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Band: Fates Warning

Album: Darkness in a Different Light

Reviewer: Nick


Official Fates Warning Website

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When Fates Warning releases Darkness in a Different Light, they will do so nine years to the week of their previous album FWX. Those nine years have produced a fair amount of frustration and uncertainty amongst fans. However, with guitarist and mastermind Jim Matheos remaining busy with various projects through the nine years, so most fans continue to have faith in his writing ability. Additionally, Ray Alder has kept busy with Redemption, and the rest of Fates Warning united with former singer John Arch on 2011’s well received album under the moniker Arch/Matheos. That said, this album will ultimately determine whether or not Matheos and company still have what it takes to produce a classic Fates Warning record.

It should come to no surprise to anyone who heard 2011’s Arch/Matheos record that straight from the opening of “One Thousand Fires” it becomes obvious that aggressive and distinctive riffing of Fates Warning will be in full force on this album. The way Matheos and and his six string partner in crime Frank Aresti work together has always amazed me, and their amazing synergy continues on this album.that track record continues on this album. On this opening track, as has happened in Fates Warning in the past so many times, it seems almost as if the two guitarists are playing riffs from different songs, and yet they merge together beautifully in musical bliss. Underneath the chaos is the drumming of veteran Bobby Jarzombek. Although this is his first studio effort with the band, the years of touring with them and an impressive resume shine through in his very active and interesting drumming on the album. Add on top of that some fantastic guitar solos and a typically strong studio performance from vocalist Ray Alder and I was ready to forgive the band for the long wait after the first track.

The next two tracks, “Firefly” and “Desire” offer more of the same, the former of which has a section that hits hard on a Fates Warning staple, some odd rhythm work that still gives you that urge to want to head bang. In many ways the first three tracks from this album demonstrate why Fates Warning can often be progressive metal for those who don’t know they are listening to progressive metal. They take musical ideas that don’t seem to make much sense, and manage to fuse them together flawlessly into masterful songs.

After a soft and short interlude track, “Falling”, the album once again kicks into high gear with “I Am”. The heaviness of the verses of the track offer a beautiful juxtaposition to the bridge, which sees soaring vocals from Alder and light guitar strokes layer perfectly on top of a rhythmic tom pattern. And yet, however good the bridge is, one cannot help but wait for the 180 to occur again as the chorus kicks in. The sixth track, “Lighthouse” stands out as an obvious midpoint in the album, as it is the only full length soft song on the album. Not in any way a ballad, but simply a bit of a droning background noise that fails to properly grab your attention at any point.

While “Into the Black” and “Kneel and Obey” don’t quite pick things back up to the level of intensity seen prior to “Lighthouse”, they do have guitar solos that border on classic shred more than any other on the album. While the songs are good, and solos great, they simply fail to take hold and grab you like the earlier tracks on the album. The next track however, “O Chloroform”, shows the slightly softer dynamic of the album, but as perfectly executed as the beginning of the album. The guitars aren’t as complicated, the chorus has a slightly poppier edge than the rest of the album, and the entire song would serve as an excellent introduction to the album without the metal aspect being dialed all the way up.

The album ends with the fourteen minute “And Yet it Moves”, which will draw comparisons to “Still Remains”, the sixteen minute track from 2000’s Disconnected, for no other reason than being the first track of that length the band has produced since then. Starting as many epics do with an extended instrumental section no one would be in a hurry for Alder’s voice to break into the track, but should be happy when it does as the first verse is one of his strongest vocal performances on the album. From there through the nine minute point in the exceptional instrumentation continues, with Alder lending the occasion and very strong melody. At the nine minute mark things have gone quiet, and acoustic guitars kick in. Simple at first, they are joined by some nice keyboard work and vocals, and eventually a soft and moving electric lead guitar part. The song which at one point seemed content to be over builds and builds until it is at full force, and when it ends again, this time more suddenly, you rewarded with a satisfying payoff of the buildup, wishing it would repeat again. “And Yet it Moves” serves as an exclamation point on the album, and to Fates Warning’s comeback to studio success.

Ultimately the best parts of Darkness in a Different Light are a lot like the Arch/Matheos record mentioned earlier in my review, with the very distinct and cutting voice of John Arch replaced by the smoother stylings of Ray Alder. However the album does have many distinctive Fates Warning qualities that set it apart from the other things Matheos has worked on over the past nine years, and the album seems like a clear successor to 2004’s FWX despite the time gap. The unmistakable crunch of the Matheos/Aresti guitar duo hasn’t faded one bit, and the fantastic Mark Zonder has been replaced by the equally capable and stylistically creative Bobby Jarzombek. And while a trio of songs create a noticeable lull in quality, it is nowhere near the point where I’d consider skipping the tracks, and that lull is only noticeable due to the strength of the material surrounding it.

Nick’s Grade: A-