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Fates Warning - The Spectre Within  CD (album) cover

THE SPECTRE WITHIN

Fates Warning

 

Progressive Metal

3.44 | 130 ratings

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Isa
Prog Reviewer
2 stars |D+| One small step for a band, one giant leap for prog-metal (the epic track Epitaph).

In Fates Warning's sophomore album, The Spectre Within, there is a significant step in their direction toward the prog style (long songs, tempo/meter changes, etc.). From what I can gather, most of the band's time and effort went into the 12 minute epic Epitaph at the end of the album, which is an incredible work and a solid embryo for the development of prog- metal.

For the rest of the album, however, the band was far less successful in incorporating the prog style into their heavier tracks, so that the songwriting actually went down in quality from their debut. Many of the tracks with some progressive elements are somewhat awkward and in-cohesive, whilst the tracks that more emulate Iron Maiden are in fact far superior to my ears. This isn't all too surprising to me considering prog-metal itself had never really been done before, and therefore we can almost consider this album overall an experimental one for the band. What's more, it's clear they're also trying to simultaneously develop their own unique sound using more progressive composition techniques. (I wonder if the band had had a copy of Queensryche's debut album by then....) The experimentation was worth it I think, for the sound of the band as we know them would come to fruition with subsequent releases. The 12min epic "Epitaph" is the track to listen for on this album, and is really the main reason to even buy this album. It's as progressive as anything Queensryche made after them, in my opinion.

Track Commentary: The opener Traveler in Time starts off with wind and clock sound effects, leading into church bells and heavy metal power chords, almost an announcement to the metal world regarding what the band is trying to accomplish with this album. This and the second track Orphan Gypsy show clear prog tendencies, especially with the time signature changes in both tracks. The vocal melodies pretty much suck in these opening tracks, and the singer sings flat most of the time, and this is especially pronounced when the vocal harmonies are added. Tracks three and four Without a Trace and Pirates of the Underground, however, are far more in the Iron Maiden style of their debut, and thus are actually far stronger than the previous two. A lot of good NWBHM sounding riffs, drumming, etc. Pirates of the Underground has a break in the middle, suddenly changing tempo and sounding quite evil, though the vocal melody over the riffs is kinda crap again. Fortunately the guitar solo is incredible, and the break into the speedy tremolos is effective. Haha, the duel guitar patterns sound just like the ones on Deep Purple's Highway Star. Fifth track Apparition does not start well, with the vocalist singing overdubbed harmonies out of tune (again). This is prevalent throughout the track. The instrumental parts are a bit more convincing some of the others, with ever so slight hints at prog. Kyrie Eleison... well as an orthodox Catholic I certainly love Gregorian Chant in my prog-metal, and this is certainly beautiful (though only too obviously not performed by the band members themselves). The rest of the song is the usual chugging guitar with not so great vocal melodies. The chorus is almost painful since it's cheesy and they enunciate the Greek so poorly.

Epitaph, the last epic track of the album (hm, wonder where they got the idea for that title), shows pretty obvious and strong progressive style composition, the time signature changes, creative riffs, the effective use of acoustic guitar, overall epic sound and what not. Without a doubt the best track on the album. Definitely a creative piece of music, probably one of the most creative tracks in metal that year. I love the military style snare hits with the over-driven guitar juxtaposing the soothing acoustic guitar and "ohs" of the vocalist. Even the NWBHM sounding section is pretty solid. Halfway through, the band breaks into almost mystical sounding material; it's really quite pretty. Then the metal guitar comes back in at a slower tempo, with keyboard patterns. It's a very bombastic sounding fade-out ending.

Basically, this track is mainly worth getting for the last track Epitaph, and most of the guitar solos are pretty awesome, even on the crappier tracks. Really the rest of the album is actually less interesting than the band's straight-up Iron Maiden clone of a debut. Recommended mainly for fans of Fates Warning and prog-metal collectors/researchers.

Isa | 2/5 |

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