Fates Warning
A Pleasant Shade of Gray


4.5
superb

Review

by Voivod STAFF
January 11th, 2011 | 62 replies


Release Date: 1997 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Fates Warning 8th album can be seen as the epitome of what Fates Warning do better than anyone, from “Perfect Symmetry” and forth. That is to provide us each time with an updated prog metal adaptation of the diary of our lives

So where do we begin
And what else can we say?
When the lines are all drawn
What should we do today?


These verses above introduce the listener to the 8th Fates Warning album with the rather oxymoron title, A Pleasant Shade of Grey. The other oxymoron is that they can also be seen as a short yet descriptive summary of the band’s whereabouts prior to its release. The band’s attempt to widen its audience through a more accessible/commercial progressive metal sound with Parallels (more) and Inside Out (less), was unsuccessful, although both records were ranked as great or excellent, in terms of artistic success. As a result, long-time band members Frank Aresti and John Dibiase called it a day after the release of both records, due to stress and internal conflicts originating from the band’s failure “to get to the crowds”. Jim Matheos, the heart and soul of FW, did not remain with his hands crossed, though. He took the time to answer all the questions in those four verses above with a new album. The answers he and the band gave were as significant as the questions posed.

The band’s rushed urge and the subsequent failure to combine artistic and commercial success were two evils masking a tremendous benefit. From this point further, Fates Warning could finally claim uncompromised artistic freedom without the oppressive burden of commercial success on their backs, in short without having to prove anything to anyone. And this was the case. Matheos composed one big song, separated in 12 chapters. Following the structure of a book, those song chapters are related to a loose but clear concept floating around the body of the lyrics that evolves around the semiology of peoples’ hopes, dreams, guilt and regrets with respect to the fellow human being. What is, what has been and what could have been. In terms of music, the band, based on its well established progressive metal patents, forged a dark sound inspired from the blues but also from industrial. In more detail, the song chapters are comprised of few, sometimes simplistic, sometimes “similar” but highly memorable and addictive rhythms and melodies. The repetition of certain of these melodies and riffs, solidifies (along with the lyrics) the album’s nature, that of a soundtrack for a movie, existing or not, little does it matter. In addition, FW leave aside the traditional rock/metal song structures by varying, as they see fit, the magnitude of the instrumental parts in each song chapter.

As said earlier, Jim Matheos adapts all the trademark FW elements to the new album’s needs in a most prolific way. His riffing is staccato or flowing in equal portions, yet minimal altogether, while it blends superbly with his trademark semi electro-acoustic parts. The latter sound so simple and yet genuinely inspired, while they are mainly responsible for keeping the soundtrack element intact throughout the record. The rhythm section, comprised by Joe Vera (Armored Saint) and Mark Zonder, follows Matheos’s riffing and delivers top-notch musicianship. While Vera’s bass lines hold tight to the guitars for the most part, Mark Zonder’s drumming is equally precise, as it is intense and chaotic altogether. Whether he must sustain a slow or a furious pace, being at times “out” of the arrangements of the rest of the band, Zonder delivers his beats with tremendous vigor. As a result, he is stealing – at times – all the attention a listener has to give. Furthermore, his extravagant ability by which he realizes his off-key patterns for the cymbals is simply orgasmic.

Last but not least in the list of “soulless” instruments heard on the record, stands the superb job of Kevin Moore, long time friend of the band and steady session keyboard player (another oxymoron) during the previous three FW records. In this one, Moore finds an uncharted area of music expression so as to unfold his immense potential as a keyboard player, relative to his prior solo work. The gloomy nature of the music and the lyrics herein, inspires him to craft cold and minimal industrial pulses, loops and effects that lie in the background or form a complementary rhythm pillar, aiding the rhythm section when needed. Other than that, he also uses the classical piano with unmatched skill, giving the listener the impression that FW recruited a member of an established classic orchestra ensemble for their needs. Last but not least in any possible way, there lie Ray Alder’s voice and the lyrics of Jim Matheos. Simply put, this is the best work Alder ever issued, hands down and easily among the 5-10 best singer performances in progressive metal. His melodic lines are inside every song’s pace one minute, while they stand at a distance from it the next, imitating the movement of a ship in the middle of a stormy ocean. Matheos’s lyrics give Alder the freedom to impersonate nearly every aspect of human condition, always with respect to the main concept of the record. Regardless if it's shame, anger, regret or guilt, Alder is boldly letting himself be soaked in these human conditions to come eventually in the surface purged and relieved.

The sound production is immense. Although the two previous FW albums had great production as well, with this, things are ten times better. The sound of the guitars is thick, the keyboards and effects have the anticipated depth, the same holds for the drums, while the bass lines are joyfully audible. The artwork of the record is mind blowing as well, in agreement with the bleak concept of the lyrics.

Closing in, Fates Warning 8th album, A Pleasant Shade of Grey, can be seen as the epitome of what Fates Warning do better than anyone, from Perfect Symmetry and forth. That is to provide us each time with an updated prog metal adaptation of the diary of our lives.



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user ratings (141)
Chart.
4.2
excellent
other reviews of this album
Parallels/sonicspeed500/sonic2/wes/leslie/Reverse Perpendicu (3.5)
With an intricate account of depression, A Pleasant Shade of Gray is a consummate masterpiece of con...


