic guitar intro. It’s so good, in fact, that I was disappointed when the heavier part of the song started. It’s a typical “you may never get out” hard rock song, but is made more interesting by Myles Kennedy’s impressive voice and the presence of hope in the midst of misery. The chorus has one of the most impressive Alter Bridge melodies to date, with the lyrics “Don’t close your eyes/something beautiful is still alive/ don’t close your eyes/never turn away/and let it die.” 5/5

2. Addicted to Pain
There’s not much room for positivity on this track. “You’re addicted to pain,” “In time you’re gonna lose it all” and “She sold you out/you’re gonna lose it all” are lyrics that portray the song’s message very clearly. It has a cool guitar riff, but not the best they’ve ever done. Complete with a curse word, this is one that is in stark contrast with the hope of the previous track. It’s negative lyrically, mediocre musically, and should never have been the lead single. 1/5

3. Bleed It Dry
The majority of this track is less melodic than the others on the album, and isn’t as impressive to start with. However, the bridge is nearly bone-chilling. It is a negative song, but lyrics such as “The world you chose to bleed will be dead and gone” contemplate the consequences of choices, which combats the postmodernist idea of the victim of circumstance. 3/5

4. Lover
This song has another acoustic introduction, one of the things that Alter Bridge seems to do best on this record. It makes me wish they would do it more. It’s the second-most melodic song on the album (second to “All Ends Well”). Myles sings “What you had is shattered and wasted/did you have to take it so far?” It’s a song about being wronged by someone and their selfish pursuits. That’s something that happens, but it comes off as a self-focused (and thereby, ironically, selfish) tirade. It would earn a five, were it not for the selfish lyrics. 3/5

5. The Uninvited
The scene is set by the lyric “No more saving innocence at all.” The song is about depravity and evil, but includes a more definite consequence for such a life: “Now your fate has been decided/for the life you take this is overdue/You will not be uninvited.” The application for a Christian is even more evident: those who contribute to erasing innocence through nurturing of a sinful culture will pay. It’s a negative song, but one with direction. 4/5

6. Peace is Broken
This is another song about consequences, but it’s more about the speaker pointing fingers than it is about being helpful or contemplating on the result of bad choices. Myles sings “You did it all yourself/with you and no one else to blame.” It may have been true, but what about us? What have we done? Should we spend all of our time pointing fingers? 3/5

7. Calm the Fire
There’s some really cool finger-tapping in the background, followed by an awesome lead when the heavier part kicks in. It starts out as more of a hopeless song: “The madness in our hearts will never end/Because I’ve seen it all/I can’t fight it anymore.” However, the message quickly changes when the chorus kicks in: “Cause now more than ever what we need/Is love to replace all the obscene” This song is really about love providing redemption, casting out the “obscene.” Could there be a more Christian worldview? 5/5

8. Waters Rising
Mark Tremonti sings with Myles Kennedy on this one, and their tag-team vocals create an incredible harmony that ought to be utilized more often. Unfortunately, the song is nothing more than a container for death and destruction: “Now all of the fields are burning/it blacks out the sun” and “This is tomorrow’s way to end our days/Watch as the clouds they gather now to wash us away.” 2/5

9. Farther Than the Sun
Not as memorable as other songs on the album, but still not bad. Myles sings “I have to find a place where I belong/I do not like what I have become/No more compromise, I will be gone/Free to fly, farther than the sky.” It’s a traveler’s song, looking for a place to belong, and shows discontentment with self, but intent on changing self. Good message, good music. 4/5

10. Cry a River
This is by far the most negative song on the album, as well as being unapologetically selfish: “I gave you everything/but I could never pacify you.” Feels like a bratty kid whining about his parents. 1/5

11. All Ends Well
This one is impressive. It’s a power ballad, as well as the most melodic and uplifting song. In general, it’s the best song on the album, and should have been the closer, in my opinion. Its only blemish is a curse word in the chorus. The first verse alone shows the positivity of the song: “If I could ease your mind, calm the storm inside/Pull your drifting heart back from a cruel and bitter tide/Show you that tomorrow everything will be just fine/Oh in due time.” 5/5

12. Fortress
The Lyrics depict an ending relationship through a crumbling fortress, but the speaker still can’t let the other person go. The song’s true message is difficult to discern. The speaker can’t let the other person go, but at the end it says that the other person will look back in regret. Does that mean resolution? That isn’t directly stated. It could be resolution, or it could be more of a “serves you right” attitude. My guess is that it’s some of the latter, although it may be more of a “we’ll both be sorry, but there won’t be anything we can do about it.” 3/5

4 thoughts on “Alter Bridge, “Fortress”

  1. This review is flat out wrong. Negativity does not equate a bad song. You basically trashed the album because it’s message doesn’t line up with what you wish it was. The entire concept of the album is a crumbling fortress and hopelessness. The message Myle’s wants to convey is naturally going to be dark because that’s the point of the album. Cry of Achilles, Addicted to Pain, Peace is Broken, Waters Rising, and Fortress are highlights of the album.

    • Just because something is the point of the album doesn’t make it justified in the eyes of the Christian. And I might point out that the redeeming qualities offset what I criticized about the album, which is hardly “trashing” the it.

Leave a Reply