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Fates Warning

Progressive Metal

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4 stars same good as prevoius one. It's last album with John Arch (Dickinson clone). We have here this specific mood from the beginning but this time it seems even more monumental than before. Very good work and very important for 80's metal.
Report this review (#23405)
Posted Wednesday, March 3, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars This Album is one of my top ten albums of all time. This album is the last album featuring John Arch on vocals. His vocals are a key point of the sound of this album. They are high and powerful and fits perfectly with the style of Fates Warning. This album has a lot of thrashy riffs and great guitar work as well. The riffs on this album are non stop and are very catchy. If you are a fan of metal and have never heard Fates Warning before I suggest that this be the first album you but. This is a muct for a metal fan or a prog fan (if you can stand metal).
Report this review (#23408)
Posted Monday, October 4, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars Without a doubt one of the best Metal albums of all time (regardless of style), with absolute classics like the first four tracks (''The sorceress'', ''Valley of the dolls'', ''Fata Morgana'', ''Guardian''), and the last, the epic ''Exodus''. Awesome musicianship, not the 'show-off' kind that most Prog bands play, this is about QUALITY COMPOSITION, they manage to keep even the longer songs interesting with catchy riffs and breaks. All topped off with the unique vocal melodies and lyrics by John Arch, who is far from being a Bruce Dickinson clone. The production, while not perfect, is superior to the one in their previous album (''The spectre within''); all the instruments sound clear and well integrated in the mix (although the bass is drowned in occasions by the guitars). Classic.
Report this review (#23410)
Posted Tuesday, January 25, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars ok my best us power metal album along with ryche's warning and with heirapparent's graceful inheritance. this album is much greater than spectre within and night on broken but unfortunately is the last album with arch as a singer. i know that most people like their prog period after awaken the guardian but i think that this album is easily in the best 3 albums of their career. great melodies, arch sings like a maniac with a voice that you will either love it or hate it and matheos plays the best metal quitar parts of his career. no exit that followed was a masterpiece too but awaken the guardian is much greater, not technically but musically (who cares about technic. music is what it counts after all). top tracks of the album? all of them!!!!
Report this review (#36185)
Posted Saturday, June 11, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars This is a monumental album. Not many people were doing this type of music back in 1986. Watchtower and Queensryche are pretty much the only bands that came close. Every riff kills, and John Arch's vocals are amazing. I believe this is one of the greatest prog metal releases ever. I recomend this album to anyone into progressive music.
Report this review (#38038)
Posted Thursday, June 30, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars How long ist it ago, three years, when I bought the "A Social Grace"+"Mosquito" box by Psychotic Waltz. "A Social Grace" then quickly became one of my very favourite records, at least in the Prog sector. Since then I was hoping to find another album that somehow carries the same spirit of ingenious music, the perfect epic atmosphere that is carried through every single song of the album. Ok, maybe it is to much to compare Awaken the Guardian with A Social Grace, because Awaken the Guardian is much more riff-based, so to say. It is musically based in eighties' Heavy Metal but with much phantastic breaks and licks, tempo changes, but all to support the mood of a song. Every song is epic in a way that it has a course that is guided by the tempo changes together with John Arch's high but clear, powerful voice and the lyrics telling for instance about a sorceress (obviously), Morgana LeFay, fatalism and a story about prejudice and forgiveness of a giant. This is the last album John Arch sings on and I reckon he has done a great job here, in my opinion he is more than a Bruce Dickinson clone, he sings emotional but also higher. The instrumental 'Time Long Past' is a short piece of slow moody music, not attracting very much attention, more like an intro to the final song 'Exodus'. But apart from that all songs are developing and full of fascinating atmosphere.
Report this review (#80720)
Posted Thursday, June 8, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars Ok I have to fess up and say that I absolutely love Fates Warning. I heard them not too long ago and as soon as I did I couldn't stop listening to them. I know this is going to sound goofy, but I am in a progressive metal band and I want nothing more than for my band to sound like Fates Warning because they are the perfect balance of prog and metal and they just rock! This album is great especially if you haven't really listened to much of Fates Warning's stuff becuase this album will suck you in and make you never want to stop listening to them. FATES WARNING ROCKS!!!!
Report this review (#85264)
Posted Monday, July 31, 2006 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
5 stars In my original review of this album I mentioned that "Awaken The Guardian" was John Arch's legacy, well I have to say that his solo album "Twist Of Fate" is definitely his legacy. It's so personal for John and he sounds better than ever. "Awaken The Guardian" is the best of the Arch-era FATES WARNING albums though. I can't tell you how much I love his vocals, and how much I love this record.

