A Fortress Made of Hardened Steel!
Ah, it’s the 80’s all over again! Fortress don’t want to dabble in modern postures, they don’t seek out experimentation or innovation. Good news is – they don’t have to. We don’t need the pushing of boundaries every single day, sometimes all we want to feel better is a nifty, heavy NWOBHM-kick in the butt.
The young Californian band Fortress released their self-titled debut EP in 2018, containing 4 highly energetic songs, loaded with forceful guitar riffs, excellent lead work and a singer caught somewhere between the early Bruce Dickinson and a young Coburn Pharr (who sang on Annihilator‘s second record Never, Neverland, for the uninitiated) – Sounds good? It is!
Something I really need to highlight here is the astonishing soloing on this EP. Since there’s not a lot of information I could find about this band (“Fortress” is the John Smith of metal band names) I’m not sure whether Fili Bibiano or Eddie-Jonathan Bravo is handling the lead guitar duties (or both?) but whoever it is needs to be lauded for some excellent musicianship and feel. All four tracks contain highly varied guitar neck acrobatics, the guy(s) shredding, harmonizing and sweeping all over the fretboard, never shy of surprises, even rivaling the great old idols several times – brilliant!
As I said, Chris Scott Nunez’ vocal timbre seems familiar, but in a beneficial nostalgic fashion. Like meeting a matured friend of your teen years again after a two decades – he’s changed, but mostly for the better. Maybe that’s a suitable explanation for my aforementioned comparison to Maiden and earlier Annihilator -> Nunez sounds like a higher-tier 80s singer but with a slightly different touch, making his delivery a little more outstanding compared to many other modern bands trying to imitate the classic heavy metal style. Some of his lines sound a little forced, meaning he could end vocal lines in a slightly less over-the-top, high-note-hunting fashion but despite some minor imperfections, this guy is definitely quality. Let’s cut him some slack, it’s their debut EP after all!
This high standard remains on a consistent level throughout and in the bass guitar department as well. Ulises Serrano‘s technique does resemble Steve Harris‘ busy playing style quite a bit – a slew of blazing speed runs and overall highly melodic performance enhance the experience (+5 points for audible bass alone, mainstream metal producers take notes!). The drumming by Robert Duran is competent and he certainly does his job very well, but it’s surely the least challenging and most restrained part of this EP which is of course very fitting to the genre they’re excelling at.
Alright, summing up a brief review for this brief rough diamond of a record – check out the Fortress-EP by the Californian band Fortress hailing from Whittier, California. Don’t forget to include the location in your search, otherwise you’ll have a hard time finding info about them. If you enjoy any kind of traditional 80s metal while exhibiting a soft spot for splendid lead guitar craftsmanship, check this out NOW. Fortress are a shiny new star of NWOBHM, a genre definitely alive and breathing in 2018.
PS: “Midnight Dream” is probably my classic metal song of the year – check it out!
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- Review: Annihilator ”Never, Neverland” [Roadrunner Records] - April 19, 2020