Fates Warning - Night On Bröcken (Metal Blade) 1984
For some reason, despite being a big fan of "Spectre Within" and "Awaken the Guardian" since the days they were released, I always had this total disregard for "Night On Bröcken", and to be honest I don't know why. I always thought of this CD as a poor attempt at power metal a la Iron Maiden. Part of the reason for my contempt may have been that "Spectre Within" was the first Fates Warning disc I had ever heard and it became an instant favorite in my mind. Perhaps if I had heard "Night On Bröcken" first I would have liked it better and would not have compared it to a CD I held in such high regard. Another reason for my initial dislike may have been due to the mastering on the first CD release, which was very poor. I never actually owned the vinyl version of this album but I did pick up the CD just to complete my Fates Warning collection and gave it only one listen before shelving it. Frankly, I never gave it another spin after that, prefering instead to listen to the rest of the band's catalogue. (I only paid $2.99 for that first CD pressing with the moon on the cover.)
In 2002 Metal Blade released a remastered version of "Night On Bröcken" as part of their 20th Anniversary series and I re-discoved a gem of a metal CD. From Arch's haunting, unique vocal melodies, to the amazing guitar work of Jim Matheos and Victor Arduini. Rediscovering the two instrumental tracks alone, was worth the price of picking up this remastered disc up. "Damnation" is also an excellent track, mixing together the intricate songwriting of progressive rock and the heaviness of the early NWOBHM movement,. Of course I have always liked "Soldier Boy", which was originally released on Metal Massacre. Granted, "Night On Bröcken" will never be able to match the genius of "The Spectre Within" and "Awaken the Guardian", but it is at least a disc that I can now enjoy, instead of something that just fills a whole in the collection.
Another reason for my initial contempt for this CD may have been the lyrical direction, which frankly was is a bit dark. Songs like the title track speak of the holiday of witches. "Kiss of Death", on the other hand, explores the betrayal of Christ through the eyes of the men who paid Judas his 30 peices of silver. "Damnation" despite sounding a bit like a heavy metal cliché is a song about the destruction of the environment and how "corporate buildings are spreading like ashes" and destroying "the earth and virgin soil." One thing for sure, the lyrics are not typical of most metal band in the early 80's and are far more interesting and poetic than I had originally remembered. I picked up this disc for the Iron Maiden cover included as a bonus track. This "rehersal" recording is absolute garbage. The recording is so poor, it's not something I would probably give repeated listens to. The demo and live recordings aren't bad, but are obviously not of the same calibur of the actual album. These tracks make for an interesting history lesson on the band and certainly something die-hard Fates Warning fans like myself can not do without. The remastered, re-release replaces the "moon cover" with the original cover art, albeit with a new logo imposed over it. The insert also includes some classic photos, lyrics, and a write-up by Boris Kaiser of Rock Hard Magazine.
Fates Warning - The Spectre Within (Metal Blade) 1985
in Time" (7:11)
I went to see the band on this tour when they were opening for Motorhead. After standing in line at the City Gardens for hours, it was announced that Motorhead, along with all the equipment, would not be showing up. Fates Warning were there but couldn't play without their equipment. Argh!!! In any case, this one is the first Fates album I ever bought and I loved it, thus it still holds a place with me."Spectre" is so far superior to "Night on Bröcken" that it almost sounds like a different band. An early attempt at progressive metal before there really was progressive metal. John Arch's distinctive vocals are haunting and absolutely mesmerizing. Nothing the band would release after it could ever replace this disc as my favorite. Personally I feel this is one of the greatest heavy metal albums ever released. Almost two decades later and I still play this one quite a bit.
Held onto my original, crappy cassette copy for the longest time. Eventually upgraded to the CD when a buddy of mine offered to give me his copy for free. Free is good! In 2002, Metal Blade released a remastered version of this disc with bonus tracks. Yet another disc to add to the want list.
