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Fates Warning - Parallels CD (album) cover

PARALLELS

Fates Warning

 

Progressive Metal

4.12 | 274 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

FragileKings
2 stars This site has been keeping my iPhone screen glowing during many of my daily commutes on the train. It's a feverish pastime of mine now to look up bands I know and see how they fair among the reviewers and also to seek out artists that are new to me. Fates Warning should have been in my collection from long ago because I sought out every metal band I read about back in the mid-eighties. That I didn't know of them is even more surprising considering that I loved both Iron Maiden and Queensryche, two of the other progenitors of progressive metal in the 80s.

Not sure where to start, I usually read the reviews of a band's top-rated albums on this site before visiting Amazon and giving the short song samples a run through. I also sometimes look up an album on YouTube for full-length songs. The album recommended for Fates Warning was Perfect Symmetry but Parallels was several bucks worth cheaper on Amazon (no re-mastered version with a bonus DVD), and so without any prior listen I ordered the CD, expecting to hear something along the lines of Iron Maiden, Queensryche and Dream Theater.

What I got was rather disappointing. The first song, Leave the Past Behind starts out with a prog metal flair but soon transforms into something very much like a slower number by Queensryche, or perhaps rather by a Queensryche cover band. On I went to the next song and the next, neither of them particularly standing out. Eye to Eye sounds like The Warning era Queensryche meets No One Like You by Scorpions. The Eleventh Hour is praised as being a signature song of Fates Warning but it wasn't until my fifth listen that I began to find guitar parts I like and my foot started tapping. Ray Alder just sounds too much like Geoff Tate and the guitar sound is very much like Queensryche, too.

On the first listen, by the time the last track The Road Goes on Forever ended I realized that I hadn't even noticed when the last few songs had started and ended. The real test for me is to throw a bunch of albums (or randomly selected songs from albums) onto a playlist and hit shuffle as I spend the hour it takes to commute to and from work. If a song comes on that pricks up my ears, I take more interest in the album. I did this with Parallels but whenever a song from this album came on all I could think of was a watered down Queensryche.

What is it about this album that's just not working for me? One is the sound quality. I have a 1991 version and the instruments and vocals just lack sonic depth. Another is that whenever I try to listen carefully to the music, I hear mostly standard 4/4 beat drumming with few fills, bar chords just keeping up with the chord of the melody without any awesome metal riffs, and a bass guitar that... just does nothing to stand out. It's people like Terry Butler of Black Sabbath, Geddy Lee of Rush and Chris Squire of Yes who got me turned on to the sound of the bass guitar. It's very much a background instrument here. Oh, there are some parts where the drum beat goes off the usual 4/4 time and the guitars do play some cool distorted riffs but it all sounds very lackluster to me. As I mentioned above, I was a rabid metal fan in the 80's and by 1989 I had over 300 cassettes in my collection. This album by Fates Warning... I feel like I have heard it all before. Perhaps if I had heard this album in 1985 I would have been blown away.

What I feel about this album is that Fates Warning managed to come up with easy-listening metal because there is not much edge or bite here. A lot of songs actually begin with a metal riff but the excitement drops off as every song gears down for the first verse. It's a tiresome formula: start with a cool metal sound then turn it down and go all mellow until the chorus. I think about 5 songs follow this formula on this album. And if progressive metal includes quick tricky passages, abrupt changes to melody and even key mid-song, and odd time signatures with staccato blast lead breaks then there's none of that here. It makes for a good melodic metal album but I can't say I can recommend this as a real prog rock or prog metal album. Many reviewers praise this album but I am not hearing it as a master piece. Perhaps I really need to focus on the music. As it is, my mind keeps wandering whenever I play a track from this album.

I wouldn't say that Fates Warning are not a good prog metal band. Perhaps buying Parallels first instead of Perfect Symmetry would be like buying Hold Your Fire by Rush instead of Power Windows or Going for the One by Yes instead of Relayer or Close to the Edge. I might have just missed hearing their best work and thus just missed being blown away. I feel a bit bad giving this a low rating but as a melodic metal album I think it's just good and nothing more and as prog metal metal I find it lacking. But I will be checking out some of their other albums. Hopefully I'll be more impressed with my next purchase.

FragileKings | 2/5 |

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