Fates Warning

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The Spectre Within

Fates Warning - The Spectre Within ©1985 Metal Blade/Enigma
1. Traveller In Time
2. Orphan Gypsy
3. Without A Trace
4. Pirates Of The Underground
5. The Apparition
6. Kyrie Eleison
7. Epitaph

Though there are legions of John Arch-era Fates Warning fans out there, I have never really been able to stomach his Bruce Dickinson style at all. Whereas Dickinson was a little more restrained and had a more bearable tone, Arch was just thin and his higher notes often have caused vases around my house to spontaneously crumble. So therefore, I haven't really played this album much. Musicically, it's slightly rooted in thrash but more in tune with a power metal base. The later years of Fates Warning experimentation hadn't set it yet. But songs like "The Apparition", the excellent "Kyrie Eleison" and "Orphan Gypsy" all have some pretty solid moments and melodies, though Arch's vocals bring them down a notch.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 01/1999

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Awaken The Guardian

Fates Warning - Awaken The Guardian ©1986 Metal Blade
1. The Sorceress
2. Valley Of The Dolls
3. Fata Morgana
4. Guardian
5. Prelude To Ruin
6. Giant's Lore (Heart Of Winter)
7. Time Long Past
8. Exodus

Progressive metal is a genre usually plagued by Queensr˙che and Dream Theater wannabes, but arguably the whole genre got started by this particular album. It's funny, as I can't think of any bands that sound like they're copying this. Fates Warning started out as a very Iron Maiden-influenced band, though a very good one. But on this, their last album with original singer John Arch, they started dabbling with more complex songs, featuring riffs that use a lot of odd rhythms and time-signatures. Naturally the drumming follows suit and offers a varied approach throughout the album.

The songs are mostly somewhere between five and eight minutes long, which gives them good time to go through various moods, and truly become completely realized pieces. Unlike guitarplayers in most latter-day progmetal bands, Jim Matheos very rarely stoops into those tedious ultra-highspeed solos, but rather goes with melodic leads that compliment the songs perfectly. For the most part the guitars are playing their peculiar, yet strangely compelling rhythm guitar riffs, whilst Arch stands for most of the melodic content.

Unfortunately, this is an album that's panned by many because its sound is so distinctly 80s and because Arch's singing can be really quite unsettling. Arch is one of those typical old ultra-high-pitched singers so common to 80s metal, and he doesn't really have much power in his voice. Personally I got used to him after a while, and love his voice and odd melodies now. Speaking of which; I have absolutely no idea how he came up with some of the melodies on here. This is one of the few singers whose melodies don't at all sound like variations on old songs. Some feel they're too strange though, as they've very unusual and takes some getting used to.

The production on the release isn't much to brag about: The guitars aren't very chunky, which is a shame since the riffs often chug along and would benefit greatly from a heavier sound. The drums tend to be very reverby, making the words "arena rock" pop into mind. Still, everything's easy to hear, and it doesn't take long to adjust to the sound. The lyrics are pretty nice, though they're fairly basic fantasy-stories. The songs though... Good grief, these songs are fantastic! Although they're based on typical verse-chorus structure, they tend to throw in a lot of sections here and there to really flesh out and make the songs into the powerful mammoths they are.

Basically this is one of those albums every metalfan should hear at least few times, if only to get some idea of the roots of today's bands. I would consider Awaken the Guardian to be an essential purchase for anyone remotely interested in progressive metal.

Review by Řystein H-O

Review date: 03/2001

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Perfect Symmetry

Fates Warning - Perfect Symmetry ©1989 Metal Blade
1. Part Of The Machine
2. Through Different Eyes
3. Static Acts
4. A World Apart
5. At Fates Hands
6. The Arena
7. Chasing Time
8. Nothing Left To Say