Fates Warning - Awaken the Guardian (Metal Blade) 1986
1. "The Sorceress"
The last disc with original singer John Arch, and most people would say this is his best. While I would agree that this is an awesome disc, it's hard to forget your first love, or in this case, my first Fates Warning experience. Love "Awakening" but it doesn't get as much play as "Spectre." Much improved cover art on this one.
Fates Warning - No Exit (Metal Blade) 1988
1. "No Exit"
New lead singer, Ray Alder, on this one, plus a tighter, heavier, more aggressive sound. I almost wish this is the direction they would have stayed in. I must admit I did miss John Arch's vocals at first, but eventually grew to like Ray just as much. Back to the bad album cover art on this one.
A good CD all around but the aggression and heaviness is beginning to taper off. Rumor has it that the album's title was suppose to reflect the fact that both sides of the "record" were to be the exact same length. OK, whatever! "Perfect Symmetry" is still a favorite of mine. Cool "old man" cover.
OK, Fates are no longer a heavy metal band at this point but more of a modern progressive rock band. There are a lot of hooks in these songs and I must admit, even though it's not very heavy, I played this thing endlessly. "Eye to Eye" was a minor hit, the only one the band has ever had. The old man is back on the cover. Didn't this guy also adorn the covers of Sanctuary's "Into the Mirror Black" and Dirty Looks' "Chewing on the Bit" as well? (-:
Fates Warning - Inside Out (Metal Blade) 1994
Looking In" (4:50)
I get called on lukewarm and bad reviews all the time. Diehard fans will often write me letters urging me to give a CD another listen. For the most part I stand by my reviews. I do update reviews on occassion as CDs tend to grow on me over time and sometimes CDs that I really liked at first lose their charm. In this case, I read a thread on a discussion board that I visit regularly that prompted me to go back an re-read my own review of this disc. My initial review of "Inside Out" was lukewarm at best, and probably just downright wrong. Basically what I said was "Fates Warning has gone completely soft, pop rock, while still retaining a bit of the progressive tendencies." The thing is, I do like this CD and play it on occassion. It is not a dust collector at all, so I felt it time to give a more detailed and accurate account of this CD.
"Inside Out" follows on the heels of one of my favorite Fates Warning CDs, "Parallels". Stylistically, this CD isn't really that much different from it's predicessor. "Inside Out" is full of emotional, mid-paced, melodic songs and ballad-type songs, although I really wouldn't describe any of these songs as 'ballads.' "Inside Out" is, however, far more melancholy than anything that they had done up to this point. Despite this fact, songs like "Shelter Me" and single "Pale Fire" are actually quite compelling. Both these songs have that ballad-like quality, but aren't sappy attempts at radio hits like the word 'ballad' might suggest. ("Pale Fire" was also released on a single called the "Pale Fire EP".) "Face the Fear" is an awesome song with spine tingling passages throughout. 'Monument' is the classic from this album and probably one of my favorite songs from the post Alder years of Fates Warning. The guitarwork and drumming here is quite impressive. It is the longest and most upbeat song here, although I would in no way describe this song as"heavy". Ray Alder's vocals on this CD are just chilling. He certainly gives a great performance throughout. Nowhere is this more evident than on the underrated, epic track "Island in the Stream". While this track is very melancholy, it's also very dark and creates a chilling atmosphere. This song starts off mellow and builds up as it goes on. "Afterglow" is NOT the Genesis song, although it would have been cool to hear Fates Warning do a Genesis cover. So, while this CD won't challenge the Ray Alder years or even "No Exit" in the heaviness department, it certainly is a excellent melodic, progressive rock album.
Fates Warning - Chasing Time (Metal Blade) 1995
A nice "best of" package covering the entire career of the band through "Inside Out." Has a few rarities for the collector. "At Fates Fingers" is an instrumental reworking of "At Fates Hands" that Jim Matheos recorded for Guitar for the Practicing Musician. "Circles" is a good progressive metal song that Fates never released for some reason. I guess they ended up using parts of the song in other songs.