"The Sorceress" is a great opener. It's dark and grungy with those SABBATH- like riffs, and Arch's amazing vocals. Heavy stuff with Matheos and Aresti offering up dual riffs. Zimmerman is an underrated drummer in my opinon. He shines here. "Valley Of The Dolls" is faster paced with powerful guitar melodies and riffs. A headbanger. Again I think of SABBATH with those low end guitar riffs. John lets out some screams on this dark and heavy tune. "Fata Morgana" brings MAIDEN to mind with the fat bass lines and galloping rhythm. Arch's vocals are very strong on this one. Zimmerman is getting to know his drum kit quite well, and the guitar melodies are again very SABBATH-like. Now we have the masterpiece "Guardian" opening with acoustic guitar that is replaced with some excellent axe work, then acoustic guitar again, and back and forth. The vocals are simply jaw-dropping. I'm sure this is what heaven will sound like. Phenomenal ! This song is just so powerful ! Beautiful guitar solo 5 1/2 minutes in and it's just killer when it speeds up.

"Prelude To Ruin" is another mind blowing tune like the last one that was also written by Matheos and Arch. The dynamic duo. Very heavy, and Joe DiBiase is playing some thunderous bass. This song smokes.Guitar solos aplenty and at 7 minutes an amazing vocal melody from Arch. Not worthy ! "Giants Lore (Heart Of Winter)" features more grind it out music, and guitar solos that are anything but tasteful. I love it ! Heavy riffs too. And Arch cries out the lyrics. "Time Long Past" is a cool instrumental with acoustic guitar and electric guitar playing together. This is the advantage of two lead guitarists. "Exodus" is IRON MAIDEN sounding with lots of time changes. I like when it settles after 4 minutes and John sings slowly but powerfully. Then all hell breaks loose. This is pulverizing music at it's best !

This is dirty, dark and rough compared to their albums that would follow, but that's just part of it's charm. One of the best Metal albums I have ever heard.

Report this review (#97279)
Posted Sunday, November 5, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars Fates Warning's last album with under-appreciated vocalist John Arch was a grand send-off, and the highly complex nature of the songs is where progressive metal really began to coalesce. After this album. bands like Queensr˙che stepped up to the plate and began to really add progressive elements to the mix. The band still owes a sizable debt to power metal bands like Iron Maiden and Helloween, but Awaken the Guardian sounds unique, mainly thanks to Arch's superb vocals and Matheos' equally stunning compositions. Some of the lyrics might sound cheesy on the first listen, but most of them use fantasy lyrics as metaphors for modern topics.

The album opens with The Sorceress, a very dark sounding song that owes a lot to Black Sabbath, and John wastes no time exerting his skill aqs he uses his voice like an instrument to propel the song as much as the riffs and kick drums. Valley of the Dolls is a look at the hair metal scene that dominated mainstream rock music in the 80s. It's a rather humorous tune that basically states these artists care more about style than the music. Fata Morgana seems to be the blueprint for early Blind Guardian. Guardian is an emotional piece that deals with Arch pleading with the listener to remember him (perhaps he knew his future with the band?). In actuality, it is a very personal piece that I believe concerns John's family, but I'm not sure.

Prelude to Ruin is a look at the effect of mankind on the planet, complete with an increasingly frantic composition to match the chaos of the lyrics. Giant's Lore is unapologetically power metal with lyrics of such a fantastical persuasion that even Ronnie James Dio would stifle a chuckle. However, the composition is incredible, but this song takes away from the progressive feel of the album. Time Long Past is an acoustic interlude that leads into the final epic, Exodus. This song captures more insane time changes, riffs and breaks in it's 8 1/2 minutes than nearly any other prog metal outfit can summon in 20 or 30. A masterful end to the album.