Perfect Symmetry was a bit of a harbringer of things to come in terms of Fates Warning's slow evolution away from their left field progressive metal into a more palatable and digestable style. The addition of drummer Mark Zonder did wonders in helping the band shift gears into their new sound more successfully as Zonder's incredible skills added a whole new dimension. While still instrumentally challenging throughout much of the album, the band did pursue some more listener friendly tunes on "Through Different Eyes" or "Chasing Time". Yet there was still much depth involved in the music. Riffs and guitar lines fully lock into dexterious rhythm parts, greatly demonstrating the band's enviable talent. Mood is captured fairly well throughout (which successfully pole vaults over my gripe that a lot of progressive metal fails to hit on an emotional level while working hard to show off talent or cerebral skill). All in all, Perfect Symmetry is quite possibly Fates Warning's most consistent and enjoyable album, whether you are a musician interested in the technical aspect of music or a fan who appreciates song craftsmanship.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 01/2000

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Fates Warning - Parallels ©1991 Metal Blade/Reprise
1. Leave The Past Behind
2. Life In Still Water
3. Eye To Eye
4. The Eleventh Hour
5. Point Of View
6. We Only Say Goodbye
7. Don't Follow Me
8. The Road Goes On Forever

The old man from the cover of Perfect Symmetry is back again for Parallels, only it appears he's on his last legs here (or, more specifically, his back). After the techical marvel married with a sense of strong song craftsmanship of their excellent 1989 album, Fates Warning decided to aim for a more accessible approach that whispers hints of older Queensryche. The result is an album that is polished and interesting throughout, but not nearly as demanding as previous albums.

Perhaps the most notable change in the Fates approach was that guitarist Jim Matheos had entirely taken over the songwriting. Whatever conclusions and opinions one draws from the musical trajectory of this album, blame or praise rests entirely on Matheos' shoulders. The band behind him, of course, interprets his songs with their usual remarkable wealth of talent, especially with singer Ray Alder refining his wail to a much more honed instrument. Insofar as the legion of high pitched metal singers go, Alder became an elder and accomplished statesman on Parallels. No longer out to just upset your canine friends, Alder's delivery is excellent throughout. The music is also much more direct than Perfect Symmetry. Mark Zonder's drumming is still quite stunning, even in a more subdued role.

The band also tackles a more sublime and quieter approach throughout. "Eye to Eye", "The Eleventh Hour" (which is the album's "epic") and "We Only Say Goodbye" dwell in a more contemplative mood. Very little aggression exists throughout, but appropriately so, because that would disturb the overall flow of the album. "Don't Follow Me" is as close as the band ever gets to a completely straightforward song that could be played on mainstream rock radio.

In the end, Parallels is a firmly conceived and expertly played album that put the band into a more accessible pattern for their music for awhile. While good, Parallels is nothing I can picture playing loudly while racing down the freeway at 90 MPH. This is more of a 15 MPH, School Zone album.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 09/2000

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Chasing Time

Fates Warning - Chasing Time ©1995 Metal Blade/Reprise
1. Monument
2. The Apparition
3. Through Different Eyes
4. Point Of View
5. Prelude To Ruin
6. Quietus
7. Eye To Eye
8. Guardian
9. At Fates Fingers
10. Silent Cries
11. We Only Say Goodbye
12. Damnation
13. Circles
14. The Eleventh Hour

For some reason it seems as though any band who can survive a decade as a fringe attraction feels the requirement to release a "best of" retrospective package. Obviously Fates Warning can't refer to their compilation of various album and unreleased tracks as a "Greatest Hits" as perhaps only "Eye to Eye" is the only song I recall receiving any sort of airplay. But insofar as these rehash packages go, Chasing Time is fairly well put together. Each track has a few lines and recollections from various band members as well as inclusion of two unreleased songs ("At Fates Fingers" and "Circles") as well as a slightly different remix of "We Only Say Goodbye". Chasing Time isn't just chasing your wallet for extra cash.

Fates Warning has certainly gone through a lot of phases in their career up to 1995, including numerous lineup changes and a general songwriting coup by guitarist Jim Matheos. Earlier material was much more challenging while newer material became considerably more friendly to the ears. The other main point of difference is between the vocals of John Arch in the early days as opposed to Ray Alder's voice on newer material. As it has been stated before, I cannot stomach Arch's wavering warble at all and my opinion of older Fates material is always tainted with distaste in his singing. I am aware that there are those who worship his singing, but rest assured I am not one of them. Alder, his successor from 1988 on, may hit notes that are sure to disturb all the inhabitants of the neighborhood dog shelter, but he attains better control and tone in my opinion. The other major change in the band was acquiring Mark Zonder on drums in 1990 or so. He truly is one of the most gifted percussionists in metal and his playing style added a whole new facet to the Fates sound.