Fates Warning - A Pleasant Shade of Gray (Metal Blade) 1997
Shade of Gray Part I" (1:53)
A return to the progressive music they do so well and, thankfully, ditching the pop metal. Sounds a bit more like Pink Floyd than Fates Warning though. Anyhow, this is ONE, and I mean one, freakin' long song. Sort of gets boring after a while which is why, I am sure, they added the very LOUD and ANNOYING alarm clock at the end of the cd. Darn, and I just fell asleep!
Fates Warning - Still Life (Metal Blade) 1998
I was really looking forward to this disc, hopes held high that it would contain some older material. The bad news is, the only two pre-Parallels songs here are half of "Prelude to Ruin" and "At Fates Hands". However, ignoring disc one, which is ALL of "A Pleasant Shade of Gray," disc 2 is a good listen. Strange though, that most bands sound heavier live. Somehow Fates Warning sounds oddly more mellow. Maybe someday they will release some lost pre-"Parallel" live performance, or even better, a live performance with John Arch. Here's hoping.
Fates Warning - Disconnected (Metal Blade) 2000
Pt. 1" [instrumental] (1:13)
Man, I can't believe it took me so long to get this album. Fates Warning use to be one of those bands that I would spend the money on to get their albums new at the time of their release. I guess I was so dishearted with the last two discs, that I put it off for a long time. In any case, it was my loss, because "Disconnected" is actually a very good disc. The band did not "return to their roots," as was the hype. They have retained the progessive rock sound of "Pleasant Shade of Gray" yet somehow they managed to make it more interesting. There is loads of ambient stuff going on here, however, what was immediately noticable to me was that Jim Matheos brought back the band's heavy guitar sound. Anyone who compares these guys to Dream Theater now, obviously has no clue. Fates are in a league of their own with "Disconnected."
Fates Warning - Fates Warning X (FWX) (Metal Blade) 2004
Unlike many Fates Warning and traditional metal fans, I pretty much love everything the band has written. Of course I am now and have always been a a big fan of the first four albums of the early 80's (particularly 'Spectre Within' and 'Awaken the Guardian'), but I'm equally enamored with the more progressive sound they developed from 'Perfect Symmetry' onwards. I guess what I am trying to say, is that I approach new Fates Warning in a different way than I did those early releases. I no longer go to Fates Warning to 'rock out', so to speak. Rather, I listen to them looking for the more expansive, moody, and sophisticated sound, not unlike I approach bands like Rush, Pink Floyd and Dream Theater. FWX is very melancholy stuff. I certainly wouldn't call it heavy metal anymore. Fates Warning have been treading similar ground as bands like Rush for years, and even remind me of Pink Floyd at times. That is not to say that they are clones of any band. No Fates Warning have not been a direct imprint of any band since their Iron Maiden-ish debut in the early 80's. However, like Floyd and Rush, they feature excellent musicianship and solid songwriting. I can actually appreciate the recent Fates Warning releases moreso than the recent Dream Theater releases. At least Fates Warning still remember what a song is. Other progressive bands seems to like to just cram as many riffs into one song as humanly possible then throw some guitar noodling on top to make prog-rockers mouths drop open. Personally, for me, I prefer a good song to noodling. I think that is where Fates Warning excells where Dream Theater fails.
While I would say that 'FWX' is the next logical step to 'Disconnected', band ringleader Jim Matheos is also careful not to repeat old ideas. 'FWX' is a little different to what we heard on 'Disconnected' and 'Pleasant Shade'. Where this CD is similar, is in the overall dark, melancholy and melodic mood. Where it differs, especially from 'Pleasant Shade of Grey' is that 'FWX' is much more song oriented and moves away from the conceptual themes. Also, I think the keyboards on this released have taken a back seat to the guitars, which is nice to hear. I was stoked to hear Jim break out some real guitar riffs again, much like 'Parallels' and the underrated 'Inside Out.' That doesn't even take into account the soaring vocals of Ray Alder or the stellar drumwork of Mark Zonder. So with all that in mind, I would say that "FWX" is a very solid, very enjoyable album, especially for those times when you want to kick back and just bury yourself in the music.