Although Fates Warning will never enjoy the popularity and acclaim of its contemporaries Queensr˙che and Dream Theater, it is infinitely more important than both of them. Had Fates Warning not completely thrown out the rule book with this release, QR might never have become truly progressive. Dream Theater probably would have, but they would sound radically different. Matheos is one of the best composers in metal history, and John Arch sings every song, even Giant's Lore, with a passion and conviction that is sadly often absent from prog metal (Geoff Tate is another vocalist who is a master at this). The band would become fully progressive with the next release which features current FW vocalist Ray Alder, but Awaken the Guardian is the watershed release for the band. It's not a pure masterpiece, but no self-respecting fan of prog metal can do without this.

Grade: B+

Report this review (#132984)
Posted Monday, August 13, 2007 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars "Awaken the Guardian" is the 3rd full-length studio album by US heavy/power/progressive metal act Fates Warning. The album was released through Metal Blade Records in November 1986. A lineup change has taken place as guitarist Victor Arduini has been replaced by Frank Aresti. "Awaken the Guardian" would be lead vocalist John Arch last album with the band before he too would depart.

Listening to "Awaken the Guardian" it very much feels like the natural successor to "The Spectre Within (1985)", just featuring a more sophisticated songwriting approach and an even more skillful performance of the music. Stylistically the music is on the border between traditional heavy/power metal and guitar/vocal oriented progressive metal (even bordering thrash at it´s hardest moments). In other words a very early example of progressive metal. A music style Fates Warning would further explore and develop upon on subsequent releases. The band are generally very well playing even though I´ve never found Steve Zimmerman´s drumming particularly tasteful. Instead it´s the melodic guitar leads and harmonies, the hard heavy metal riffing, and of course the high pitched and ornamented singing by John Arch, which elevate the band´s music to exceptional heights, along with the clever and intriguing songwriting.

Arch deserves a special mention and all the praise in the world for his performance here. He is gifted with one of the most unique and powerful voices on the scene but it´s how he uses his voice that makes him so special. Every note is sung to it´s limits and twisted and turned in every possible direction. Sometimes it sounds like he is improvising and if that´s true, it´s madness in this type of music. It speaks volumes of how great he is, that he has the energy to put on a performance like that in music this demanding. His performance is brilliant throughout but the highlight is his delivery on "Guardian".

All 8 tracks on the 48:04 minutes long album are very well written and performed though and it´s actually only the sound production that holds "Awaken the Guardian" back a slight bit. The guitars feature a thin sound, and the drums and bass aren´t that well sounding either. It´s not really a surprise considering the date of release, but on the other hand I´ve listened to quite a few better produced releases from the same year, so this one has always left me unimpressed. Thankfully the material and the instrumental and vocal performances are of such high quality (although the drumming doesn´t add much positive to the music), that the quality of the sound production doesn´t overshadow the fact that "Awaken the Guardian" is an excellent release on other parameters. A 4 star (80%) rating is deserved.

Report this review (#176393)
Posted Wednesday, July 9, 2008 | Review Permalink
3 stars |C+| 1986-87... Fates Warning find their sound, and become one of the main pioneers of prog metal.

Awaken the Guardian is the third album of the band Fates Warning, and is considered by most if not all fans to be their breakthrough album, commercially as well as artistically. The band has its roots in the NWBHM style as an Iron Maiden Clone. In their sophomore release was clearly trying to find their sound, with the clear goal of applying progressive composition techniques to that root style. While in the previous sophomore effort the band had some clear awkwardness applying those techniques (though having some success with the epic Epitaph) Awaken the Guardian shows that the band has found their sound, their niche in the metal world as, along with Queensryche at the time, the pioneers of what would come to be called progressive metal. Some material on the album sounds a little heavier and slightly thrash-ier and darker than previous releases, so I wouldn't be surprised it they were emulating Metallica a little, or at least listening to them during the album's creation. Possibly.

This album is far more cohesive, consistent, and creative, and is better produced, with composition that is far less awkward. The vocal melodies are still a little lackluster, but don't bog the album down nearly as much now. The members all seem to have a more even contribution to the more prog sound of the band as well, even the drummer is more creative with his patterns and fills. The transitions between sections of each song are much more convincing now, probably the biggest sign of the band's maturity in their work.

