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Fortress

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$8.38

Reviews

Average Rating
★★★★½
(33 Reviews)

Metal Album Reviews[RSS]

  • Maybe I fell in love with this album when “like suicide, like suicide” in “Palms Read” is wailed over an instrumental ensemble that communicates any emotions or message that Protest the Hero choose to lay over it with vocals, but in this example perfectly enfuses the listener with angst.

    Or maybe it was when I heard “Wretch” in its entirety for the first time and got lost in its intricate web of riffs, rhythms, and guitar effects that change up and mix themselves around like aces in a deck of cards, but are somehow always found in the chaos and pulled out without error or hesitation in exactly the right order in the manner of a street magician.

    Maybe it was when the piano solo at the end of “Spoils” came on and I realized that this band could pull off multiple genres while retaining their emotionally charged touch that gives every song on Fortress its incredible quality.

    Maybe it was when I realized that every time I listened to this album it always imbued me with a hopeful, optimistic mood despite its moody, often tense and sometimes violent lyrics.

    Maybe it was when I realized that when I listened to certain particularly evocative passages of songs, my thoughts turn to someone I hold particularly close in my heart. My feelings are perfectly matched by the angst-filled lyrics due to a certain ambiguity and reticence I feel in the relationship I have with this person. But its hard to not to think my anxious mood is merely love when Rody Walker belts out “she is the dusk, she is the dawn, she is the moon, she is the stars” amidst a soaring background, followed up by a otherwordly solo and then a dizzying barrage of guitar that makes what little of my brain that’s still thinking sensibly completely melt. And then, as if to pull me back to Earth, rebuking me for dreaming while everything is getting away from me, he screams “SHE IS HERE, SHE IS GONE!”. Against some fading guitar tones, he repeats, as if only to me, in a whisper: she is gone.

    Yeah, I’m about 12 listens in, and Fortress blows away anything else I have heard in 2008, any other metal album I have ever heard (except maybe Songs for the Deaf by Queens of the Stone Age), and as each song flies by me again, it climbs up my top 20 album alltime ranking spot by spot.

    If you have not heard this album, hear it, as soon as possible. You will probably not be blown away on first listen – there is simply too much to take in, as some songs have 15-20 separate riffs and musical themes in their 3-5 minutes. Don’t be turned off by the occasional death-metalish growled vocal or shrieked high note. Don’t be intimidated by Dragonforce-esque soloes (one of their guitarists actually guests on one track and rips off two amazing soloes) that are mind-numbingly fast yet retain their musical qualities and tonal value on listen after listen, gaining luster and coherence with each successive play.

    And, because this is at its heart a metal album, even if it strays frequently from “metal” with its forays into subtle horn and string sections as well as piano soloes and dramatic pauses, do not be afraid to crank this thing’s volume until the riffs bleed out into you and you meld with the tones and make them your own. Yeah, I get a little poetic and indulgent in language when talking about this album.

    And a little damp in the underwear as well.

    Rating: 9.5

    Posted on November 20, 2009 - Permalink - Buy Now
  • There is a lot of “best album ever” and “heard it before” both in the previous reviews. The reality lies somewhere in between, but much more on the side of best album ever.

    If you like any variation of metal, I have to think you will like this band, and particularly this album. If you listen to a little bit and don’t like it, just give it a minute – it will change! And I have to agree with someone that if you do not like it the first time through, then don’t bother anymore.

    There are several reasons I felt compelled to review. First of all, comparisons to Dream Theater, Cynic and others (Coheed and Cambria) are laughable. I will say that some reviewers have decided that the lead guitar parts are weak, and they could, at times, be called just that. There is a lack of diversity in the fingertapping and arpeggios throughout. That said, there is not one stretch of monotony on the entire album. And, that confined repetition does not do justice to the overall guitar playing – the timing of everyone in the band is top notch, including the guitars, and the guitar harmonies are exquisite and well thought-out. Catchy rythyms abound and there is clearly no lack of creative force. Simply put, if you think you have heard this before, so be it. But you may also be a snobby self-proclaimed “prog expert!” Who cares!

    The biggest thing for me with this album is that many times when you find an album that is this musically diverse, tight, and fast, you tend to find the vocals sound like an afterthought. Meshuggah may be one of the best musically technical bands around, but in my opinion the vocals are very lacking. Then again, I do not like one-dimensional anything, and say what you want but Meshuggah’s (and MANY others’) vocals are just that. Not so here – the vocals are just as integral as any other instruments. Good range, and like the overall product, some screaming, some catchy, some commercial, and some humorous aspects. Solid singer if not spectacular, and this alone adds so much to this music.

