The eighth full-length album by the legendary American Progressive Metal band.
Album contains one song divided into twelve chapters and is noted for its darker mood and more progressive style.
The band’s attempt to widen its audience through a more accessible/commercial Progressive Metal sound with "Parallels" (more) and "Inside Out" (less), was unsuccessful, although both records were ranked as great or excellent, in terms of artistic success. As a result, long-time band members Frank Aresti and John Dibiase called it a day after the release of both records, due to stress and internal conflicts originating from the band’s failure “to get to the crowds”. Jim Matheos, the heart and soul of Fates Warning, did not remain with his hands crossed, though. He took the time to answer all the questions in those four verses above with “A Pleasant Shade Of Gray”. The answers he and the band gave were as significant as the questions posed. The band’s rushed urge and the subsequent failure to combine artistic and commercial success were two evils masking a tremendous benefit. From this point further, Fates Warning could finally claim uncompromised artistic freedom without the oppressive burden of commercial success on their backs, in short without having to prove anything to anyone. And this was the case. Matheos composed one big song, separated in 12 chapters. Following the structure of a book, those song chapters are related to a loose but clear concept floating around the body of the lyrics that revolves around the semiology of peoples’ hopes, dreams, guilt and regrets with respect to the fellow human being. What is, what has been and what could have been.
In terms of music, the band, based on its well established Progressive Metal patents, forged a dark sound inspired from the Blues but also from Industrial. In more detail, the song chapters are comprised of few, sometimes simplistic, sometimes “similar” but highly memorable and addictive rhythms and melodies. The repetition of certain of these melodies and riffs, solidifies (along with the lyrics) the album’s nature, that of a soundtrack for a movie, existing or not, little does it matter. In addition, Fates Warning leave aside the traditional Rock/Metal song structures by varying, as they see fit, the magnitude of the instrumental parts in each song chapter. Jim Matheos adapts all the band's trademark elements to the new album’s needs in a most prolific way. His riffing is staccato or flowing in equal portions, yet minimal altogether, while it blends superbly with his trademark semi electro-acoustic parts. The latter sound so simple and yet genuinely inspired, while they are mainly responsible for keeping the soundtrack element intact throughout the record. The rhythm section, comprised by Joe Vera (Armored Saint) and Mark Zonder, follows Matheos’s riffing and delivers top-notch musicianship. While Vera’s bass lines hold tight to the guitars for the most part, Mark Zonder’s drumming is equally precise, as it is intense and chaotic altogether. Whether he must sustain a slow or a furious pace, being at times “out” of the arrangements of the rest of the band, Zonder delivers his beats with tremendous vigor. As a result, he is stealing – at times – all the attention a listener has to give. Furthermore, his extravagant ability by which he realizes his off-key patterns for the cymbals is simply orgasmic.
The sound production is immense. Although the two previous Fates Warning albums had great production as well, with this, things are ten times better. The sound of the guitars is thick, the keyboards and effects have the anticipated depth, the same holds for the drums, while the bass lines are joyfully audible.
This album can be seen as the epitome of what Fates Warning do better than anyone, from “Perfect Symmetry” and forth. That is to provide us each time with an updated Prog Metal adaptation of the diary of our lives!!
Massacre Records, 1997 (MAS CD0125). Made in Germany. Second press.
1. Part I 1:53
2. Part II 3:25
3. Part III 3:53
4. Part IV 4:26
5. Part V 5:24
6. Part VI 7:28
7. Part VII 4:51
8. Part VIII 3:31
9. Part IX 4:45
10. Part X 1:19
11. Part XI 3:34
12. Part XII 7:45
Total playing time: 52:14