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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.