    Bass playing is phenomenal, drumming is as masterful as possible. These guys are YOUNG, and with any luck they will be around for a long time. I have a hard time thinking that any fan of metal would not enjoy this album for what it is, and it is a breath of fresh air. The piano parts are a welcome break from the action, but are in no way up to par with the rest of the album – they are quick filler. However I think there are maybe two of those parts, and they do not take away from the whole.

    This is the best album I have heard since Baroness last year, worthy of purchase and I am confident that most people reading this review will more than get their money’s worth. This album has a lot of passion in it, which is sorely lacking these days.

    Posted on November 20, 2009 - Permalink - Buy Now
  • While it may be early in the year, after listening to “Fortress” nonstop for the last two weeks, I think I can safely say that this will end up in my top three for the year. It’s not very often that an album comes along, that is so good that it shatters all preconceptions that you had about a particular genre and creates its own.This becomes clear in the first 60 seconds of “Bloodmeat”. Everything that is thrown into the blender really would look like a mess on paper, but it all comes through so clear and perfect. Think of the Mars Volta with Coheed and Cambria, rocking out with Iron Maiden and Dream Theater, all conducted by Frank Zappa with his trademark sense of humor surfacing here and there. There’s also a strong pop sensibility that runs throughout the whole album that lets you know these guys haven’t forgotten that this is indeed a rock album. It may be proggy and dense, but never to the point where it is completely impenetrable. Vocals range from clean, nasal, screaming and grunting. Very diverse, but every style is right for the part. And the guitars…my god, the guitars.

    While describing an album that you’re really excited about, it’s hard not to throw around adjectives like “amazing” and “mind-blowing”, and “stunning”, but after one listen, I think you’ll agree with me. The musicianship is top-notch, to say the least. The song structures are other-worldly. There is not one wasted note in the whole mix. It also has to be said that it never sounds the same twice.

    Without any reservation whatsoever, it gets a 10/10 from me. Ignore the samples here and just get the album. If you’re already here looking and you’ve managed to get all the way through my review, then it’s almost a guarantee that you’ve found your album. Enjoy.

    Posted on November 19, 2009 - Permalink - Buy Now
  • It is incredible that anyone at any time in their life can accomplish what these guys do, but the fact that these guys are doing it in their early 20s is even more fascinating. Seriously, this album is so well thought out, the lyrics are really crazy and far out there, the things they sing about have the most bizarre metaphors and they always give off a feeling as though they are in a battle, VERY EPIC! That’s not even about how awesome these musicians actually are, which is what I love most about this band, the instrumentals, odd time measures, and a hefty dose of insanity that they throw into the mix for every song allows you to be able to interpret this band as one of the best out there today! Great great album and an improvement from Kezia!

    Posted on November 19, 2009 - Permalink - Buy Now
  • Protest The Hero came into the light a few years ago with their sophomore album, “Kezia”, to much fanfare and much polarizing of several fanbases. The boys from Canada had matured much from their debut album “A Calculated Use of Sound”, juxtaposing slithering leads, blazing double-tap sections, crushing riffs, and catchy hooks all together to form their own version of the now ubiquitous mathcore style, but with enough signature style to stand out, for better or for worse.

    Two years after “Kezia” made its splash (Three counting the original Canadian release), PTH has returned with “Fortress”, in the hopes of recapturing some of that intial glory. For the most part, these five extremely talented musicians (The average age of the band is under 21 years old) have yet again carved out a sonic masterpiece. If you liked “Kezia”, you will love “Fortress”.

    From the get-go, PTH is ready to show they aren’t simply a one-trick pony: The blistering leads are there, enforced, and even more complex than before. Their presence isn’t as saturated as it was in previous albums, but they are used to greater effect. The chugging riffs have even disappated somewhat, and in the place of these PTH has brought out the big chords: Massive-sounding, epic, legato chords that give the songs on “Fortress” a much more epic feel than any of the previous albums. The bass has taken a much higher priority in the mix this time as well, and that is extremely fortunate: The bass lines slide and wiggle inbetween the guitars and drums, rarely mimicing the two young virtuosos as it creates another layer to the overall sonic blast.

    The sticking point is the same as it was before: The falsetto wails of Rody Walker, while much more controlled and somewhat more spaced out, are still present. If you couldn’t get past him before, don’t bother this time.

    As PTH has progressed musically, their comparisons have as well: The fact that Rush and Queen comparisons are now surfacing as opposed to Dillinger Escape Plan and Thursday are a testament to this band shedding their inexperience and finding their own sound.

    The progressive world is better for this album. Highly recommended.

    Posted on November 19, 2009 - Permalink - Buy Now