Comments:Add a Comment 
Voivod
Staff Reviewer
January 11th 2011


6205 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7_J87TM3FtU

II:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y6PiM68y76A&feature=related

III:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h_4ZOWoKIfE&feature=related

IV:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HIW71kWhtW8&feature=related
V:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A3SszsgBMCc&feature=related

VI:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4txMC0scaCA&feature=related

VII:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F-jI0FSR5-I&feature=related

VIII:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v3DKNm-r9r0&feature=related

IX:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zG94KotFUm4&feature=related

X:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SKPwjQiAJms&feature=related

XI:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VPbqsbFf2TM&feature=related
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gh6ipMuczq8&feature=related (live, check Zonder!!!!!)

XII:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=utIKRGthUvU&feature=related
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nwnofe5J2uM&feature=related (live, check Zonder AGAIN!!!)





Today I conclude two years as a Sputnik user.

Cheers!

Constructive criticism is more than welcome.

Digging: Seduced (AT) - The Proclamation

Willie
Moderator
January 11th 2011


16051 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Fates warning are one of my favorite bands, but I think this is probably one of their weaker releases. Very thorough review.

Voivod
Staff Reviewer
January 11th 2011


6205 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I understand from where you are coming from (at least i think i do), as this album feels more like a soundtrack and not a "regular" album.


This album was my first contact with Fates Warning, i didn't like it at first, had trouble listening to it from start to finish, but in time, i accepted it for what it was.

It's definitely a grower, at least from where I'm standing.

lostforwords
January 11th 2011


446 Comments


Very good review.

I love this record, I think it's the most artistic and emotional they ever did, On the other hand, the loose structures that derive from the idea of one song divided into twelve parts may give the feeling that some parts are somehow incomplete, even though that's not the case. Thus, I get why some fans were in fact alienated by this.

Voivod
Staff Reviewer
January 11th 2011


6205 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

@ lostforwords

your point of view is spot on, from start to finish.

Ευχαριστώ για την υποστήριξη φίλε :-)

Jethro42
January 11th 2011


12481 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Album is excellent, and I'm glad to see it covered by you, Voivod. I'm gonna read it sometime in the evening.

Deviant.
Staff Reviewer
January 11th 2011


31362 Comments


Love this

Digging: Objekt - Flatland

Jethro42
January 11th 2011


12481 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Man I absolutely love the review. You amply give justice to the album. Mark Zonder is an helluva drummer, and Kevin Moore is both the O.S.I. and DT' former keybordist I think. A big pos, Voivod! You're a solid writer, really. Keep the good work up.


gamwtinmanatus
January 17th 2011


29 Comments


this is so strange!!This was the next album I wanted to review!I guess that greek minds think alike!

as for the review, the only thing I have to say is that your writing skills have improved tremendously. It's solid and well desriptive, with an appropriate opening paragraph
Αντε και εις ανωτερα!

The album is great,and it's my favorite of their discography

pos'd

Willie
Moderator
January 17th 2011


16051 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

I understand from there you are coming from (at least i think i do), as this album feels more like a soundtrack and not a "regular" album.


It just sounds like pieces of songs... almost like incomplete thoughts. To be honest, Fates Warning have never been that good at the really long songs (The Ivory Gate of Dreams being the only other one, really). They never flow and they always feel half-realized. My other issue with this album is it feels very lethargic.

Voivod
Staff Reviewer
January 19th 2011


6205 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Oddly enough Trey, the things that you refer to as "cons", are translated to me as "pros".

Indeed, the album goes through highs and lows, but this incompleteness in thoughts is a situation that I experience constantly within my head (as a person, i can get extremely distracted just like that, going from one unfinished thought to another) and, in so many words, this is why i like this album.

Willie
Moderator
January 19th 2011


16051 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Oh, ok I see what you're saying and might... ooh, shiny!

Voivod
Staff Reviewer
January 19th 2011


6205 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

and might... ooh, shiny!

haha

relativeworld
January 22nd 2011


289 Comments


Is it a good album to start listening to Fates Warning?

relativeworld
January 22nd 2011


289 Comments


and something else, does the album really feature New Age elements?

lostforwords
January 22nd 2011


446 Comments


"Is it a good album to start listening to Fates Warning?"

No


"does the album really feature New Age elements?"

God, no


and might... ooh, shiny!

what do you mean? :-D

I think he just means that sth caught your attention unexpectedly, given that you said it happens to you a lot!!hehe!!

relativeworld
January 22nd 2011


289 Comments


Lostforwords : take a look at this page, please
http://www.answers.com/topic/a-pleasant-shade-of-gray
so it's bull$hit...

Willie
Moderator
January 22nd 2011


16051 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

It's bullshit because Wiki says it is? That's even more bullshit - it's bullshittier.

lostforwords
January 23rd 2011


446 Comments


"take a look at this page, please"

You can't say it features New Age elements. I think that was Wiki's way of introducing Kevin Moore's role in this record. Which means in fact that keyboards are more than present in APSOG, but New Age is too far and too inacurate.

Voivod
Staff Reviewer
January 23rd 2011


6205 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Kevin Moore's work in this is not New Age, it's Kevin Moore's work.



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