FATES WARNING

"Theories of Flight" (Inside Out Music; 20016

Reviewed by R. Scott Bolton

"Theories of Flight" is an impressive progressive metal album. It features amazing musicianship, it's tight and well-produced and it's consistent from the first track to the last.

Still, after two full listen-throughs, there's nothing here that really sticks with me. I listened to this CD the first time while driving to work and I listened to it again with headphones on at home. Sadly, both times, nothing seemed to stand out.

Now, this may have more to do with me than it does with the band. I know there are Fates Warning fans out there who already love this CD, some calling it their best in years. And, please believe me, it's not a bad album by any means. In fact, it's a pretty good one. The problem here is that "Theories of Flight" and me just don't connect. It happens.

Still, if you're a Fates Warning fan, or a fan of progressive metal in general, you'll probably love this album. At times, it reminds me a little of Rush and, as we all know, we're not going to get a whole lot of new Rush in our future. It's awesome that Fates Warning is still out there pumping out progressive metal that is well-performed, well-written and probably a little too complicated for a casual listener like me.

For more information visit http://www.fateswarning.com

"Disconnected" (Metal Blade; 2000)

Reviewed by Christopher J. Kelter

After the stunning "A Pleasant Shade Of Grey" back in 1997 I wondered exactly how Fates Warning would continue their impressive run of new, full-length CDs. "Disconnected" achieves exactly what you'd expect - a new way of listening to Fates Warning with plenty of surprises along the way. Reinvention, save for 1994's "Inside Out," seems to be a way of life for Fates Warning.

To properly describe "Disconnected" it might be easy to imagine the accessibility of "Parallels" with the vein of progressiveness found back in the days of "Perfect Symmetry." And even that doesn't you close to characterizing the uniqueness of "Disconnected." Overall, "Disconnected" is a bit heavier than the past three releases as well.

Personally, I like the longer tunes like "So," "Something From Nothing," and "Still Remains." The one track that really stands out is the epic "Still Remains" - this master work contains all that is great about progressive metal and Fates Warning. 

The shorter, more focused rockers like "One" and Pieces Of Me" are cool as the intensity is a little higher than it has been for a while. But it doesn't have nearly the same attraction that the epics have. The twisted soundscapes of both parts of the prologue and epilogue "Disconnected" add an entirely new dimension to the Fates Warning canon, yet without abandoning the band's trademark style and sound - very impressive.

The fact that Fates Warning should be rightfully treated as progressive metal masters demands that individual assessments of their performance be dictated here. Ray Alder sounds great; now that he got some creative energy out of his solo project (Engine) it's nice to hear his voice weaving uncommon vocal lines through the music like golden strands of thread through tapestry. The guitar work of Jim Matheos never fails to impress; his songwriting is as top-notch as ever! Joey Vera plays bass and does a great job supporting the music in all cases while never dominating and never being too overwhelming. Kevin Moore's signature keyboard sound recalls his tenure with Dream Theater without losing the Fates Warning style. What can you say about drummer Mark Zonder? Words cannot do Zonder's excellent percussion justice so I'll just leave it at this: WOW!

"Disconnected" was produced by Fates Warning and Terry Brown (Rush).  The production has amazing clarity, but I'd expect nothing less from Fates Warning and Terry Brown. 

Fates Warning is Ray Alder on vocals, Jim Matheos on guitar, Mark Zonder on drums, Joey Vera on bass, and Kevin Moore (ex-Dream Theater, Chroma Key) on piano and keyboards. 

For more information visit http://www.fateswarning.com

"No Exit: Metal Blade 25th Anniversary Edition" (Metal Blade; 1998 / 2007)

Reviewed by Metal Mark

Fates Warning's fourth release, originally issued in 1988, is remastered and re-released to celebrate the label's 25th anniversary. That means that Metal Blade has added bonus tracks and a DVD as well. 

First, lets discuss the original album: In my opinion, "Awaken the Guardian," the predecessor to this CD, marked a change in direction for Fates Warning as they headed away from classic metal and became a little more progressive and melodic in their approach. "No Exit" sees the band continuing in that general direction but is a bit more focused than "Guardian." Perhaps the more important change for the band was the vocalist as John Arch was gone and Ray Alder came in. I like both singers to be honest, but I think that there is little doubt that Alder's vocals lend themselves better to the musical style here. 

The music is definitely metal, but the band is beginning to reach out a bit and take their time with really building a song. Fates Warning, along with Queensryche and Dream Theater, are often recognized as some of the creators of progressive metal. While that may be true, progressive metal twenty years ago wasn't quite as involved as many bands are in that genre are today. I have always thought of "NO Exit" as one of the band's stronger outings as they push the limits a bit, but manage to stay in control. Some of the band's later efforts came across as a bit dry, but "No Exit" is a genuinely solid, if perhaps unspectacular, effort. 

