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Fates Warning - Awaken the Guardian

1986 Metal Blade Records :: Reviewed by rofreason on 2005-07-06

An institution in metal, Fates Warning are the unsung heroes of the progressive realm. Awaken the Guardian (their third release) is prime "Arch-era" Fates Warning. Although some parts are a little stiff, you can really hear the band start to stretch their musical legs and throw out some real creative ideas. It's really hard to review stuff like this, because to listen to this now, it would sound pretty dated, but knowing this particular piece of wax as long as I have, there are tons of memories I associate with ATG, all pretty good. Musically, it's an epic sword and sorcery ride through the magic kingdom of metal, equipped with some interesting stuff for the time. Nice vocals from John Arch, who belts out high pitched melodies German Style. Much like comparing Clive Burr to Nicko McBrain, Steve Zimmerman pales a little after hearing what Mark Zonder would later play, but is pretty damn good for the time. One drawback is the production, which while decent, tends to be a little on the muddy side, and "dates" the sound back to the mid-eighties. It's not bad, but remember that Reign in Blood also came out in '86, showing what "could" be, if money wasn't a limiting factor. One of the first Metal Blade bands, and a classic release to revisit often.

Fates Warning - No Exit

1988 Metal Blade Records :: Reviewed by rofreason on 2005-07-06

Exit John Arch, enter Ray Alder. Another comparison to Maiden ensues (see Awaken the Guardian) as I'm reminded of the difference Bruce Dickenson made there. Don't get me wrong, I liked both Paul DiAnno and John Arch, but man, does Alder knock you to the wall. He's also well suited to the heavier feel and meatier production found here. Opener Anarchy Divine (after a 0:42 second intro) is the best thing the band has done yet, and it just gets better. A higher degree of intelligence has been found lyrically, and any time a side long epic appears, count me in! At 21 minutes, The Ivory Gate of Dreams is pretty awesome, and one of the most requested songs the band has written. It's the 2112 of metal! This is prime stuff, and the last album the band would release solely to the underground. Final hour for drummer Steve Zimmerman, whose style didn't appear to match the direction the band was headed.

Fates Warning - Perfect Symmetry

1989 Metal Blade Records :: Reviewed by rofreason on 2005-07-06

Upon cursory examination, this album just screams "sell-out", Fates Warning here attempting to break from the underground into the major leagues. Very professional packaging combined with excellent production and musicianship should have been all that was needed, but as hard as they try, FW just can't sell their souls to the masses. Gone is the Dungeons and Dragons appeal, only thing really retained being the love of screwing with time for kicks. Perfect Symmetry, which sports a really classy cover by Hugh Syme (of Rush fame), is also the first appearance of percussive powerhouse Mark Zonder. Born of the planet polyrhythm-9, Zonder has the dubious talent of making the simplest rhythms complicated. I only say dubiuos, for while I sit and listen slack-jawed, I've heard many complaints about the "busy" playing of this mastermind. Well, stick to Def Leppard if that's what you like, for this is some take no prisoners progressive metal. Upon repeated listens, the brilliance which resides here is only made more evident, but one can also begin to see why Perfect Symmetry never became as popular as say, Queensryche. Ray Alder's voice is still a little too "metal", time signatures are from hell, and Matheos just can't write anything plain! Even "ballad" Chasing Time has some interesting things going on here. First collaboration with members of Dream Theater, as Kevin Moore throws some keys into epic track At Fates Hands (a masterpiece!). Unfortunate that these guys had to comtinue to live in obscurity (although idolized and revered in small circles), but for those who feel that Dream Theater is a little "light", we always have Fates Warning. Final track Nothing Left to Say was featured on the Freddy's Dead Soundtrack, funny since the song plays for about 2 seconds in the film!

Fates Warning - Parallels

1991 Metal Blade Records :: Reviewed by rofreason on 2005-07-06

Another Parallel to Rush here, as Fates Warning enlist longtime Rush producer Terry Brown to once again try and produce an album which will appeal to both sides of the fence. To my ears, Brown always tend to make a more "human" recording, a little more warm and usually in analog (see Voivod's anomalous Angel Rat album. Alder's voice is a little more in the earthly James LaBrie range (who guests on Life in Still Water), which balances the complexity of the music in terms of accessibility. Interesting addition of electronic percussion (Zonder played in Animotion) on a couple tracks (Life in Still Water) spices up the zaniness even more. Several "epics" here (The Eleventh Hour is pretty impressive) which would become staples of the band's set, but maybe just a tad too commercial for my tastes, as I've bought, sold and re-bought this numerous times. A good album that's easy to find and worth hearing to see how a band can bridge the gap which resides between creativity and popularity.

Fates Warning - Still Life

1998 Metal Blade Records :: Reviewed by rofreason on 2005-07-06

After attempting several times to break into the mainstream, the future of Fates Warning seemed uncertain. Retaining only Ray Alder, and Mark Zonder from the old band, guitarist Jim Matheos decided to go for it, penning the 45 minute opus A Pleasant Shade of Gray. Obviuosly meant only for those that could appreciate it, APSoG unveiled a new FW (with ex-Armoured Saint bassist Joey Vera and ex-Dream Theater keyboardist Kevin Moore). Enter 1998, and Fates Warning give the unsuspecting public another chance to get with it, releasing a live double disc highlighting their brilliant 15 year career. Disc 1 is A Pleasant Shade of Gray performed in it's entirety, quite a marvel to behold, really. Not quite so commercial as either Parallels or Inside Out, there's a sense of maturity here as well-seasoned veterans find out when to hold back on their massive chops a little. Reminiscent of a jazz/fusion release at times, there's a controlled looseness here, and honestly, were the crowd not present, one would be hard pressed to say that this was indeed a live album. While APSoG is broken into 12 pieces, it is indeed one complete song, as themes are revisited. Don't have the studio album, so I can't offer concrete reasons why this live document would be essential, other than to speculate that much like having the live Rush albums (where live is pretty much duplicated as in the studio) it's just hearing the majestic overtones of this incredible group performing the unperformable in a live setting. And then off to disc 2 we go! After stunning us with a 45 minute track, we get their second largest offering, the immortal Ivory Gate of Dreams. Now, this might make reason alone to get this, just to hear Zonder's interpretation of how this should be played, even if he attempts to recreate what Steve Zimmerman put to tape before. Alder evidently still has his range, as he just decimates everyone with his apocalyptic air-raid siren of a voice. Very Impressive. Things slow down a tad on the "newer" numbers, but everything just seems a little heavier and less sterile here, which is way appreciated by me. I guess what gets me the most is that seeing the songs that were chosen, and what was left out, I am just at awe at the back catalogue of this band. Could have done without the "campfire" audience participation though. Maybe for once, Fates Warning will get the recognition they deserve with this, a superb live document of the quintissential progressive metal band.