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Fates Warning - A Pleasant Shade Of Gray CD (album) cover


Fates Warning


Progressive Metal

4.17 | 360 ratings

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Queen By-Tor
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Grey and more grey.

This album is often regarded as the best from the highly seminal progressive metal band, Fates Warning, but how does it really stack up against the rest of the genre. As can probably be noted from the tracklisting, the album is all one long song, and it's a concept album - so prog heads may have their attention grabbed right there. What you can expect from the realm of progressive metal is over the top solos, winding instrumentals, creativity and a general uptempo feel thanks to the metal behind the prog. However, almost none of that applies to this album, and the entire thing can often come off as seeming rather dull and, well, grey, especially if this isn't the kind of music that you normally appreciate in the first place.

If you're expecting instrumental pyrotechnics then you're in the wrong place. Obviously it would be out of line to bash an album for doing something that it never intended to do in the first place, but as a point of caution, that isn't what the album's about. Thanks to the subject matter of the concept at hand (which can be better described by my contemporaries) the music is all rather dark and brooding, and this applies all throughout the 12 parts. Although some of them are a bit more uptempo the general mix and tone of the album keeps everything very... well, grey. There's no parts that simply act as heavy rockers to break up the slow-burning concept, and any instrumental tracks easily get washed away while you're listening to it as the points between some of the vocals and the next part of vocals. Ray Alder is on the mic for this album and has, by now, gained a following as a legendary lead man, that reputation alone being one of the sole drivers behind the incarnation of Redemption, but here, while he does put on the power metal voice for the sake of the context of the band, he comes off as rather bland throughout - albeit with flashes of killer performances throughout.

The main problem is that while the album is good on the whole it really lacks an entry point, making the entire thing completely inaccessible. Since the song simply chugs along through its 12 parts without a moment that may be a little poppier or less unforgiving the entire disc can pass by without a trace. Other bands have been able to pull off the ''one song album'', but those bands (like, say, Jethro Tull) also knew the importance of having some kind of snag or catch to pull you back in for another listen instead of just bludgeoning you with a heavy concept and slow burning music. A Pleasant Shade Of Grey is the kind of thing that could have taken a spot on another album as a 12-minute song and been one of the best pieces on the album rather than extending every nook and cranny of the song until it took up the entire album.

On the bright side, what moments of the album do manage to make its way under your skin will undoubtedly be good ones. While you may not remember them afterwards, on the whole the album is an enjoyable listen, and if you like one part, then chances are that you'll like them all. It's like a black and white painting, a shade of grey, it doesn't dare to flash out at you with bright neon colors, it would prefer to take its time and let you appreciate all the subtleties of what it's trying to do. The problem is that if it can't hook you to look at the painting long enough then you'll probably dismiss it as just another piece of work. Overall, 3 stars out of 5 for an album that is just a little too grey for its own good.

Queen By-Tor | 3/5 |


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