The Metal Blade 25th Anniversary Edition offers three bonus tracks CD and all are demos related to this chapter in the band's history. The bonus DVD is around 45 minutes and contains music videos, live footage and a documentary on the making of this album. Overall it's a nice addition that gives fans a better insight into what went into the planning stages of this album. 

"No Exit" is a good album made a little better with a fine collection of extras from Metal Blade.

For more information visit http://www.fateswarning.com

"Still Life" (Metal Blade; 1998)

Reviewed by R. Scott Bolton fates.jpg (8157 bytes)

This live, 2 CD set is a powerful and thorough introduction to a band that has hovered on the edge of superstardom for years but never quite gained that notoriety due to their brilliant, challenging, non-categorical music. That isn't to say they haven't been successful. Fates Warning has sold over a million albums in the U.S. and over two million worldwide.

Recorded in Europe, "Still Life" is astounding for a number of reasons, the first of which is the band's decision to include their live performance of their recent experimental album, "A Pleasant Shade of Grey," in its entirety. "A Pleasant Shade of Grey" is a fascinating, progressive work in the mode of Dream Theater and even  a little early Pink Floyd. It's not the loud guitars and pounding drums that a heavy metal fan might expect (although they are sometimes present) but a rich, rock-operatic piece that is demanding in that the listener must concentrate in order to follow the music.

Disc 2 contains some of the band's more traditional tracks, including "The Eleventh Hour," "Monument" and "At Fates Hands." The tracks on Disc 2 were chosen by the band's internet fans. It is here that the band really rocks hard, delivering powerful, tight performances that showcase their intense musical talents.

While touring in Europe in support of "A Pleasant Shade of Grey," the band recorded shows between April 16 - 26. After reviewing the tapes, they decided to use the April 24th show in its entirety, with snippets from the other shows. The result is a live recording free of studio overdubs or "fixes." It has a great, true-to-life live sound. Even the audience noise is vibrant and authentic.

Dedicated Fates Warning fans will consider both CDs a treasure; new listeners may find Disc 1 a little slow and perhaps a little too avant-garde. Regardless, "Still Life" is a fine example of hard rock as art.

For more information visit http://www.fateswarning.com

"A Pleasant Shade of Gray" (Metal Blade; 1997)

Reviewed by Jeff Rogers

Fates Warning's "A Pleasant Shade of Gray" is a concept album that should not be grouped with other concept albums such as Queensryche's "Operation Mindcrime" Parts I or II." Fates Warning request that you remove all distractions and focus on their magnum opus. Its 52 minutes of challenging listening and it's not for the casual fan or for those who like their music simple and stupid.

In order to truly appreciate this CD, it's best to spin it several times. It is a difficult listen, but ultimately very rewarding. There are no song titles throughout the CD; just track listings (starting with "Part I" and continuing to "Part XII"). The most impressive tracks are "Part IV" through "Part VIII." The last, "Part XII," is a fitting tribute to Kansas.

With "A Pleasant Shade of Gray," Jim Matheos and crew have put to rest the question of whether Fates Warning can create a successful concept CD.

Fates Warning: Ray Adler - vocals; Jim Matheos - guitars; Mark Zonder - drums; Joey Vera - bass; Kevin Moore - piano and keyboards.

For more information, check out www.fateswarning.com

"Parallels" (Metal Blade; 1991)

Reviewed by Jeff Rogers

On "Parallels," Fates Warning bring their talent of prog rock to the mainstream. This release was considered their best commercial release and the most that they sounded like Queensryche. Most metal fans probably didn't like their restraint here, but it showed that the band could grow musically. Some fans can be fickle at the wrong times. With elements of Dream Theater (Kevin Moore also performed with that band) this CD offers everything you could want from the Fates Warning camp.

"Eye To Eye" brought them more MTV exposure than ever before and introduced many to the sound of Fates Warning. But they didn't just rest easy, with tracks like "Life In Still Water" and "The Eleventh Hour," they still held true to their roots. Even the power ballad here gets props.

Jim Matheos still creates a beautiful concept with everything he does.

This is a great CD to start with for those who need an introduction to Fates Warning and 80s prog metal. I have also heard this kind of music labeled "Math Rock." For all I know, it could be named after Jim Matheos.

The best songs are discovered when you put the CD in and let it play a few times. You will find your own gems.

Fates Warning: Ray Adler - vocals; Jim Matheos - guitars; Mark Zonder - drums; Joey Vera - bass; Kevin Moore - piano and keyboards.

For more information, please check out http://www.fateswarning.com

"Perfect Symmetry" (Metal Blade; 1989 / 2008)

Reviewed by Metal Mark

Fates Warning were quick to jump into the studio back in early 1989 shortly after wrapping up the tour for "No Exit," which was quickly establishing the band as one of the leaders of the fairly new form of progressive metal. Progressive metal twenty years ago was perhaps far more basic than a number of bands who play that style today. 

