Review Summary: So what do you get when you take Dream Theater, strip it of all technicality (what's good about DT), and then throw in even worse vocals? FWX!
Fates Warning – FWX
On this album, Fates Warning is…
Ray Alder – Vocals
Jim Matheos – Guitars, Keyboards, Programming
Joey Vera – Bass
Mark Zonder – Drums
Fates Warning is a progressive metal outfit from the U.S.A. FWX
is their 10th studio album, so their history is quite lengthy. Long story short, the band started as a low-end Iron Maiden clone and “progressed” their way up to a “unique sound” according to fans. This is my first experience with the band, and most likely my last.
My discovery of this band was quite an interesting one. It came to me in a dream… I kid you not. I was riding in a car with my mom, listening to Frances The Mute by The Mars Volta, when my mom said, “You know, you might like this,” and inserted a copy of FWX into the car’s CD player. It started playing a song I’d written and I was furious, but anyway... I decided to check this out because I figured it was a sign for musical epiphany or something. I then proceeded to get the album and listen to it for hours to find something special about it. My results were dismaying.
Throughout the album, we’re treated to a massive, overblown bore fest. Imagine Dream Theater, minus the virtuosity. What does that leave us with? A nice big, hot, steaming pile of generic and uninspired riffs, synth wankage, and average singing. This album is boring to the extent that it’s a chore to make a cycle through the entire track list.
The very first indication of a progressive album gone bad is in the first minute. In the intro of Left Here
, the band creates a splendid atmosphere from the sound of evening crickets and acoustic guitar. I wish that they had carried on with this for at least another minute, because as quickly as they had established this atmosphere, it just as quickly crumbles away as a generic build-up begins to boil. The synths sound terribly cheesy, and eventually the song kicks off into a lengthy piece of Matheos’s out-of-place electronics and basic chord progressions with Alder’s sub-par, unemotional singing . As much as I loved Matheos's work with O.S.I., FWX just doesn’t cut it for me at all.
Sadly, the rest of this album follows the same path as Left Here
, except minus the beautiful acoustic intro. River Wide, Ocean Deep
suffers from a three-minute-long introduction consisting of tedious guitar and electronics. I suppose this was an attempt at a “haunting” intro, but it fell short of the goal…. Never mind, it flat out failed. Where bands like Tool can successfully pull off one of these feats, Fates Warning doesn’t come close.
Enough about the introductions. How about the rest of the songs? Well, what makes the introductions’ lengths so awful is that they don’t build up any tension at all and they don’t lead into anything spectacular either, thus making the payoff of sitting through it little to none. Take the aforementioned River Wide, Ocean Deep
, for example. You wait for the song to “explode,” and when it does, you get a reprise of the intro with distortion kicked on for the rest of the song (with an exception for a one-note riff and the outro, which is the intro on bass).
As if the actual songs are not time-consuming and repetitive enough, FWX features some dreadfully mind-numbing filler. Sequence
is two minutes of a simple bass line with random computer blips and beeps going off in the background. Leave strange computer noises to Radiohead, guys.
While some tracks manage to cut to the chase and get to the meat of the song right away, they still don’t succeed at being entertaining. One such case is Simple Human
(lol sounds like Skynyrd guys). It is an average length, but still manages to drag on. Everything about it is uninteresting. It’s almost hard to describe. Tiresome guitars, bland vocals, it’s got everything you need to waste your life on, except maybe a few cool drum fills.
There is the occasional mildly attention-grabbing song that doesn’t make my skipping-finger itch. Stranger (With A Familiar Face)
has a faster pace than most of the tracks here, one of the factors that keeps it from trudging along through muck as the others have. The bass line is magnificent, the guitar work is more lively and technical than the previous tracks, the cheesy electronics are absent, and the vocals… Well, the vocals are still average at best. The drumming is still nothing special save for a few fills. The song Heal Me
is their one success on the album of creating a worthwhile progressive piece. A feature present here that is lacking on the others is change
. Rather than repeating three or four riffs for seven minutes, Fates Warning actually shifts to varying segments. Sure, this doesn’t sound like much of an offering, but when you’re bludgeoned song after song with mediocrity, it’s a welcome appearance.
With all these things been said, FWX isn’t worth the money. It’s roughly an hour of lackluster progressive metal that will most likely bore you to tears. Dream Theater fans may be interested if only for the slight similarities, but other than that, I would advise you to steer clear and maybe check out some of Fates Warning’s earlier works. They could be something worth sitting through.
The bass has a few memorable moments
The sparing acoustic bits
Lengthy tracks with little material
Instrumentation is far from exciting
– Heal Me, Stranger (With A Familiar Face)