A word on John Arch, co-writer and vocalist: his vocal ability has significantly improved this album; he sings in tune much more often, with even more strength than before. I have a slight (though not well-founded) suspicion Geoff Tate inspired him to improve his range and add power to his tone, as Queensryche had released their debut two years before. Unfortunately this would also be his studio recording with the band, dropping out of the metal scene completely for many years until releasing his own EP. I think his departure might be a bit part of the reason the band would come to lose their NWBHM influences almost completely a few years after this release, the apparent fan of Iron Maiden he must have been.

Track Commentary: The opening track The Sorceress starts of very prog sounding, slow acoustic arpeggios with bass synth pads below. The guitar reverse-fades into an asymmetrically metered riff, very prog metal sounding. Time signature changes are a prominent feature in the opening track. I love the chromatically descending guitar harmonies later on. The guitar solo is in alternating 7/4 and 8/4 meter, very effective. A lot of good riffs and diversity. The second track Valley of Dolls has somewhat more thrashy and speedy feel, lots of sixteenth note chugging at Presto tempo. There's a section with nearly unpredictable meter changes. The intro into the third track Fata Morgana demonstrates that the band certainly hasn't forgone their Iron Maiden influence. I like the double-bass drum precision... I wonder when that started to be used more in metal. The song has a double- time section, playing very fast, with very tight and clean technique. Guardian starts off with some great guitar work, transitioning very effectively into a soft acoustic section layered with synth pads. This is a really solid track, with some of the band's better composed vocal melodies, and some of their best riffs yet. Prelude to Raid opens with some creative work of the drummer's less conventional patterns under power chord layering. This track almost seems somewhat in the darker, heavier vein of Metallica and Savatage. I absolutely love the reverse-fade cymbal work in the 6/4 section, totally awesome. Then we have chimes lead into a section that combines a heavy riff with acoustic guitar and low-vocal sound effects (similar to those at the end of 2112). Giant's Lore (Heart of Winter) starts off with Matheos playing very unconventional sounding heavy metal guitar chords, overall a track with high quality metal composition. Those types of heavy chords would become characteristic of the band's sound as they moved more away from the NWBHM influence. Time Long Past has a very Scorpions sound to it, layering acoustic guitar arpeggios underneath a duel lead guitar melody that is very much like what Mattias Jabs would play. I love the Picardy at the end, suddenly ending with the major chord. A short song with an obvious prog style. Exodus, the last track, continues with the sort of sound heard throughout the album, very creative metal riffs. John Arch's vocal harmonies are very much in tune this time. Ah yes, chorused clean guitar during the soft section, very 80s metal, very pretty. This moves into more of the dissonant sort of heavy guitar chords from before. The repeated riffs toward the end of the track fade out, leading into a very obscure 15 second long sound effect section, ending the album.

Especially considering that this album was released in 1986, I'm certain metal musicians who sought to make their music more creative at the time were influenced by this recording, as it demonstrates that Fates Warning was a force to be reckoned with in making unique and creative metal music. I'm sure this was a prominent album in the under-currents of metal bands' desire to move metal forward in creativity, especially considering it made the Billboard 200 in 1987. This album very much sits between a three and a four for me, but the general lack of melodic intrigue from the singer bogs the album down enough for me to round down. Awaken the Guardian is a highly recommended album for prog metal listeners, and in general a solid album for anyone who likes progressive music, especially if the NWBHM style isn't grating to your ears. Definitely an album I'll come back to listen to every so often, as I have.

Report this review (#562267)
Posted Friday, November 4, 2011 | Review Permalink
Symphonic Team
2 stars Proto-Prog Metal

Awaken The Guardian was the last of the three Fates Warning albums to feature John Arch on lead vocals before the band reinvented themselves with Ray Alder and eventually went on to create such Prog Metal classics as Perfect Symmetry and A Pleasant Shade Of Gray. The music found on this album is rather different from what came after it and this is probably best characterized as Prog Related Heavy Metal or maybe Proto-Prog Metal. Fates Warning with Arch on vocals were clearly trying to make the same type of music as Iron Maiden did during the first half of the 80's, Judas Priest during the second half of the 70's and Black Sabbath during the first half on the 70's. Indeed, Awaken The Guardian is fairly described as a mix of these three other bands. To my ears, however, Awaken The Guardian did not push things anywhere beyond what Black Sabbath, Judas Priest and Iron Maiden had already done at that point - and, of course, these classic bands did this kind of music much better than Fates Warning (or anyone else, for that matter) ever did.