A year earlier, in 1988, "No Exit" had the band changing not only vocalists, but their overall direction to some extent as well. Fates Warning had started out strongly in the Iron Maiden style of metal, yet by "Awaken the Guardian" and "No Exit" they were spreading out their sound and their once straight forward approach was being replaced by a more controlled and varied format. For me, "No Exit" was a welcome change and "Perfect Symmetry" was even more so because I think this album was tighter and the band was becoming more comfortable with this style. There are more melodies and even some more subtle sounds here that are as much hard rock as they are metal, but it all works out in the end. 

This re-issue contains a second CD which has a lot of demo versions of the tracks from the album. The demos are for the most part decent, but other than a few die-hard fans I doubt most people will be playing them that much, at least not when you have the completed product on the same set. The better bonus is the DVD which includes a number of live performances from late 1988 through to 1989. The quality here is decent enough and it gives fans a chance to see how the band handles their increasingly complex material live. I would probably actually watch the DVD from time to time so that helps to make this set worthwhile. Also included is a thick booklet with some interesting details about the album. 

Another great re-issue from Metal Blade and I hope they keep coming. 

For more information, please check out http://www.fateswarning.com

"Awaken the Guardian" (Metal Blade; 1986 / 2005)

Reviewed by Ray Van Horn Jr.

Hearken back to the halcyon years of Metal Blade, if you will, when obscure bands like Lizzy Borden, Bitch, Helstar, Nasty Savage and the more notable Fates Warning clawed along the metal underground and could be found in most serious metalheads' collections. On a personal note, it’s been since the eighties that "Awaken the Guardian" has graced my collection, a ravenous tape devourer being the scourge of my original copy. Particularly noteworthy about Fates Warning in the mid-eighties is its humble beginnings as what would develop into one of the premiere prog metal acts of all time, and it is on the band’s decisive third album, "Awaken the Guardian," that they began to evolve. 

Noticeably more transcendent than "Night on Brocken" and "The Spectre Within," "Awaken the Guardian" reveals the direction Fates Warning would ultimately be heading in their destiny as a complex metal troupe whose influence could be found in contemporaries like Queensryche, Dream Theater and a whole slew of prog metal revivalists that have cropped up of late. How appropriate, then, that "Awaken the Guardian" resurfaces for a second look, and in high style as a three-disc package containing extras such as demos, live tracks and a live DVD.

If you’re from the old school, you will undoubtedly welcome original vocalist John Arch’s pale shrieks through nearly-forgotten staples like “Guardian,” “The Sorceress,” “Valley of the Dolls” and “Fata Morgana.” In fact, there’s something altogether heartwarming about listening to the original lineup of Arch, Jim Matheos, Joe DiBiase, Frank “X” Aresti and Steve Zimmerman, considering Matheos is the only remaining member of that nubile band who started out as mere teenagers in 1984.

The fantastical fable storytelling on "Awaken the Guardian" seems innocuous and perhaps naïve to today’s standards, given the path Fates Warning took later in its life. If you listen to "No Exit" and even 2004’s "FWX," you may wonder how this band ever sounded as it did on "Awaken the Guardian," but a deeper listen should indicate that it is as progressive as their successive releases, even more so since hardly anyone was writing something so radical when "Awaken the Guardian" was originally released in 1986. 

In this reissue of "Awaken the Guardian" you will find a remastered version of the original album, which really presents the argument for revitalizing old tapes. As much as the material sounds dated, so too does it sound invigorated. On the second disc are demo and live tracks of most of the songs appearing on Awaken the Guardian along with bonus tracks like lives tracks for “Damnation” from "Night on Brocken" and “The Apparition” from "The Spectre Within." 

Your age may determine whether or not the live DVD is your thing. Fates Warning issues a disclaimer about the rawness of the footage, and if you grew up during the original metal movement, you will undoubtedly be taken back in time by the near indecipherability of the concert filmed in Long Island, NY. It reminds one of the old bootleg days with swaying cameras that are barely in focus, and the shrill sound quality which sounds like a vibrator through most of the show, aside from John Arch’s shrills, which, hilariously, sent my cat running from the room! It’s a nostalgic glance at Fates Warning’s original lineup in a live element, which is claimed to be the only existing footage available. From a historian’s point-of-view, this is priceless stuff. For the average fan, it may be a put-off. Regardless, the DVD is reminiscent of Armored Saint’s "Trip Through Red Times" video and its antiquated bootleg footage that is worth a look from a preservationist’s eye.

If you never owned "Awaken the Guardian" now’s your chance to discover this band at a critical point in their careers. If you once owned it and lost it like myself, it’s a nice welcome back.

For more information visit http://www.fateswarning.com

Rating Guide:

A classic. This record will kick your ass.

Killer. Not a classic but it will rock your world.

So-so. You've heard better.

Pretty bad. Might make a nice coaster.

Self explanatory. Just the sight of the cover makes you wanna hurl.

Back to CD Reviews Home

Back to RoughEdge.com Home

Copyright ©2016 by R. Scott Bolton. All rights reserved.
Revised: 05 Mar 2017 12:56:13 -0500.