Despite a rich culture and an iconic past, the city of York has only ever made a small dent in musical history; in the unmistakeable shape of Rick Witter’s Shed Seven. Hoping to change all that are Fortress, whose EP ‘Live Ammunition‘ (a collection of live recordings, believe it or not) offers a sample of their self-proclaimed “bestial, bludgeoning and barbarically-brutal band.”
Formed by Yuma and Takuma Murata in 2006, Fortress really are the Oasis of the black metal scene, as these brothers remain the only constant in the band’s ever-changing line up. ‘Live Ammunition‘ suggests that the northern three-piece haven’t quite settled into their niche yet. For all the song-writing potential, the musicianship leaves much to be desired, and some potent ingredients in the personnel department are required lest Fortress peak as an average outfit.
Allusions and aspirations to the Bay Area thrash metal scene are obvious throughout ‘Live Ammunition‘. The first track of real note is ‘Hellish Firepower’, winking in the direction of Sodom with its tongue-in-cheek apocalyptic lyrics. Decent blast beats, borderline guttural vocals and a great chorus hook make for an excellent piece of work. ‘Thrash Kill Death’ does a good job of emulating Kreator in a pretty entertaining way, but those who require their riffs to be truly manic and enthralling are advised to have fingers on the fast-forward function, just to speed things up a bit.
The creative energies of Messrs Murata, Murata and Yeates do dry up faster than Lemmy’s hip flask as the EP draws to a close. Venom aren’t a difficult band to cover, but Fortress’ version of ‘Black Metal’ is merely competent and a bit unnecessary for the EP. We are assured by Yuma that ‘Nuked (In The Eye)’ is “not about skull-fu**ing,” so rest easy on that matter, and with a little more development and tidying up its fundamental ideas do show promise.
After nu-metal inexplicably showed up in the charts some ten to fifteen years ago, heavy metal was left as the only true alternative. This means that those who wish to be successful in the latter genre have to appeal to committed and uncompromising audiences, and this is where Fortress fall down. Their songwriting shows promise, but the musicianship needs polishing on a number of levels. Perhaps with a few more years’ experience the lads from the fiery depths of Skelton (their words) can pin down a cult fanbase that they can be very proud of indeed. This is a ballsy first record and it should give the band an opportunity to shine within the live arena where they are more confident over the coming months.