Early Fates Warning lacks both the originality and the distinct musical identity of these classic bands that influenced them and the sound and production too is inferior even compared to much older albums like Black Sabbath's Master Of Reality from 1971 and Judas Priest's Sad Wings Of Destiny from 1976. The latter albums sound timeless and eternally relevant while Awaken The Guardian sounds unbelievably dated - even compared to many 70's releases!

Those who were actually "there" might, of course, have a very different impression of this album, but in the absence of nostalgia or any personal memories, I find it hard to see what makes Awaken The Guardian such a celebrated album. From the perspective of someone familiar with both classic Heavy Metal from the 70's and early 80's and modern progressive Metal from the late 80's and beyond (including Fates Warning's own subsequent releases), it is hard to see what Awaken The Guardian adds to the development of progressive Metal. Don't get me wrong though, this is far from a bad album. Indeed, I actually enjoy it! But it is primarily recommended for fans.

John Arch is indeed a very good vocalist in the style of Rob Halford and Bruce Dickinson (even if he lacks the distinctive and unmistakable vocal identities of those greats). However, both Fates Warning and Arch himself would go on to make better music without each other. The former with a long string of albums featuring Ray Alder starting with 1988's No Exit and finishing with 2004's FWX and the latter with an excellent solo EP called Twist Of Fate (released in 2003 and featuring Jim Matheos of Fates Warning on guitars and Dream Theater's Mike Portnoy on drums). Arch and Matheos also recently released a collaborative album called Sympathetic Resonance.

Prog fans are better off starting with the Ray Alder-era Fates Warning albums and John Arch's extraordinary solo EP, Twist Of Fate.

Report this review (#570769)
Posted Saturday, November 19, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars Fates Warning's debut album saw them as inferior Iron Maiden imitators; The Spectre Within saw them equal the standards of their influence. Awaken the Guardian, John Arch's final album with Fates Warning, sees the band complete their evolution and move beyond Iron Maiden entirely, into progressive metal territory that Maiden would never even approach. Sufficiently complex as to demand multiple listens to really get to grips with everything that's going on, this isn't an album which grips me from the word go, but every time I spin it it grows on me more and more. Not quite a five-star masterpiece, but tantalisingly close to it, and a fine close to Arch's tenure in the band.
Report this review (#586919)
Posted Monday, December 12, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars Awaken The Guardian by Fates Warning isn't just an ordinary album. It is a magical journey through fantasy landscapes drawn by the music. Just the word "magic" is sufficient to describe this album, but I will write some more about this masterpiece.

It was released in 1986. I don't like history, but in this case it is very important to realize when it was made. Heavy and power metal were fully evolved in these times. Fates Warning have made 2 straight heavy metal albums back then. But then the ATG came out. I think it was one of the first progressive metal albums. So it is very important to consider it as a progressive album, not just US power metal as many people do. This wrong attitude generates the problem with bad reception of this piece. So in conclusion you have to be very open minded to understand this weird music ;)

Personally it is easily in my top 3 albums(with "A Sceptic's Universe" and "Images and Words") I totally understand that somebody don't like it. The reason is that John Arch has a very high pitched vocals. It is pretty hard to get used to his "lalala" harmonies (that I personally really like :D ). Some people can say that the bass guitar on this album isn't progressive at all and the quality of the recording isn't wonderful. And some people can have this wrong attitude and consider it as a weird heavy/power metal. These people just don't feel the magic.

The album is opened by "The Sorceress". The first riff has pretty odd time signature. Then comes the fantasy based lyrics and some nice instrumental work. Pretty good song.

"Valley of the dolls" is pretty fast and the lyrics deals with hair metal scene. Again some odd time signatures and nice guitar work. Good song.

