Review Summary: Fates Warning stop being completely Iron Maiden-influenced and take a step into the once uncharted, prog metal territory.
When 80s metal is mentined in your no-less-than-geeky discussions about metal, what comes up? Metallica? Megadeth? Pretty thrashy stuff right there, which isn't suprising; it's what the metal scene in the 80s is known for. But what about the progressive metal side? Or maybe the power metal side? Big names won't come up, unless you think of Rush as progressive metal, or the few early power metal bands such as Blind Guardian. But, Fates Warning is a band that few would know about.
Fates Warning at this point is:
John Arch - Vocals
Jim Matheos - Guitars
Frank "X" Aresti - Guitars
Joe DiBiase - Bass
Steve Zimmerman - Drums
Fates Warning is a band with too many genres to list. They're progressive. They're thrash. They're power metal. They're heavy metal. (Though they're considered progressive metal by most Fates Warning listeners.) It's always been this way, at least starting with this album. Before Awaken The Guardian
's release in 1986, they were criticized as being an Iron Maiden copy. However, with this fresh new album, they develop a more distinct sound with their thrashy riffing, progressive time signatures, and power metal-like lyrics, become less and less like Iron Maiden with each release. It's unfortunante that such an album like this didn't rise to the top at all. The culprit for this dilema? An insane number of classic metal albums came out the exact same year. Unfortunantly, the release of Awaken the Guardian
was completely overshadowed by the unveiling of Metallica's Master of Puppets
, Slayer's Reign in Blood
, Megadeth's Peace Sells...But Who's Buying?
and Iron Maiden's Somewhere In Time
to name a few. 1986 was obviously one of the biggest years in metal ever, but Fates Warning's Awaken The Guardian
deserve to be part of the onslaught of metal classics?
What this album has is variety. It has some very thrashy songs, like "Valley of the Dolls". Throughout the album, it shows not only the progressive music people know Fates Warning for, but the strong, heavy, crunchy thrash riffing 80s metal itself is known for. There is not a song here without the unnatural flowing progressive beats, such as in the strong opener "The Sorceress". But it's not just the genres driving the moving music in Awaken the Guardian
; the instrumentals are wonderful as well. The drumlines can range from nothing short of complex to full-out double bass as in "Prelude to Ruin". The bass cuts through the mix just right so it doesn't overpower the guitars, but is still heard. The guitaring, especially the riffing in some of the heavier. thrashier songs, is somehow manages to combine utmost complexity with driving thrash riffing. It's done just right so that the music still flows, even with the changing time signatures throughout. The vocals too, while high-pitched, blends with the music wonderfully most of the time.
No, Awaken the Guardian
is not all thrashy, showy riff fests. There are Opeth-esque acoustic melodies and fills scattered throughout the album, especially in "Guardian". There are also other slower-tempoed songs throughout, such as in "Time Long Past". These songs, unlike Symphony X's slower ballads, have enough energy to keep them from getting boring. I've also noticed that the slower songs on this album aren't as progressive as they are in the heavier songs on here. However, you should listen to Awaken the Guardian
for the ballads; the heavy, energetic songs outnumber the slow, ballad-like songs.
You might be asking at this point "Are there even any negatives to such a great album like this?" From my point of view, there are none at all. But i'll bring up a couple of issues some people may have with this album. Both are a shoutout to you Iron Maiden fans out there. This will sound like Iron Maiden. You can hear a strong Maiden influence in there, though the Maiden influence doesn't overshadow the Fates Warning sound. One more thing people might have an issue with is with the vocals. They sound almost identical to Bruce Dickinson, so unless you don't like anyone else sound like Maiden other than Maiden themselves, you should be okay with this anyway.
[+]All songs are fantastic
[+]Complex, yet catchy melodies
[+]Strong talent in all intruments
[-]Some will not like the strong Iron Maiden influence
[-]Some will not like Dickinson-like Vocals
All in all, this album is nothing short of a classic. This album deserves to be up alongside the great albums that came out in 1986. I'm still stunned that this was a fantastic random CD buy. In fact, I was even more impressed that I got the album itself and 2 additional discs for only $15 at Best Buy! (You can buy the whole thing yourself on Amazon.com for $19 if you can't find it.) Despite the strong Iron Maiden influence in the album, this is definently an album worth the space in your 512mb Apple iPod shuffle or your 30 gig Creative Zen Vision: M, or even your CD player (you can throw out that Manowar CD that was in there before).
Recommended Songs: Fata Morgana, Valley of the Dolls, Guardian
A little note to people buying the big 2 cd and 1 dvd set: you'll find out that a certain popular progressive metal band that has "Dream Theater" in their band name is nuts
over Fates Warning, especially a certain drummer whose last name is Portnoy...