ALBUM REVIEW: Fates in a modern ‘Light’

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First Posted: 9/30/2013

With their first studio album in nearly a decade, progressive metal pioneers Fates Warning show that they’re not yet ready to be relegated to a mere side note in the musical history books. The band’s 11th studio release, “Darkness in a Different Light,” marks a decidedly melodic streamlining of the band’s trademark ethereal chop ‘n plod musical noodlings into an ultra-accessible listening experience. Gone are the somewhat cryptic, Roman-numeraled tracks of Fates Warning albums like 1997’s “A Pleasant Shade of Gray,” where the band indulged in instrumentally pinpoint precise thought patterns, making way for a looser, more middle-of-the-road prog presentation.

Tracks like opener “One Thousand Fires” are soaring and darkly catchy – gleaming with the perfect luster of Iron Maiden-esque operatic melodrama meets Dream Theater-like craftsmanship. “Firefly” is pure ear candy – harkening back to such likeminded Fates Warning tracks as “Leave the Past Behind” from 1991’s epic “Parallels,” with vocalist Ray Alder striking the perfect balance of his past stratospheric range and more sensible current abilities.

Conversely, “I Am” sets an atmospheric tone, with drummer Bobby Jarzombek, who’s filled in live with the band since ’07 but makes his Fates Warning recorded debut here, providing a somewhat tribal pattern under guitarists Frank Aresti and Jim Matheos’ layered counterpoints – eventually seguing into a heavy Rush-sounding riff circa that band’s 1974 debut. “Into the Black” is equally as moody in tonality, maintaining a flash of maligned brilliance while never pandering to million-note extraneous soloing. “Kneel and Obey” maintains the album’s sense of 21st century heaviness production-wise, while seeing the band spread its songwriting wings not only lyrically, but also as far as expanding an average minor-key riff into something resembling all-out musical contortion.

Tastefully aware progressive metal is what Fates Warning deals these days. The band maintains its disciplined, math-like metal vibe, while seeming to embrace the notion of not forsaking the melody simply to accommodate the musician-friendly pandering. This is a fully matured Fates Warning and will likely expand the band’s base.

Fates Warning ‘Darkness in a Different Light’ Rating: W W W W V