Review Summary: Here, Fates Warning started to develop a unique sound. Here, the band established their modern sound.
“Perfect Symmetry” is the fifth studio album of Fates Warning and was released in 1989. The line up on the album is Ray Alder, Jim Matheos, Frank Aresti, Joe DiBiase and Mark Zonder. The album had also the participation of Kevin Moore and Faith Fraeoli as guest musicians.
In a career spanning more than 25 years, many critics will dispute that Fates Warning has been one of the most influential progressive metal bands. Some of them would even go further. Their ability never to allow their music to stagnate, constantly evolving by embracing innovative additions to their sound, makes them, perhaps, the most influential band in the genre. It was because of them and some other bands that progressive metal sub-genre appeared and it was because of “Perfect Symmetry” that the band’s more modern progressive direction was established.
Fates Warning’s “Perfect Symmetry” is truly an historic album and one of the genres defining recordings in progressive metal. Which is also true is that up until the late 80’s, a term as “progressive metal” didn’t even exist. It could be easily argued that “Perfect Symmetry” and Voivod’s “Nothingface”, both released in 1989, are the first albums that marked the birth of really heavy, crushing metal elements blended with progressive music. We can even say that Crimson Glory with “Transcendence” and Queensryche with “Operation: Mindcrime” have did it in the previous year, in 1988. But the most important of all is that the music of Fates Warning is metal with serious progressive overtones. From a historical context, “Perfect Symmetry” ranks right on top of the list as one of the most influential progressive metal albums ever.
“Perfect Symmetry” represents the exact moment when Fates Warning began to create precise, deep and meaningful music that stood the test of time and influenced some of the most well known progressive metal acts. It’s the first album where Fates Warning polished their production and started writing realistic and contemplative lyrics and composed cohesive songs that occasionally leave their mark on you. One of the most noticeable changes from their previous albums is the almost perfect production. “Perfect Symmetry” has probably the best words one can use in order to summarize the mixing qualities of this work. Each instrument has a prominent location and balance and this is a significant improvement that was lacking in former albums. But the most important thing about this album is the tremendous improvement in the songwriting. This is the album where Fates Warning started to develop a unique sound, which will eventually transform into a cohesive, recognizable style known as progressive metal. Some songs have a complex structure and dynamic mood that is quite close to being pure progressive metal, but aren’t exactly there yet, thus resulting in an array of sophisticated songs that will require multiple listening in order to fully appreciate it, indeed.
About the tracks, “The Arena” and “A World Apart” are compact metal songs. The latter begins with dark and brooding acoustic guitars and introduces an odd-time polyrhythm by Zonder, before it delves into one of the best melodic guitar solos on the album. On “Part Of The Machine” and “Static Acts”, both guitarists play melodically strong solos that descend over Alder’s lyrics. Alder particularly sounds great on “Static Acts”. It represents that he will be a defining element on the band’s future releases. “Through Different Eyes” and “Chasing Time” are the album’s ballads. Matheos comes up with somewhat a bluesy guitar line in the intro of “Through Different Eyes”, which is enhanced by piercing screams from Alder, and later a breathtaking guitar duel between both guitarists. I’ve always believed the style explored on this song is further developed on the band’s subsequent release, “Parallels”. But the progressive climax of the album is the last track “Nothing Left To Say”. At nearly 8 minutes, the song finds the band in their most experimental progressive metal phase. Plenty of solos abound the compositions with polyrhythmic drum attacks, dense rhythm and lead guitars, and complex time signatures. Matheos’ lyrics once again are only a small taste of what’s yet to come.
Conclusion: “Perfect Symmetry” is a great album and represents a turning point in band’s music. This is really a very special album. Definitely, this is one of the most influential albums in the early progressive metal scene. If you like your metal in the traditional sense, you should go to “Awaken The Guardian” and search other albums from another bands. But if you like metal in the untraditional post 80’s progressive vein such as Dream Theater’s stuff, this album and what came after this, is for you. It has complex compositions and sometimes you find it dark and cold. The inclusion of a violin on here gave to it a nice touch, in addition to the keyboards being handled by then Dream Theater’s keyboardist Kevin Moore. It definitely brings a much needed amount of atmosphere to the ballads on here. Of course, it took several careful listening before being able to be fully appreciated, as I did. It really demands your complete attention. Enjoy it.
Music was my first love.
John Miles (Rebel)