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Fates Warning: FWX

When a longtime member of a band announces his impending departure before the release of a new album, it usually results in one of two scenarios: 1) The record is weak and reeks of discontent and chaos, or 2) the disc emerges as one of the strongest in said band's career. In the case of drummer Mark Zonder and FWX, the tenth album from his now-former band Fates Warning, the latter holds true.

After a decade of disconnected (pun intended) and rambling releases, Fates Warning has issued its best album since 1994's Inside Out, back when the band's music was both less atmospheric and more radio-friendly. Ample passages with both elements exist on FWX, which opens with "Left Here," a somber, searching and memorable mid-tempo rocker the ideal Fates Warning lead-off track. The next song, "Simple Human," is much heavier with a repetitive chorus that is altered in the final line to reflect the song's social commentary: "Yeah, I am a simple human like you/Yeah, I am a stupid human, too." "Stranger (With A Familiar Face)" is an all-out modern-metal headbanger, and "Another Perfect Day" is an acoustic-based ballad full of lyrical introspection and Enchant references. Conversely, the brief ambient instrumental "Sequence #7" echoes last year's OSI project - no surprise, considering guitarist/keyboardist Jim Matheos was part of that outfit - while closing track "Wish" retains the dark mood Fates Warning established on FWX's first two songs. This album isn't as technically complex as previous records, and because Fates Warning has consistently altered its sound from album to album, it may take some time for many fans to welcome FWX into the Fates Warning canon.

That said, Matheos, singer Ray Alder, bassist Joey Vera and even Zonder perform the songs on FWX with a greater sense of urgency and purpose than they did on either 2000's Disconnected or 1998's A Pleasant Shade of Gray. Credit the band's 2003 tour with Queensryche and Dream Theater for some of that renewed vitality. One hopes that it won't take four more years between albums to follow up FWX - but with Alder recently joining Redemption, Matheos and Vera taking on outside work and Zonder gone, might Fates Warning be relegated to side-project status? Oh, cruel fate.

Track Listing:
1) Left Here (6:59)
2) Simple Human (4:03)
3) River Wide Ocean Deep (6:10)
4) Another Perfect Day (4:44)
5) Heal Me (7:39)
6) Sequence #7 (2:13)
7) Crawl (4:22)
8) A Handful of Doubt (5:06)
9) Stranger (With A Familiar Face) (4:01)
X) Wish (6:39)
Total Time: 52:25

Added: November 23rd 2004
Reviewer: Michael Popke
Related Link: Official Fates Warning Web Site
Hits: 23098
Language: english

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» SoT Staff Roundtable Reviews:

Fates Warning: FWX
Posted by Murat Batmaz, SoT Staff Writer on 2005-04-04 19:11:34
My Score:

This is strange indeed because in all the reviews written thus far I didn't see anyone else mention the similarities between Ray Alder's solo project Engine and Fates Warning's new album FWX. Yes, this album *is* heavier than their previous two, but it certainly sounds nothing like their earlier 80's or mid-90's stuff (and it shouldn't anyway). People have likened FWX to their Parallels/Inside Out era and somewhat to the newer sound they explored on APSOG/Disconnected.

This is the first record Matheos hasn't worked with long time producer Terry Brown and instead went along with singer Ray Alder to handle the production duties. The Ray Alder influence is needless to say quite subtle at times. Comparisons could be particularly made to the first Engine album; that's where some of the heaviness comes from. The sound on FWX is bound to please the older fans as long as they don't expect another Awaken the Guardian or Perfect Symmetry type of record. Looking back on Fates Warning, they've morphed from disc to disc, going from a hybrid of 80's heavy metal and prog metal to more melodic prog to atmospheric and experimental prog. Each disc has continued to evolve and Matheos particularly reached his peak during the APSOG era introducing layers of depth like never before.

FWX, while surprisingly heavy during some moments, still retains the dark and atmospheric vibe which Fates Warning successfully captured on their previous album Disconnected. The similarities are so evident that even the colours and tones they used on their artwork bear affinities. For example, the surrounding of the girl in the Disconnected booklet is almost identical to the barren field displayed in the FWX one. Lyrical themes are once again characterized by despondency, despair and failures in past relationships.

Alder wrote the lyrics for three songs on the album, which are "Simple Human", "Heal Me" and "Crawl". The latter particularly sounds like an Engine outtake during the chorus. My favourite songs on the CD are "River Wide Ocean Deep", "Another Perfect Day" and "X". "River Wide Ocean Deep" has got to be the one of the most experimental songs Matheos has ever penned. It starts with female vocals in a Middle Eastern flavour before it borrows electronic soundscapes and shifts on to a heavier approach. Mark Zonder's drumming is superb in that passage. Very heavy and very relentless. "Another Perfect Day" has this brilliant acoustic intro which is a recurring theme coming up in the middle once again. This acoustic melody is something you'd normally hear on an Opeth album. I could swear Jim Matheos listened to Opeth quite a bit before coming up with that killer riff.

Unlike Disconnected, Matheos also plays a few sublime guitar solos on songs like "Stranger" and the album's finale "X". This one is going to put a smile on lots of old fans' face. The way it builds up right after the soft piano melody is absolutely beautiful. It's a shame that this is going to be the last album feauturing the amazing Mark Zonder on drums because I simply can't imagine FW exploring this type of music with a different drummer. All four members are great on the album, but I particularly have to point out Joey Vera on bass, since I believe this could be his most subtle performance in FW to date. His bass lines in "Heal Me" and "Sequence #7" are terrific. Another good thing is to see Vera mentioned as a real member in the booklet as opposed to a 'guest musician'. I continue to be amazed at how great the chemistry is between all these musicians. Even though Jim Matheos is the main composer, each and every member has something to add to the mold of the songcraft. And it's this what makes Fates Warning so incredibly unique.

Fates Warning: FWX
Posted by Steve Pettengill, SoT Staff Writer on 2004-11-23 09:32:05
My Score:

Finally, after a four year recording break, Fates Warning are back with one of their finest albums. FWX is stylistically quite similar to their 1997 masterpiece A Pleasant Shade of Grey, although it is heavier and marginally less depressing in tone. Fear not though, FWX is still plenty grim with tracks like "River Wide Ocean Deep" and album closer "Wish". As well, the album opens with an all too obvious nod to Pink Floyd with a panning synthesizer sequence highly reminiscent of "Welcome to the Machine".

However despite the impending departure of drummer Mark Zonder, a vital contributor to the Fates Warning sound, there is a ray of hope conveyed by the final stanza of "Wish": "May you never know this darkness/may you always see the light/May you always know the peace/that comforts you tonight". Elsewhere, the band rock out impressively (and intricately) on cuts like "Simple Human", "Crawl" and "Stranger (With a Familiar Face)".

The production is simply wonderful with layer upon layer of guitar and keyboard textures. Though vocalist Ray Alder isn't hitting those high notes as before on albums like Perfect Symmetry, the recipe for recent Fates Warning doesn't call for it. Rather, he sings in a perfectly suitable middle range. Likewise Jim Matheos plays with far less metallic crunch these days, instead opting for a vast array of tone colors that lends each track a cinematic quality. If FWX is truly the end for the band as rumors have indicated, they've capped their career with a remarkable album.

» Reader Comments:

Fates Warning: FWX
Posted by Rich on 2005-02-16 11:11:00
My Score:

I've been an avid Fates Warning fan since the Night on Brocken full length first album after hearing the 4-song EP. I must say this album is the best ever put together. This band deserves far more credit than just helping to create the epic metal genre.

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