Review Summary: Pushing the Progressive Envelope, "No Exit" is one of progressive metal's finest moments.
It's hard to avoid mentioning it, 1988 was arguably the worst year in music. You name it, from AC/DC to Judas Priest and Bob Dylan, nearly every major musician/band was dying from new age insomnia. Those that hadn't died yet would soon eventually take a turn for the worse (Iron Maiden, Metallica), and drift into a commercial sound that would be far from revered. Music had become a load of crap in the world's ears, and with that swab of truth the public showed the underground bands a shot at the spotlight. Fellow progressive metal pioneers Queensrÿche and Voivod released landmarks of albums that meshed new genres and superimposed themselves into the world's music industry, but No Exit
was striking enough to jumpstart Fates Warning's career with 13 weeks on the Billboard Top 200.
Although the criticisms of the band as an Iron Maiden clone are a bit harsh, Fates Warning did show that they were unsure of their sound with the sudden change of direction on No Exit
. They strangely fired their long-time singer John Arch in favor of Ray Alder, who was actually a fan of the band, and jumped into the studio shortly after. It worked out amazingly for the group, guitarists and songwriters Frank Aresti and Jim Matheos both make amazing work out of their guitars on "Anarchy Divine," as well as the intricate and melodic work of "Quietus." The album works with all the wonders of a masterpiece by defining a new genre. There's poetic lyrics, ominous acoustics, heavy metal riffs, grasping emotions, and the band uses more odd time signatures into their material then Queensrÿche, their field-opposite genre rival.
Excerpt from "The Ivory Gate Of Dreams"
"From sleeping visions, daily we’re torn
In waking hours, hopes our forlorn.
Is all we do and all we dream
Doomed to drown in a hopeless stream?"
Instead of their fantasy filled albums that were originally the main theme of the band's name, they now turn to serious, introspective and introverted lyrics. There is a shred of fiction left in their work, but it has a purpose alongside the literature it is inspired by. No Exit
is rebellious, intuitive, and almost apocalyptic. The concept of "Horn and Ivory" gates are in the monumental epic "The Ivory Gate of Dreams," a 20+ minute herald of wonder that every casual or serious progressive metal fan must have. The material here exists far before the progressive genre was fully established, and for that reason the album is also a astounding work of pioneering.
There is a concept to the album. All throughout, these themes of anarchy, afterlife and dreams were concepts derived from Jean-Paul Sartre’s play of the same name, "No Exit." In the play, three people are sent to a Hell after their deaths with no way out. They await a punisher who never arrives, until they realize their biggest punishment is the company of each other and the ability to read the thoughts of the others they are trapped with. These ideas are explored in the album as well ("Silent Cries," "In A Word"). In "Shades of Heavenly Death," the album is seen from a theoretical view, a “what if” style of song. Every piece is styled perfectly, and Ray Alder wastes no time being on queue with the band. The rest of Fates Warning is on par with excellence: the drumming is rough, the guitar lines memorable and the singing is melodic. Joe DiBase (you can guess what instrument) does a magnificent job for a this era of headbanging (watch the music video of "Anarchy Divine"). To many, No Exit
is and will remain a classic. While Fates Warning was still relatively new to the music scene, this is no doubt a great point in the band's discography.
"I will keep my own time
What's yours is really mine
I won't let you swallow me; your doctrines will not shine
Rebellion is your pestilence
I'll never be confined
Forever you shall yield to me
Save me, someone's come to change me
Misled, delusions colored real
Black and white, they'll never paint me
Never see until you feel, Never!"
Excerpt from "Anarchy Divine"
The Ivory Gate of Dreams