When you look back at the history of metal, it’s funny and somewhat weird that so-called “bedroom studio projects” have gotten so popular. It’s weird only when given the retrospective of the present, of course, now that we’re past their rise and, somewhat, fall. What makes it weird is the seeming incongruity between metal’s origins, so founded in the concept of the band and everything that comes with it, and the aesthetic of the bedroom project. Of course, given what we know now about how the internet and better/cheaper production abilities would affect metal, it seems obvious. More people can make music and they can spread that music to larger audiences. However, even knowing what we know today, it would have been hard to predict exactly how this scene would look and the various mannerisms which it today exemplifies.
Which brings us to Fortis Amor, a project very much heavily indebted to the ongoing consensus within the bedroom studio scene which is to say that it is progressive, chromatic, and possessive of the tones common to this scene. Is this a bad thing? Depends on how you want to look at it. If you’re looking for an album which breaks the mold completely, this album probably isn’t for you; it relies too heavily on the tricks of its trade in order to do that. But if you’re looking for a bang for buck sort of deal, a serviceable album with interesting moments and accomplished execution, then Fortis Amor’s self-titled release could definitely scratch that itch.
The main flaw that album suffers from and, indeed, which many albums in the genre suffer from, are the vocals. Both the clean vocals and the harsh aren’t quite up to par with the rest of it. This probably stems equally from production and skill. The clean vocals, while sitting comfortably on top of the mix, often appear detached from what the tracks are going for in its composition. In addition, Ryan Duke (the man behind the project) attempts various different styles during the album’s run-time: from Devin Townsend-like highs, to lower ranges that are meant to carry the majority of the album, the different roles Duke’s voice must fill would challenge even more veteran and accomplished vocalists. While his timbre is pleasing (reminding one of another bedroom studio project/one man band The Gabriel Construct), he is unable to pull of all segments with the same aplomb and verve.
Which leaves, of course, plenty to still enjoy on the album. The various guitar leads, solos, and riffs on the album are all technically proficient and well composed, lending an overall finish to the album. Moving from the soaring moments which make up the majority of the album to heavier moments on one side (relying on standard, yet pleasing, progressive metal ideas) and softer, acoustic moments, the guitar passages make up main reason to give Fortis Amor a chance. Even when they’re weighed down a bit by the vocals, they still manage to shine through. Breakout moments include the excellent “Upon Yourself” and “Bring This Petition to the Castle”, with their intricate interplay between more “folk” guitars and metal passages. It is these moments that ultimately make Fortis Amor a worthy listen for those looking for more well executed progressive metal. Everything around them, however, holds the album back at times, once again firmly assigning it to the bedroom studio project genre.
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Fortis Amor is available 5/19 and can be pre-ordered via the Bandcamp embed above.