Review Summary: Fates Warning attempt to capitalize on the success of their last album by playing it safe and rehashing old ideas.
Fates Warning is widely regarded as being at the forefront of the modern progressive metal movement; influencing everyone from Dream Theater
to Symphony X
. In their 22-plus-years of existence they have gone through many member and stylistic changes, but their quality has never really faltered. With that being said, Inside Out
is definitely on the lower side of the quality scale, and also shows the least amount of progression.
’s albums have always varied from one another, with one exception -- Inside Out
. When you consider the circumstances, it shouldn't come as a surprise the band played it safe on this release. Parallels
was Fates Warning's most commercially successful album, and they were clearly looking to capitalize on it. It makes sense that a band would stick to their winning formula when trying to further their commercial stock, and that's what Fates Warning has done here. Inside Out
follows the same basic song structures as Parallels
, the same simple catchy choruses, and the same easily digestible delivery -- except with a lesser degree of overall quality.
The main issue plaguing this album is the production. For reasons I won't bother with here, the band didn't work with producer Terry Brown (Rush, Voivod, and Fates Warning's Parallels
album) even though their last album had definitely benefited from the partnership. Whereas Parallels
had a full, warm-sounding production, this one ended up with a thin guitar and drum sound, and a muddy bass-tone. If they were trying to repeat the successes of their past, then this was definitely the first mistake (although the remastered version does clean that up, somewhat).
The next quality issue comes from the songs themselves, which have been “dumbed-down” considerably. Every track focuses on a verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge, solo, verse, chorus format with very little deviation. This makes each track feel predictable even if it's the first time listening. This predictability is only intensified by the simplicity of the choruses which focus on accessibility over everything else. Overall, the songs on Inside Out
simply suffer from a lack of flair in both the songwriting and actual musicianship. This focus on simplicity and accessibility makes for an album that is still musically competent, but a little too safe and stagnant.
While not totally redeeming the entire album, the end of Inside Out
does finally show signs of life on "Face the Fear" and "Monument". It's these two songs alone that finally deliver an edge as well as a sense of excitement and progression. A huge contributor to that feeling is the playing of drummer, Mark Zonder. These two songs really do feature some of the best playing of his career. They also feature the only truly significant guitar solos of the entire album. Unfortunately, the closing track ends things on a low note. It’s very slow and plodding, and will be forgotten as soon as the final note fades away.
Using the power of hindsight, it’s easy to see Inside Out
would always be the bastard child of the Fates Warning catalog even if it had been a great release. It would be doomed to hold that title due to the fact it is sandwiched between their most commercially successful album, Parallels
, and the album most fans regard as their peak (at least with Ray Alder as their vocalist), A Pleasant Shade of Grey
. In reality though, the album isn’t great, and it deserves that title due to it basically being a second-rate clone of its predecessor. I could only recommend getting the two songs I actually mentioned by name, as the rest of the album is done much better on a previous disc called Parallels