From the opening electronic bleeps to the crushing guitars that follow on "Just to Feel Alive", it's apparent that this new project from former Fates Warning guitarist Frank Aresti was not intended to mimic his former band one bit. Many have argued that Fates Warning have lost a certain edge since the departure of Aresti, and listening to the results on his debut CD, it's no surprise as this is the mark of a talented musician, singer, and songwriter. What's interesting is that almost the entire album, except for guitars and vocals, was created on Frank's computer. You'd never know from listening to it.
One thing I'd like to mention first is just how much I like Aresti's lead vocals. He sounds remarkably like Robin McAuley, former singer from the Michael Schenker Group, and his melodic vocals fit the album's eclectic mix of industrial metal, electronica/trance, pop, and prog metal. "Devil Gone Too Far" is a great metal tune with hooks that are reminiscant of MSG or Queensryche, while the oozing industrial sludge of "The Winding Ring" has a faint hint of Nine Inch Nails. Aresti's razor sharp guitar work is in fine form throughout these 12 tracks, but don't expect gobs of solos here, as this CD is all about songs and textures rather than technical proficiency. "Breakout" is probably the closest things get to Fates Warning, with intricate guitar work, heavy rhythms, and powerful vocals. There's also a few noodly ambient pieces here, like "The Dream", "Conjuring Grace", and "Favorite Stain", which are compelling yet bizarre, in a weird sort of way. Aresti even throws in a ghoulishly delicious cover of the Cars classic "Moving in Stereo" for good measure, complete with heavy riffs and spooky keyboard sounds.
To say this CD is way off kilter from what I expected is an understatement, yet I really like the direction that Frank Aresti is taking this new project. Full of unique and modern sounds, Dragonspoon is not a sibling to Fates Warning, but more like a distant cousin, and that's a good thing.