Review Summary: With this album prog-ers Fates Warning walk the very very thin line between catchiness and technically layered and sonically deep. And guess what, they pull it off very well.
(I realize my previous attempt at reviewing this album came off lame in more respects than one. I made myself look like I was a salivating fanboy to both Tool and this present band Fates Warning. So I decided to re-review it to try to get a more coherent review across.)
I sat up, the better part of an hour trying to figure out how I’d start my re-review. I thought that getting background info on the band would be a good start. So naturally, I went straight to the two trusted sources of said info; their official homepage and their page on Wikipedia. Ten minutes later I was confused. Why" Here was a band that was supposedly referred to as Iron Maiden
clones back in the 80s till they took on a more progressive style, and in fact were supposedly one of the bands that directly helped establish progressive metal, setting the stage for acts such as Dream Theatre
and the ilk to follow. Reading this one would get the impression they’re a big act. What confused me were the lackluster official homepage they had and the abysmal entry in Wikipedia. They just didn’t add up.
These guys have been around a long time, releasing their first album way back in 1984. Not many bands have managed to last these many years and despite whatever impression media (or the lack thereof) is inclined to give you, have managed to sustain a loyal fan base. Heck, not many bands are directly responsible for a major
genre in metal. But most importantly, not many bands have managed to evolve their sound continuously, infusing new styles, new sounds, new technology, all of which progressed at an alarming pace in the past twenty years, one of the few bands that the rapidly changing trends in music could not outpace.
As mentioned earlier these guys started out as a very Maiden-esque band that slowly, with each album, pushed the barriers of metal by incorporating increasing quantities of progressive influences in their sound. Numerous line-up changes over the years also had a hand in their evolving style, but the core of the band, it seemed, stayed, since the principal songwriters were the constants in the band, and are still there today. And herein lies the band’s strongest point. This core is very talented and can craft one hell of a song. Add to that about twenty years of songwriting experience and you get the present album: Disconnected
This crafting of this album has used undoubtedly one of the most diverse songwriting palettes in a long time. Why diverse" Well, firstly, this is a prog band through and through and therefore the whole traditional song structure routine gets flung out the window straight away. Secondly, the longest song on the album clocks in at just over 16 minutes and the shortest at just 4:24. In between, you get everything; from six minute soundscapes (Disconnected Pt II
) to simply very catchy metal songs (Pieces of Me
) to epic prog songs (So
, Something from Nothing
, Still Remains
) and let’s not forget that one indulgence that prog bands tend to have … yes that’s right… filler (Disconnected Pt I
).That’s not all they do. They then proceed to plunk these 4 minute pieces smack right in the middle of the longer (8 mins and above) tracks and guess what. These relatively “blink and miss” songs refuse to be overshadowed by the giants on either side. I don’t know about the rest of you, but for me that’s a first. I’ll say it again: songwriting at its best.
Then, of course, there is the musicianship. Fates Warning (listening to their past albums), I find, have always been a band who put music over technicality. And that they, despite the fact that they’re really really good at their instruments, have managed to keep themselves from descending into technical wankery in the name of pushing their boundaries has always been an enduring trait. Instead they seem to create different challenges for themselves throughout the album; trying the use the knowledge of the instruments they have to create music that sounds fresh and retains the emotions that they want to push through. Therefore, what you get is disc with some very refined musicianship; songs that aren’t easy to play, but yet aren’t shred fests either. The song is all important. And it shows.
Despite of this, one instrument here takes the cake, in terms of creativity, in terms of sheer power and elevating each song from great to excellent. The guy playing that instrument is Mark Zonder. The instrument" The drums. In my previous review I said that I would place Mark Zonder above Portnoy and below Danny Carey. I stand by what I said, since he might not be all that technical but man is he creative. He makes the drum set come alive with his sparkling performance and is an absolute pleasure to listen to.
The other thing that stands out on this album is the more than ample use of synthesizers throughout the record. They create an excellent atmosphere for the songs to develop from and in the longer tracks it almost seems as if the song emerges from this blanket of sound that they create. That’s not all they do though. In songs like Still Remains
, they almost play the same role that Joost’s synth plays in After Forever
songs, complimenting the guitar, thickening the sound and in some parts actually getting technical; all in all, a very good performance.
So what about the guitars" This is possibly one of the coolest aspects of the band. These guys have the whole bass and guitar intertwining thing going on throughout the album, a-la Tool
, but possibly more technical, and they do it superbly. Chugging riffs to great guitar lines and the bass can be heard clearly throughout the album. That’s right: right through the album, rooting the songs firmly into the ground. The vocals don’t lag behind either. That they were called Maiden clones early in their career should be indicative as to the range of Adler’s voice. I’ll admit, he doesn’t have the power of Dickinson’s voice, but he knows his limitations. On the album he layers his voice where the power is needed and in the quiet parts, he uses his voice to almost act like another instrument, beautifully integrating his voice against the background to add that much to the atmosphere.
Therefore, what we get, overall, is an absolute gem of an album, that is at once catchy, technical, deep and containing a set of songs that never seem to get old. It is undoubtedly one of the most entertaining albums I’ve listened to and saying that about a prog record" That’s saying a lot. My rating “Still Remains”