Review Summary: The most significant reissue from one of the most influential progressive metal bands of the modern era.2008 ReIssue Review
It’s hard to believe that Fates Warning have been around for 25 years now. Over that time they’ve become one of the most influential progressive metal bands in the genre in large part due to their ability to not allow their sound to stagnate and to constantly be innovative without copying other bands. It’s a testament to a band’s talent when you can go back 25 years and find that almost no two albums sound alike and that each one has its own personality and style. The only problem is that a lot of these older albums had started to sound dated by today’s standards, but thankfully the band’s label recognized this. When their debut album, Night on Brocken
, hit the 20 year mark Metal Blade Records
had it remastered to fix the problem and even reissued it with bonus content. Since then they have done the same thing with each subsequent release finally leading up to the reissue of Perfect Symmetry
which is probably the most significant in the line of reissues for a number of reasons.
One large reason is that this is probably the last album to require any type of remastering since all future albums had much better productions, whereas this album has benefited from the subtle tweaking that has allowed more bottom end and clarity to be introduced into the mix. The remastered audio has allowed the technical bass lines to shine through in a way they weren’t able to originally, and it also gives drummer Mark Zonder’s playing much more depth and a much cleaner sound. Another reason that this reissue is significant is because the final two demo tracks on the second disc feature original drummer, Steve Zimmerman (Night on Brocken
through No Exit
), attempting to play songs from this album. Those familiar with the band’s history will already know that Steve Zimmerman did not end up recording on this album and was replaced by Mark Zonder instead. In case anyone is wondering how Steve did compared to Mark, lets just say if you’re dating Ashley Simpson and you can upgrade to Jessica you do.
I’m not trying to say that Steve’s playing was bad because he is a good drummer and great on the albums that he played on, but Perfect Symmetry
saw Fates Warning drop the traditional metal influences and focus more on a very precise and calculated progressive metal album that he just wasn’t suited to, and the demo only confirms that moving to Mark Zonder was a good choice. Mark Zonder’s style on this album combined with that cold precision translated into a feeling of loneliness and fear musically. The lyrics augment that cold, unfeeling atmosphere created by the music by utilizing a consistent theme of technophobia and fear of conformity, while at the same time displaying a fear of isolation as well. A song such as “Part of the Machine” with its very angular riffs, technically precise drumming, multiple changes and anxious lyrics is easily a great example of that cold, technical aspect and is also a great opener in general.
Another reason that this album was considered so significant even before the reissue is because this was the final album to feature Frank Aresti contributing to the song writing before band leader Jim Matheos took total control of it. “A World Apart” and “The Arena” were both penned by Aresti and feature a different take on the same theme giving the album a small reprieve from the oppressive atmosphere. Regardless of who wrote the songs though, they are all of very high quality, straddling the line between metal and progressive while maintaining a very cold, calculated feel due to the odd arrangements, angular riffs, moody clean guitar passages, rhythmic bass, and very inventive drum patterns.
The second disc of this reissue features demo songs of every track which will probably be more interesting to hardcore fans of the band then to the average listener, but they are still interesting. Despite the fact that they’re demos most of the songs still have a good sound to them and display a bit of the band’s process when it comes to writing and perfecting a song. The interesting thing is that most these songs were heavier in pre-production and also contained more parts causing them to be even more technical then they ended up being. The most interesting demo songs are the last two with original drummer Steve Zimmerman. As I already touched on earlier these two songs just show that he would have lowered the quality of this album as his beats and rhythms were just too conventional for the sound the band would eventually achieve.
The final disc of the album is a 90 minute DVD featuring live songs from various places and of varying quality. Every song on this DVD is of home video quality as far as the visuals are concerned (everything is discernable, just grainy), but the audio is good enough that you can still basically hear the music clear enough that it doesn’t just feel like a wall of static. This DVD is significant for a few reasons, the first being that this is the only live DVD available featuring the mid-era line up, and also the last time a lot of the older songs were played live. It is remarkable if only because it’s cool to hear current vocalist, Ray Alder’s, take on the John Arch-era material. Through no fault of his own, Ray just can’t hit those random and odd vocal melodies that John originally sang and so he instead injects more aggression into the vocals almost coming off like a Painkiller
-era Rob Halford, but with slightly less control.
Again, Fates Warning is one of the most influential bands in their genre for a reason and this reissue is only one of many justifications why, and with all of the added extras it is basically a must-have now. When you consider the increased clarity and bottom end, the fact that this was to be the last truly band-oriented release with this line up and that it is easily their most progressive album to date you have an album that any progressive metal fan should already want to own. When you add the second disc of demos that also include the original drummer, as well as the only live DVD to feature the mid-era line up playing the older songs and you have an album that was already near classic anyway, that has now been moved into that coveted status. If you like your prog cold and precise without all the random instrumental masturbation that a lot of others utilize then you should do your best to pick this up as soon as possible.