Your need to actually own this album depends on a couple things. If you already own most of the Fates Warning albums, are the three new/different tracks worth it? Completists and hardcore fans will probably think so. Also, if you are curious about Fates Warning but haven't quite ventured down that road yet, Chasing Time might be an appropriate place to begin.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 05/1999

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Still Life

Fates Warning - Still Life ©1998 Metal Blade
CD one:
1. A Pleasant Shade Of Gray I-XII
CD two:
2. The Ivory Gate Of Dreams
3. The Eleventh Hour
4. Point Of View
5. Monument
6. At Fates Hands
7. Prelude To Ruin
8. We Only Say Goodbye

I had no inclination to listen to Fates Warning again after 1994's coma-inducing Inside Out. Since then the band has rediscovered ambitious progressive rock as opposed to that schmaltzy ballad-core they had been attempting. And believe, a band like this excels at challenging themselves and their listeners.

The reason I bring up the challenging aspect is that this 2-CD live set is comprised mostly of their longer, more involved pieces, namely the entirety of A Pleasant Shade of Gray as well as "The Ivory Gate of Dreams" from 1988's No Exit. It's a fantastic performance overall. Ray Alder has developed into a very capable singer over the past decade while the rhythms of the astounding Mark Zonder (easily the best secret weopon this band has) and guest bassist Joey Vera keep this all together over the sometimes staccatto and adjunct guitar parts. "A Pleasant Shade of Gray" is a bit sprawling and at moments could use a bit of Song-Trim®. As with all of Fates Warning's longer pieces, it really is a bunch of songs working together under one thread tying things together. On the second disc, the other tracks get primo treatment from the band. The track selection isn't too shabby either, with a couple of the better tracks from 1991's Parallels as well as the one decent song from Inside Out. Though I'm not always crazy about live packages, this one is a winner.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 12/1998

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Fates Warning - Disconnected ©2000 Metal Blade
1. Disconnected (Part 1)
2. One
3. So
4. Pieces Of Me
5. Something From Nothing
6. Still Remains
7. Disconnected (Part 2)

The ironic thing is that after all of Fates Warning's attempts to create an epic song, Disconnected would come the closest. While "The Ivory Gate of Dreams" and the album-long "Pleasant Shade of Gray" both were worthy attempts, the songs invariably sounded like a handful of related songs thrown together and called a single song. Disconnected, on the other hand, retains a more fluid, continuous thread throughout the album and while subtle, felt as though it could have passed for an epic single song. Of course, I'm stretching this for the sake of hyperbole, but that's my impression.

For whatever reason, Disconnected, whose title aptly reflects the actual mood of the album, has been a point of contention for many fans of Fates Warning. The band has been whittled down to the core trio of Jim Matheos, Mark Zonder and Ray Alder. The album does feature session recordings from former Dream Theater keyboardist Kevin Moore and Armored Saint bassist Joey Vera, both of whom have offered their services before. I occasionally suspect Matheos would relegate Zonder and Alder to session status if their contributions weren't so competely irreplaceable.

Nevertheless, Disconnected is a sharp and striking digression for the band. The music is often contemplative and brooding, as though Matheos wrote this material after being awake for at least forty hours. It is as though the music is standing outside the performer or vice versa. Hence the album's title. The performances by all involved are extremely well done. Zonder's percussion, even when coupled next to some electronics, is stunning as always. His ability to transpose inventive drum and percussion patterns over the music shows great interpretive skill on his part. Alder's vocals are in fine form, expressing the sentiments of the lyrics fairly well. The occasional electronic influence in the music may be offputting to metal purists but in the context of the music ("Pieces of Me", specifically), it enhances the songs well.

Disconnected stands as one of the best Fates Warning releases in quite some time. The focus on songwriting as well as embracing the future of their music rather than repeating the past makes this album a considerably more enjoyable listen. Neither self-indulgent nor excessively redundant, Disconnected connects rather well with me.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 08/2001

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