FORTIS AMOR: Inspiring Others Through Love and Hope

Ryan Duke / Fortis Amor

Melodic progressive metal project Fortis Amor has been a passion project for guitarist/vocalist/composer/producer Ryan Duke since its inception. After spending years carefully crafting and perfecting his music and releasing two EP’s of more modern takes on the genre (2009’s Passage and 2012’s Seismic), Duke is releasing his earlier musings out into the world. And upcoming, self-titled full-length Fortis Amor album is scheduled to be released on May 19 and is available for pre-order via Bandcamp.

With one listen, it’s clear that the different styles and influences on Fortis Amor quite literally transcend any recent metal trend defined by a period of time. After spending nearly two decades honing a signature sound, incorporating years of inspiration becomes inevitable. Fortis Amor creates a progressive blend that will appeal to any listener – combining complex songwriting and clever guitar solo styles one might liken to bands such as Between the Buried and Me and The Contortionist, melded with more straightforward, heavy progressive rhythm sections harking back to early Devin Townsend and Nevermore.

Fortis Amor album art

Fortis Amor is very mission oriented,Duke stars our conversation and continues: “Specifically it’s about inspiring others through love and hope and to give anyone who is suffering in any way strength to rise above it.”

Ryan admits that the album has been long overdue and that he’s been working on it during very difficult times in his life. He says: “They were times when I was growing a lot. The trials were not in vain. I grew and the music grew out of it. The music was written on an acoustic guitar and then reformatted to fit a full band sound. It took a lot of recreations of the songs!

Duke feels a bit secretive when it comes to the message he tries to convey with the self-titled album by saying, “I think it is best found in listening to the album and taking it in for oneself.

He went quite old-school when documenting the music during its creative process, with paper and a pencil.

I didn’t have internet or a computer, and hadn’t even owned a cell phone yet when the writing began! I stored ideas just in my mind with regular practice.

Bearing this challenge in mind, Fortis Amor is a very dynamic album. Duke goes on saying: “Dynamics are, to me, one of THE most important aspects of great songwriting. That and the timbre of the instruments. A great song or album always has well timed dynamics. It’s like the songwriter is writing in a way to convince you that you can’t pause it. You have to finish the album. It should be enticing.

Ryan Duke

His approach to recording the album was also a learning experience to him.

I spent lots of time learning how to make things sound better,” he says. “Sculpting the songs while sculpting my craft. I had the skeleton of the songs written on acoustic guitar but had to rewrite everything to make it work for progressive metal. The acoustic parts on the album are essentially the same as they originally were, but songs like ‘Outpouring,’ ‘Deathless,’ and ‘Subjected To Frustration’ went through a massive overhaul. ‘Holding On To Nothing’ sounds almost the same as it always had, but it was all sung and had no screaming. I chose to add in screaming to fit the feel and emotion.

Ryan has been working on Fortis Amor for almost 20 years.

The writing for this album started in 1998 with ‘Subjected To Frustration.’ ‘Deathless’ began in 1999 and was only two chords, and went through a metamorphosis to become the almost 10 minute epic.

Asked about bands that influenced his work on the record, Duke says: “Tori Amos, Faith No More, Deftones, Type O Negative, Gojira, Isis, Tool, Thrice, and a ton more I can’t remember!

He admits that the technology is amazing, and that it helped him a lot throughout the years, but on the other side he despises modern and overproduced popular music.

I love technology. We wouldn’t have electric guitars or even amplified shows without it. I love being able to record whenever I want to for so cheap and still get great results. I love industrial music, techno, dance, and other technological based styles. I do hate most modern, overproduced pop garbage though. I’m not saying that to sound cool, it’s genuine hate, although I love many pop songs and bands. Savage Garden, Madonna, t.A.T.u., Lady Gaga, etc. are fine, but if it’s going to be done, it had better be executed to be the best it can be. I listen to prog most of the time but I love anything that inspires me. I just want it to be great. I want to know the artist did their best and I’m not hearing that in most modern pop music.

Ryan definitely sees his music as serving a purpose beyond music. He goes on saying: “To say it doesn’t is like thinking all the Sun does is provide light and ignoring the fact that the sun makes plants grow and keeps us alive and not frozen. I’m obviously not a Nihilist! I believe there is purpose for music and it is about the hearts and minds of people. If music wasn’t inspiring, moving, emotional or thought provoking, then no one would care. If I didn’t believe that my music served a purpose beyond music, I wouldn’t bother to release it to the world or even record it. What is music without the listener? Sound waves. Who cares about sound waves and vibrations?

He reveals that he is already working on the them and concept of his next album. “Not that it will be a concept album, just themed as this one is. I have to collect the massive amount of things I’ve written and mold them into something lovely, the record it and get it out. And, continue hanging out in PDX for the week and my birthday. I’m a Star Wars baby. Aka, May the 4th be with you!

In the end, Duke gave us praise for asking him cool questions.

Man, I love these deep and intense questions. So obvious this is a prog site-based interview! Like an intuitive’s playground!

Fortis Amor is out on May 19th; pre-order it from Bandcamp, and follow Ryan Duke’s project on Facebook and Twitter.

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