Sound — 9
What? No Fates Warning reviews? Shame on their fans. For those of you not familiar with them, Fates Warning started out in the 80s as a Iron Maiden type of band, eventually evolving into a prog-rock outfit led by Jim Matheos, the only original member left. Original singer John Arch left after a few albums, and Ray Alder took over. This is actually my favorite period of their history, mainly because Arch tried a bit too hard to ound like Bruce Dickison. OK, this was actually the first FW album I ever got, and then I went back from there. I must say that I got into it at once, something that's hard for me to do even with bands that I've been a fan of for a long time that put out a new album. The mixture of rock and some techno/electronica sounds made this album stand out from other stuff I had heard before, and while it may make some people uneasy, it's done very well and without excess. I guess you could say that it's done to add texture to the songs as opposed to being the driving force behind them. Speaking of driving forces, Jim Matheos's guitar parts rule the day in this album. While not as flashy as other prog bands (or even some of FW's older albums), they really flow nicely. He only plays about 3 solos in the whole record, which is kind of scarce considering his past output, but they are good, melodic solos. The only complaint I have is that his lead sound is somewhat whiny because of the "halfway" wah, though. The production is almost perfect, but there are some minor details that could have made this album sound even better than it already does. Oh, and Mark Zonder is a drums-god. The man has a great sense of time, and his fills sound easy but are actually kind of hard to figure out because most of them are in odd time signatures, even when they sound like they're not. Joey Vera's bass lines round out the band's sound.
Lyrics — 9
Again, Jim Matheos is the one who writes most of the lyrics, with the occasional collaboration from singer Ray Alder. Jim's lyrics are good, but some of them are kind of strange. I don't mean that in a bad way, it's just that I don't know what he was trying to say in some of the songs, like on River Wide, Ocean Deep. My favorite lyrics are the ones to the ballad-type songs, which are Another Perfect Day, A Handful of Doubt (my favorite song on the record), and Wish. Ray's voice has developed over the years from a high-pitched screaming one to a nice, soothing one over the years, and it fits the mood set by the music perfectly. I can't imagine him singing like he did on older songs like Anarchy Divine (a GREAT metal song, BTW) on this record, and I'm glad he didn't because that would have killed it. Still, there's some rough spots every now and then, but nothing that will make you think of a cat being strangled or anything.
Overall Impression — 9
Fates Warning is one of those bands that, like Porcupine Tree, are very good yet get virtually no recognition from anyone except their fanbase, which I'm proud to be a part of. Some of the songs could have been radio material, but then again, maybe it's better that they remain virtually unknown to the masses. Pretty much the whole album is great, except for that weird track called Sequence Number 7, which I think was just Jim trying out a new synth or something. I would have liked another actual song instead of that, but I guess Jim believed otherwise. I don't think this album would ever get stolen because I have yet to meet another Fates Warning fan face to face, but if I ever lost it, I would definitely buy it again.