"Fata Morgana" Oh this is madness !! Magnificent song. Fantasy lyrics, beautiful vocal harmonies, great riffs. I like to watch the album cover art while listening to his one. It takes me to another word. Very, very magical one.

"Guardian" The title track. Marvelous acoustic intro and solo. The lyrics deals with handicapped people. John Arch shows his anti-euthanasia statement here (personally I don't approve it but it is nice to see the lyrics that have important, hidden message). This is a mind blowing song.

"Prelude to Ruin" Has meaningful lyrics too. I think they deal with American patriotism. Pretty progressive drum and guitar work. Btw it was covered by Spiral Architect.

"Giant's Lore" is based on a fantasy theme but I think it has some hidden message( if anybody knows the meaning, tell me about it). The music is pretty sad but i like it.

Time Long Past is an acoustic piece. For me it is too repetitive and probably the worst song on the album, but still worth listening.

"Exodus" closes the album. It is hard to write about how good this song is. The chorus is probably the best that I have ever heard. The lyrics are fantasy based. John Arch shows that he is one of the best singers of all time. Amazing riffs, some odd time signatures and the album ends.

I have to say about one thing. The album cover art. I love it !! It reminds me of the film "Never Ending Story". John Arch is one of my favorite singers. His lyrics + cover art can take you to another dimension.

Mystic Journey to Arcana !!

PS. This is my first review on progarchives. It is pretty long but who cares ;) Prog on.

Report this review (#660978)
Posted Friday, March 16, 2012 | Review Permalink
Symphonic Team
3 stars Fate's Warning "Awaken the Guardian" may be the best album for this metal band, along with "No Exit". At times they may be channelling Iron Maiden, especially with the air raid siren vocals and vibrato like Dickinson. The music is very different though and is the real drawcard.

The album cover art is iconic and one of the best in the metal world. The inspiration for the imagery is obviously from Star Trek's "City on the Edge of Forever' episode from the 60s. The Guardian in this episode is almost identical to that on the album art. The spacescape in the centre of the formation is intriguing as the time travel portal of the episode only showed images from the past. It is a spacey scene but the music on the album is more prog metal than space rock, though some of the thematic content has a fantasy aspect such as 'The Sorceress' and 'Exodus'.

'The Sorceress' has some powerful riffing and a strange time sig. The vocals of the great John Arch are strong almost dominating the metal guitars. It changes into a faster blaster mid way through, and then a new sig takes over at 3:30 and the feel is better, with more chugging riffs and a new melody, like a song within a song. The lead break is well executed; Aresti and Matheos have a powerful guitar style.

'Valley Of The Dolls' has some awesome guitar and riff within riff. Arch blares brilliantly sounding as high as King Diamond's octave vibratos. The speed metal segments here are terrific. There are so many time changes and this is very precise and technical playing. 'Fata Morgana' is another great song thanks to the incredible vocals of Arch, and even sounds a bit like Queensryche vocally in places.

'Guardian' is a metal power ballad, that builds slowly in to heavier passages, and the vocals are incredible throughout reminding me of Helloween. 'Prelude To Ruin' begins with pounding drums slowly keeping rhythm and the guitars ring soundly before the riffs lock in. Arch's confident high falsetto vocals follow as the sig breaks up, and this is some incredible guitar work.

'Giant's Lore (Heart of Winter)' has an interesting story. The lead break in this is incredible with hyper fast speed picking and overall this is one of the best FW songs.

'Exodus' is one of the definitive highlights with stirring vocals by Arch and awesome lyrics; "Distant vision tempting water, fall to my knees, I'm going to drink it dry, Blazing desert sun reflection on the water, He caught my eye, Up in a tree looking at me, vulture of fear why don't you go away, He said you're mine one day, Spit out the sand of the mirage, Be on your way." The lead break is one of the better here from Matheos. The way the song settles into a slower pace is a great way to balance all the speed. It builds again with a new sig and power metal riffs.

This album reminds me a bit of Helloween's "Keeper of the Seven Keys" period. The melodies in the vocals are strong and the diction of Arch and intonation is always above the average metal singer. Arch has a cult following and this is definitely one of his shining triumphs. Guaranteed to please metal heads without a doubt.

