Sound — 10
This is probably the genesis of progressive metal as a genre. Certainly, bands like Iron Maiden took influence from progressive rock bands like Rush and Yes and integrated that into their sound, but Fates Warning and possibly Queensrche were the very first bands to create a sound that balanced the elaborate instrumentation and multi-segment epics of progressive rock with the aggressive energy of heavy metal. Fates Warning's fist album, Night on Brcken was mostly derivative of Iron Maiden, but here they came into their own sound. You can hear the Iron Maiden and Mercyful Fate influences in the riffs or an occasional Maiden-sounding lead that's harmonized by both guitarists, but the product of these influences is definitely unique. The album sounds great, even though it was released 27 years ago - each instrument is clearly audible and there's a minimum of overdubs, letting the energy present in the songs shine through and making it feel like you're listening to the band perform live.
Lyrics — 10
Vocalist John Arch is definitely one of the main factors that make Fates Warning's first 3 albums sound so unique - there's no singer in metal that sounds like him, in timbre or delivery. It's a clich, but Arch often uses his voice as another instrument, adding atmosphere and feeling to the songs; the wordless intro to "The Apparition", the bridge of "Traveler in Time", and the ending of "Epitaph" show this. His melodies and rhythms are offbeat but complement the music perfectly, as do the lyrics. Arch mostly sings about the isolation, depression, and the occult, aside from the take that to the radio that is "Pirates of the Underground". The only flaw with Arch's vocals is that sometimes he can be difficult to understand, but his singing voice is incredible and unique.
Overall Impression — 10
To me, this is the definitive metal album. Each song is lengthy (the shortest is a hair under 5 minutes, the longest just about 12, with the rest falling around 6-8) and made of multiple distinct parts, but they flow perfectly and not a second is wasted. Even the epic "Epitaph" doesn't lose any power over the course of its eleven minutes and fifty-seven seconds. No song is weak, but "Pirates of the Underground" and "The Apparition" stand above the others. This is a powerful, incredibly unique album that anyone interested in progressive metal or metal in general should listen to.