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Fates Warning - Awaken The Guardian CD (album) cover


Fates Warning


Progressive Metal

3.98 | 289 ratings

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Special Collaborator
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.

SouthSideoftheSky | 2/5 |


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