Report this review (#661635)
Posted Saturday, March 17, 2012 | Review Permalink
4 stars Awaken the dark prog metal

4.5 stars

Undoubtedly my favorite FATES WARNING album. Last opus with vocalist John Arch, "Awaken The Guardian" also marks the end of an era for the band. Musically, the style is the same as its predecessor's, "The Spectre Within", however even more inspired and lyrical. 80's fantasy / sci-fi heavy metal featuring tortured melodies and unexpected breaks at its best, alternating with softer acoustic passages. The presence of duelling guitars like IRON MAIDEN increases the sound depth. However, this time the band goes a step further than their initial British influences in terms of complexity and darkness, while staying relatively accessible.

The first half of the record is simply flawless. "The Sorceress" is an efficient dark metal opener with many melodic variations. The guitars weave a web sometimes reminiscent of CELTIC FROST. "Valley Of The Dolls" is a heavy metal song, with dark aggressive passages. The heroic "Fata Morgana" is really great. A bombastic tune with a catchy lyrical melody. To let the listener breathe, the mid-tempo "Guardian" features an acoustic introduction and displays a melancholic softer ambiance.

The second half is more about atmospheres and less punchy. The trashy "Prelude To Ruin" is a weaker track, sometimes difficult to follow, whereas the dark mid-tempo "Giants Lore" possesses an haunting atmosphere. "Time Long Past" is mainly a short pretty acoustic piece. The ending song, "Exodus", is the longest of the record. Pure progressive metal, featuring numerous rhythm changes and alternating fast aggressive passages and slow moments. A very good conclusion for this somber journey.

Despite weaker moments in its second part, "Awaken The Guardian" is a very good album, dark and complex. Surprisingly, this opus is also suitable for FATES WARNING newcomers, or just for MAIDEN fans who don't know this underrated band. An tortured nightmarish trip into distant unexplored planets, and an essential listen for progressive metal lovers!

Report this review (#1548130)
Posted Tuesday, April 5, 2016 | Review Permalink
5 stars As odd a choice as it would seem, Awaken The Guardian has been my favorite album from this outing since the first time that I heard it. The material that this band issued with John Arch is often mistakenly written off as "generic 1980s power metal", when nothing can be farther from the truth. While largely void of Jazz influences, in contrast to later outings from Fates Warning and other progressive metal bands, this album invents a sound of its own, evident in the guitar and bass work, drumming patterns, and especially the vocal performance, which I will dive into later.

This is an album that takes multiple listens to fully understand, even for a fan of progressive metal, due to the jarring alterations, production and off-kilter vocals. Despite all this, it rarely becomes dissonant, and once fully understood, I failed to realize what put My off about it for a while. The atmosphere of this record is so strong that I failed to realize how I wasn't immediately sucked in. But this is an album that is meant to be listened to multiple times to understand, and this cannot be achieved with a soapbox mindset (until afterwards, of course).

The music of this records gives you quite literally anything that one could desire in Heavy Metal, each in different moments, yet still flowing together in its mystical, fantastical atmosphere, always with off kilter, progressive tendencies and it never uses the same ones over and over again. Each moment has its own unique spin without sounding remotely confused. Tracks like "Valley of the Dolls" and "Prelude to Ruin" boarderline on Thrash Metal quite often, while still containing multiple shifts in mood and tempo, without being forced. "Fata Morgana" has an epic power metal feel that puts the listener into an uplifting mindset, as does the ballad, "Guardian", which has a rather dark chord progression when you strip it down of its additional accessories, but those are able to make it sound so beautiful that one doesn't even notice, finishing with a faster, thrasher pace. "Exodus" is a song that captures the essence of fantasy itself, despite the fact that the lyrics have nothing to do with fantasy. The chorus is mesmerizingly epic, taking you to worlds of your wildest dreams. There's even a softer, more acousticly driven section that makes me feel as though I'm floating down a river in a cave, with Arch singing me to sleep.

