Review Summary: Ex-guitarist for Fates Warning tries his hand at industrial with disastrous results.
99% of music-listeners probably have no idea who Frank Aresti is. That out-of-thin-air statistic should come as no surprise since you’d probably get the same numbers for Max Calavera or Tom Araya when speaking to the general public. The statistic that matters is that if you only ask people into metal about Frank Aresti you’d probably still get the same clueless response – and at this point a little back-story is inevitable. Frank Aresti was the guitar player for the progressive metal band Fates Warning
. He played on their acclaimed album Awaken the Guardian
all the way to Inside Out
. He eventually left the band to try different styles of music, mainly industrial. In interviews, he spoke highly of the genre and thought that he could bring something new and interesting to it by adding his musicianship and prog influences. On paper and in my mind that sounded like an excellent idea that could breathe a lot of life into industrial… the paper and my mind were wrong.
There really aren’t one or two things that can be blamed for making this album bad; really it’s everything. Although every aspect of this album can be blamed for the lack of quality, a large issue is the vocals of Frank Aresti. If you’ve ever had the mischance to pick up a Goo Goo Dolls
album only to be shocked to learn that their bass player squeals and warbles through some of their songs, then you might have an idea of how Frank sounds; only with more of a tendency to go off key. Not only are the vocals bad, but so are the vocal patterns. His patterns are so basic that even a grade school kid would be ashamed by them. Frank just sings over the top of the music following the beat all the way through. The problem is that this approach doesn’t allow his vocals any rhythmic cadence, only excruciating predictability. Another disappointing aspect of his vocals are the lyrics themselves. This may come as a surprise because Frank wrote lyrics for Fates Warning and they were always good, but not this time. They are so simple and cliché as to be laughable. They are slightly angry but in a way that tries to be non-confrontational which makes them directionless.
The directionless feel of the lyrics is also found in the music itself. The industrial part of the music seems like it was pulled from the preprogrammed samples that come with any audio application. Within the first thirty seconds of a song you’ve literally heard the entire thing. One of the cool things about industrial music is its tendency to have layers of things going on, but that never happens here. Songs start with a single synth line (two if you’re lucky) and possibly some simple keyboards, and that’s the extent of the industrial part of the music. The beats themselves are so simple and uninspired that they have to simply be the preprogrammed beats you could find on any low-end Casio keyboard. This leads to the other problem with the beats; their actual sound. They remain sonically similar through the entire album, and that sound is hollow and cheap.
Some might argue that Frank just jumped the gun and released an album before he really knew how to use the equipment, but the next aspect of the album shows that he was really just lazy and uninspired. Frank is a guitar player; playing the guitar is what he’s known for and what he has done quite well for decades. In reviews for Fates Warning albums he was constantly referred to as the better of the two guitar players and was responsible for some of the better solos on the albums, but you’d never think he was an accomplished musician if this was the only time that you heard him. The riffs are boring and come off as more simple then even the average industrial guitar playing. They do actually have a good sound, at least, but it doesn’t help the fact that they’re uninspired and directionless.
Despite the problems with this album, Frank is still a musician I respect and because of that I am going to try to point out the one or two dim lights shining in the sea of dark crap. The first dim light is the guitar solos which are found in most the songs. As far as I can tell, it’s the only influence from prog that he brought over to industrial and they’re actually good. They’re not shredding or overly technical but they at least sound inspired and well-played and that’s enough for this album. Another dim light is the song "Deep Blue Sea", which is actually good. It’s a slow song that suffers from the same lack of anything going on, but the one synth-line used is actually good and doesn’t sound like it was just stolen from a sound bank. Also, Frank’s vocals are ok due to the fact that he’s singing slowly and in a subdued manner that cuts out most of the things that are wrong with his average vocals.
In the beginning I lamented the fact that Frank is so unknown even within the genre he has been a part of since the 80’s, but I think his obscurity may actually help him in this case. It will benefit him because most people will never hear this album and subsequently will never hold it against him. If I were Frank I’d be pissed at my friends for not having told me that I was about to release a turd that could tarnish my name for the few people that even know it. I can’t recommend this album to fans of industrial, no matter how hardcore, because it’s just that bad. Even for hardcore Fates Warning fans, I can find no reason to ever get this album unless you have a sick aspiration to hear a solid musician fail at his art.