Review Summary: Fates Warning attempt to capitalize on the success of their last album by playing it safe and rehashing old ideas.
Fates Warning is a band that is widely regarded as being at the forefront of the modern progressive metal movement; influencing everyone from Dream Theater
to Symphony X
. In their 22-plus years of existence they have gone through many member and stylistic changes, from their Maiden-inspired roots to their modern mixture of moody industrial with prog, but one thing has never really faltered; their quality. With that being said, Inside Out
is probably on the lower side of the quality scale when it comes to Fates Warning
releases, and also shows the least amount of progression from one album to the next.
’s albums have always varied from each other, with one exception; Inside Out
. The reason for this is obvious when you see that their previous album was the most commercially successful album of their career and they were completely looking to capitalize on that. When a band is trying to play it safe and capitalize on a previous album’s success they generally tend to stick to the formula that made the last album work, and that’s what Fates Warning
did here. It follows the same basic song structures, the same simple catchy choruses and the same unobtrusive nature of their last album, except all with a lesser degree of quality.
The first sign that the quality has gone down a notch is noticed within the first few notes of the first song; the production. For some reason they didn’t work with producer Terry Brown (Rush
) again on this album, even though the last album had definitely benefited from the partnership. Whereas Parallels
had a full, warm-sounding production, this one ended up with a thin guitar sound, and a muddy bass-tone. If they were trying to repeat the successes of their past, than this was definitely the first mistake.
The next sign of a drop in quality comes from the songs themselves, which have been “dumbed-down” considerably, even from the last album. They all focus on a verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge, solo, verse, chorus format. Due to this format being used with very little deviation, all of the songs start to sound predictable even if it’s the first time listening to them. It also should be noted that the choruses themselves suffer from the same problem of sounding repetitious due to the increased focus on accessibility and simplicity. This increased focus makes for an album that is still musically competent, but a little too safe and stagnant for the average Fates Warning listener.
Thankfully, near the end of the album "Face the Fear" comes on. This is the first song that really seems to have an edge or any sense of excitement or progression in it. A huge contributor to that feeling is the playing of drummer, Mark Zonder. This really is some of the best playing of his career. The song also features a fairly aggressive guitar solo; this is the type of stuff that should have comprised the entire album. After that song is a short instrumental where you’re left to wonder if the next two songs will be as redeemable as the previous track.
"Monument" answers with a resounding "yes”. It starts out with a dark bass line and Ray’s subdued vocals before breaking into the most outright progressive song on the album complete with an ethnic-sounding acoustic guitar solo and more technical drumming from Mark Zonder. Unfortunately, the closing track ends things on a low note. It’s very slow and plodding and forgotten as soon as the disc comes to a stop.
Using the power of hindsight it’s easy to see that Inside Out
would probably always be the bastard child of the Fates Warning catalog even if it had been a great album. It would be doomed to hold on to that title due to the fact that it is sandwiched between their most commercially successful album, Parallels
, and the album most fans regard as their peak (at least with Ray Alder as their vocalist), A Pleasant Shade of Grey
. In reality though, the album isn’t great, and it deserves that title due to it basically being a second-rate clone of its predecessor. I could only recommend getting the two songs I actually mentioned by name, as the rest of the album is done much better on a previous disc called Parallels