Speaking of Arch, he is one of the most unique vocalists that I have ever come across. While he seems to have the influences of vocalists like Dickinson and Halford, but he also seems to have studied Indian music, as his vocal melodies have many similarities to that style. He makes both apparent by making his vocal melodies as intricate as possible, as well as sounding rather odd and twisted, sometimes making him sound haunting to the ear, but it still flows so beautifully that it's able to fit the diversity of the music. His tone is also unique, but an acquired taste. It puts strong emphasis on nasal and chest, which actually annoyed me at first listen. However, with each listen that I took part in, I grew to adore his voice. He is also a brilliant lyricist (all of the lyrics on the album are written by him). They cover a wide range of topics, including social commentary, history, fantasy, philosophy, disability, love, social commentary, even hating glam (though it is done in such a genius way that I can't even complain). He uses metophor that relates to the other varying topics throughout the record, making it impossible to understand the meaning without reading through it with sharp concentration. His qu with words invokes emotion in ways that I cannot describe, but there is one thing that I must point out. In one instance, he uses alliteration. "Blasphamous black bible bias, you betray bigotry".. I've never heard anyone else do that on any other piece of music that I've ever listened to!

This is an album that triggers many different emotions, each at different times, but at its end, it leaves you with an astounding feeling of absolute triumph, amazingly without any epic speed metal (there really isn't anything over 100 bpm on here). With brilliant usage of odd time signatures, sneaky use of acoustics, as well as astonishingly vivid atmosphere, this album is an absolute wonder of a journey that never even gets predictable or gineric for one second. Definetly the magnum opus of Fates Warning's career, the greatest power metal album ever made, and one of the greatest albums of all time.

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Posted Wednesday, June 28, 2017 | Review Permalink
5 stars "Awaken the Guardian" was a revolutionary record for heavy metal, one of those records that helped to change the way of considering the genre forever, as well as one of the albums that literally started Progressive Metal. Along with the coeval "Rage for Order" of Queensr˙che, but, unlike the latter - who experimented on a hi-tech and futuristic sound, - Awaken the Guardian went deeper, effectively breaking the classic heavy metal form and deflecting it towards the Baroque of progressive. A Baroque intended not as empty pomposity, but as an artistic idea instilled in the music. In 1986, simply no one in metal (apart from the thrasher Watchtower, but in another way, more on the rhythmic deconstruction typical of fusion) sounded like Fates Warning. A heavy/power metal transcended in progressive metal: complex, articulate, difficult, twisted and quite unique. The remains of Maiden (audible in songs like Fata Morgana) are precisely such: reflux, remains, echoes of a classic heavy metal that is, in practice, transcended, exceeded and diverted (see - for example - the emblematic Prelude To Ruin).

Fates Warning had already started their progressive revolution with their previous record, the relevant "The Spectre Within" (1985), in which heavy metal was taken to excess, with songs that formed complex mini-suites composed of numerous time changes and daring vocal lines. However, although it was already an unusual and particular album, it was still too conceived in the classic heavy metal style (halfway between heavy metal and prog metal) and the singer John Arch, although he managed to find his own style, still too much debtor - in some songs - of Bruce Dickinson of Iron Maiden. But it's with "Awaken the Guardian" that the decisive leap takes place, an incredible leap that definitively projects us into the world of progressive metal (the style can be defined as progressive power metal), in the concrete sense of the term: the songs present a twisted and convoluted structure (forming a configuration of "songs in songs"), complicated riffs follow one another over many time changes (on odd time signatures) and intersecting with abstruse, tortuous and imaginative vocal lines (John Arch is halfway between Bruce Dickinson of Iron Maiden and Jon Anderson of Yes, using his voice as a real instrument to create a specific mood), the lyrics are symbolic, allegorical and profound (with the use of figures of speech such as alliteration); but everything manages to flow in a fluid way, a shimmering becoming between arcane and nostalgic, magical and dark , dreamy and melancholic moods. Although the album is not openly a concept, it is almost a thematic concept with the idea of the "Guardian" that goes through (almost) all the songs. The "awakening of the Guardian" would probably mean the strength to continue living despite everything, to face the fears and adversity, both concrete and existential (finding the meaning of being in the world).

Basically, an absolute masterpiece of Progressive Metal and Heavy Metal (as well as US Power metal), a unique and unmissable record that has helped to change the world of metal forever.

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Posted Saturday, February 10, 2018 | Review Permalink

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