Review Summary: Fates Warning continue to change with every album, this time streamlining their sound and increasing their moody nature.
This album sucks in so many ways. It isn’t as progressive as Perfect Symmetry
, nor is it as heavy as No Exit
, nor is it as experimental as A Pleasant Shade of Grey
, in fact it isn’t even as catchy as their commercial breakthrough, Parallels
, and don’t get me started about all the ways it’s nothing like their phenomenal album Awaken the Guardian
. In case the score in the corner hasn’t tipped you off, I don’t really believe this album sucks at all, and I don’t see how people into this band can use the reasoning I wrote above to think that it does. Despite the fact that all those comparisons to their other albums are true, this is still a solid release and shows a continued evolution from one of the leaders of the Progressive Metal movement.
This album shows another side in the continuously changing style of Fates Warning
. It shows a streamlining of all their modern day ideas into one cohesive and moody offering. Yes, the riffs and overall musical style are more straightforward, and yes the Industrial influence of the past few albums has subsided into the background a little, and Ray Alder is definitely showing a lot of restraint vocally, and there are literally almost no guitar solos to be found, but cohesiveness and restraint are not reasons to call an album bad. The quality comes in the superb way in which the album as a whole conveys a sense of moody unease. The quality is also shown in the way the band exercises restraint and never throws extraneous parts and solos into the song just to show off how many notes they can play in a minute.
Some have also lamented the lack of any real “Progressiveness” (relating to the genre of music) on this album, but for those that don’t see it; you only need to look a little harder. Starting with the most blatant example, we have the drumming of Mark Zonder. The man is literally one of the best drummers out there, capable of playing amazingly technical patterns while still maintaining a steady rhythm as well, and that hasn’t suddenly changed on this album. Another example is a little harder to hear if you’re not paying attention because it comes in the form of the subtle attention to detail that went into this album. It was mentioned that the Industrial influences have subsided a little, but their effects are still noticeable. They’re used to accentuate a guitar riff, or add to the moody atmosphere during the quieter sections of the album. Also, the musicianship of this entire band is still on display, not in the way they shred on their instruments but in the way they don’t shred all over the place, in the way they construct a song, in their use of subtle nuances, and in their mastery of conveying an atmosphere through music.
Their literal progressiveness is shown by their continued willingness to expand their sound further and to experiment a little. For the expansion in their sound you need look no further then their first single, “Simple Human” which is probably the heaviest song they’ve written since anything from No Exit
but is also one of the most straight forward rockers in their career. It has a few different energetic and heavy riffs (for Fates Warning), accentuated by subtle Industrial sounds, and Ray’s vocals sounding more vigorous and urgent then they have in a while. The songs “Crawl” and “Stranger (With a Familiar Face)” follow in similar footsteps with the latter being even more aggressive then the other two.
The experimentation in their sound is best exemplified by the song “River Wide Ocean Deep” which starts off sounding like it is going to be just another solid, moody song with its clean guitar sound, and more subtle electronic noises, but then the quiet wail of a woman fades in and out of the music. It’s a subtle addition, but it’s new for them, and also goes a long way towards pushing the atmosphere of the song to a much higher level. Another good example would be the album closer, “Wish” which is another slow brooding song, but it introduces a rhythmic feel to the song due to the Industrial sounds, and the repetitiveness of the guitar melody.
That is where a lot of the experimentation comes in, from their continued attempt to push the moodiness of the songs further and further. It comes from a lot of quiet subtle guitar melodies and the way they interact with the vocals and electronic sounds, it comes from the somber tones used, the emotion present in the vocals, and the way they use the heavier parts to accentuate the feelings in the song instead of as just a means to beat you over the head with aggression for aggression’s sake. So, yes, this album isn’t like any of their past ones for all the reasons already listed, but because of that it sets its own standard. This album is the most emotional and moody album in Fates Warning’s vast catalog, and because of that it takes more patience to get into due to the subtle nature required to convey that moodiness… but it is worth that patience.