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Fates Warning: A Pleasant Shade of Gray

Fates Warning is perhaps the only prog metal act that helped develop this obscure genre from the 80's to this time, but they have always been overshadowed by their contemporaries. In the 80's everyone had their attention focused on Queensryche and Crimson Glory, and the 90's saw Dream Theater and Symphony X dominating everything prog-wise. And, while very few bands have managed to maintain their consistency, always putting out quality material, carving their own little niche in the ever-growing genre, many of them went for the easy way out after scoring one or two major 'hit' albums. Maybe it's the fact that both Ryche and DT peaked way too early with releases like Mindcrime and I&W coming out within 5 years of their forming. For Fates, on the other hand, it was a slower (but perhaps safer) process of growing and establishing themselves as one of the greatest prog metal bands of all times! Many music fans, who have given this disc its deserved listen and patience, call APSOG a concept album, but I beg to differ. Reason being, this is one long epic song consisting of 12 parts lest listeners can navigate it easier (ala Edge of Sanity - Crimson II). There is no concrete storyline or 'concept' happening in the album from a lyrical standpoint, it is just a big song comprised of an hour long composition broken down into untitled tracks. The song seems like a long dream characterized by love, loss and sadness abound with 'gray' thoughts coming and going. It is the purest form of human life being reflected through an incredibly cerebral piece of art. Towards the finale of the album, the dream is suddenly over with the going off of an alarm clock bringing both the listener and the unnamed character in the album back to life.

Different from most prog metal albums of the 90's, there is little to no effort made to make the listener's head spin with unnecessary technical prowess. You don't get dizzy listening to APSOG trying to keep up with various polyrhythms, countless notes squeezed into a scale played mindlessly fast on the guitar or a vocalist constantly exerting himself just to remain in his highest range possible -- all aspects which would serve no purpose on this album.

Jim Matheos is a murderously underrated musician. To this day everyone raves about any band's guitar player, but Matheos' genius is always passed up for some reason. He wrote all the lyrics and composed the entire album on his own. What's more is, he hasn't taken the easy way out laying down some meaningless riffs and solos throughout this CD. On the contrary he only plays two solos on the entire album, parts VI and IX. Both solos are slow and minimal but emotionally charged at the highest level possible. Ray Alder, no doubt, does his best vocal performance ever here. He stays comfortably in his own range and delivers the tunes with passion, emotion and conviction. The vocal line in the intro of Part VI remains to this day one of the greatest vocal harmonies ever recorded in my opinion. Alder never lost his talent with the years going by, he's developed and matured constantly, and his performance on APSOG is the proof that he is one of the greatest singers ever. Joey Vera had just joined Fates and this was his first stint with the band but he fits in perfectly in Matheos' songcraft. His sublime bass work is astounding. Mark Zonder has been one of my favourite drummers, perhaps even my very favourite, and his laidback style here is his best statment that there is no ego in his playing. He is best known for restraining himself when necessary and always giving the song what it needs. Despite his holdbing back, he knows when to make your jaw drop with perfectly well-timed drum fills and rolls, especially in parts IV and V.

And a separate paragraph for Kevin Moore (ex-Dream Theater). His presence on APSOG makes all the difference. Fates Warning had never used keys and piano this effectively before, but for an album like this, no one would have been a better choice. Moore's minimalist playing and the heavy atmosphere that covers the tunes delicately complement the songs very well. He particularly shines in Part VII. This seamlessly ties in with Part VIII displaying one of his longest and most moving piano solos ever. I think this is the best album Moore has guested on in his post-Awake career.

The first few spins you give this disc nothing may leap out to you. It may seem a bit bland and you may find it hard to see what's so great about it. Just listen to this album with your full concentration and the lyrics in your hand. You will be absorbed in it shortly and surprised greatly when you discover little nuances with each listen. Also of importance is that you listen to the album in its entirity so you can see the whole picture. No song taken out of its content can have much impact on the listener. Only then will you realise why APSOG has already taken its place among the few prog metal masterpieces in the 90's.

Track Listing

  1. Part I
  2. Part II
  3. Part III
  4. Part IV
  5. Part V
  6. Part VI
  7. Part VII
  8. Part VIII
  9. Part IX
  10. Part X
  11. Part XI
  12. Part XII

Added: July 1st 2005
Reviewer: Murat Batmaz
Related Link: Fates Warning
Hits: 6488
Language: english

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