Progarchives, the progressive rock ultimate discography


Fates Warning

Progressive Metal

From, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Fates Warning A Pleasant Shade Of Gray album cover
4.16 | 452 ratings | 29 reviews | 48% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

Write a review

from partners
Studio Album, released in 1997

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Part I (1:53)
2. Part II (3:25)
3. Part III (3:53)
4. Part IV (4:26)
5. Part V (5:24)
6. Part VI (7:28)
7. Part VII (4:51)
8. Part VIII (3:31)
9. Part IX (4:45)
10. Part X (1:19)
11. Part XI (3:34)
12. Part XII (7:45)

Total time 53:37

Bonus DVD from 2006 Metal Blade reissue:
1. A Pleasant Shade Of Gray - Live (Filmed and recorded in Nurnberg, Koln, Wurzburg, Offenbach, Ludwigsburg, Germany and Hollywood, CA. during the Pleasant Shade of Gray tour 1997)

Line-up / Musicians

- Ray Alder / vocals
- Jim Matheos / guitars, guitar synth
- Joey Vera / bass
- Mark Zonder / drums, backing vocals

- Kevin Moore / piano, keyboards
- Bill "Shoot Me" Metoyer / backing vocals
- Lindsay Matheos / backing vocals
- Lydia Montagnese / backing vocals
- Terry Brown / backing vocals, production & mixing

Releases information

Artwork: Ioannis & Steve Jacaruso @ Vivid Images with Heide Coyle (photo)

CD Metal Blade Records ‎- 3984 14129-2 (1997, US)
CD Massacre Records ‎- MAS CD0125 (1997, Germany)
CD+DVD Metal Blade Records ‎- 3984-14594-2 (2006, Germany) Bonus DVD with Live recordings from 1997 tour, originally released in 1998 on VHS

Thanks to ProgLucky for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
Edit this entry

Buy FATES WARNING A Pleasant Shade Of Gray Music

FATES WARNING A Pleasant Shade Of Gray ratings distribution

(452 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(48%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(33%)
Good, but non-essential (13%)
Collectors/fans only (5%)
Poor. Only for completionists (2%)

FATES WARNING A Pleasant Shade Of Gray reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Cesar Inca
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars "A Pleasant Shade of Grey" is the album that started the one-guitar era in Fates Warning's career. The physical factor of having only one guitarist in the fold (Matheos) gave way to a significant presence of keyboard parts, which are handled by longtime friend and DT alumnus Kevin Moore: he performs as a guest, not coming to the fore to display a tour-de-force, but keeping a more subtle role as a builder of ambience with lots of layers, orchestrations and harmonies. At this point, FW starts to sound more progressive than ever before, keeping the metal aspect of their music more restrained, not null, but just less explosive than their previous albums. I would even add that FW never sounded as varied as they do here: besides the symphonic stuff, there are also hints of industrial resources and some occasional neo-prog melodic drive. The one- guitar factor also translated into major room for maneuver in the rhythm section, in this way allowing drummer Mark Zonder to punctuate his jazz leanings and be more featured in the mix: guest bassist Joey Vera's performance functions as the perfect bridge between Matheos and Zonder. Matheos' clear reservations toward self-indulgent pyrotechnics are well reflected in the guitar parts of this album, which are mostly riffs, harmonies and interplaying counterpoints with many keyboard parts. All this sonic landscape serves jointly as the perfect scenario for Alder's emotional vocal delivery: the sparse and elusive lyrics are given an extra passionate dimension by Alder, sometimes by emphasizing particular syllables, some other times by going with the instrumental flow, and other times by keeping a melodic line clearly and confidently. Such display of exquisiteness makes "A Pleasant Shade of Grey" my fave FW album so far. This was originally conceived as one single piece of music, focused thematically on the inner self's emotional world, but alas the recording company pressures led Matheos to divide it into 12 sections. He didn't even bother to give each section an autonomous name, so that the listener wouldn't be distracted from the essential unity of the piece. In fact, this unity is preserved by the well ordained recurrence of some motifs and verses. Let me check some of the repertoire now: Parts II, III and XI are the most metallic ones, while the prototypical prog sophistication is beautifully conducted in Parts VI, VII, VIII (special mention to the amazing acoustic guitar/piano closing duet) and XII (brilliant closure!). Concerning the latter sections, there is a predominant presence of eerie, reflective overtones in both lyrics and melodic schemes: in this way, they serve as energizers of the rawer emotions delivered in the former sections, and so, the idea of thematic unity for the whole album is emphasized. Parts V and IX are both moving ballads, full of genuine romanticism and sheer vulnerability. Some may miss the musical power of the two-guitar albums, but the way I feel it, "A Pleasant Shade of Grey" presents a renewed power that doesn't need to rely on pyrotechnics in order to elevate the listener up to a fiery plateau of passionate and intelligent music. Overall balance: a masterpiece of metal prog, as well as one of the most brilliant concept-albums of the 90s.
Review by horza
4 stars Have Fates Warning toured the UK ? If they ever do I'm going to see them and THIS album will be part of the reason. If they HAVE toured then I'm gutted I missed them. The album is made of tracks titled 'A Pleasant Shade of Gray'-parts I to XII. Part I sounds like a Tarantino Western movie soundtrack before keyboards take up the opening sequence and segues into track II further developing and showcasing the band as a whole. Part III is where the singer Ray Alder really starts to draw us in,and part IV whilst starting in a restrained manner has really nice tight playing and interplay for the last third of the track. Track V is my favourite and has a bass contribution which reminds me VERY much of Chris Squire. I really like the singing and keyboards on this song. The guitar is also tasteful,economic and very,very effective. The pace picks up in the latter half of the track and draws it to an uptempo end featuring great drumming. I have to say that the band are superb and impress me very much. Track VI has a Dire Straits feel to the beginning,with echoes of Floyd (pardon the pun). Another excellent track which effortlessly slides into track VII. This is an album which should be savored and listened to in its entireity, it makes more sense that way somehow. Track VIII continues the overall theme of excellence whilst track IX has a more acoustic almost Kansas-like feel to it. Track X has a sequencer opening and replays a musical motif which reccurs throughout the album. Track XI takes us deeper and before we know it we are at the finale,track XII. At over 9 minutes it is the longest track on the album. It starts off in sombre mood and develops nicely. Fates Warning are now one of my favourite new prog bands. It's hard to believe they looked and sounded like they wanted to be part of the NWOBHM when they started out. This is an excellent album.
Review by Menswear
4 stars The guide on 'how to keep a low profile'.

Quietly sitting on their side of the progressive rock, Fates Warning is a quite reserved and polite band. Are they restraining themselves on purpose? I believe so. What you have here is a band that could play like Dream Theater. The more and more I listen to the album, it's showing that these guys know where they are going on the album. They stick to their concept and they don't go too much around it. The addition of Kevin Moore is a good idea. His keyboard work is rather not stylish, it's more like a nice silver wrapping, giving the final classy touch.

I wouldn't have bought the record if it wasn't because of the concept. One long song, divided into 12 segments of 3 minutes or so, really intrigued me. At first, the skinny sound, with no guitar solos and cold bass lines surprised me. Aw man, did I wasted my dineros? Of course not, I got convinced I had something strong after the 6th listen. In fact, part 8 convinced me of keeping it close. Great piano with perfect atmosphere for a rainy day. Kinda reminded me of Tori Amos (Little Earthquakes) is some sections. I also recalled the same feeling hearing Alex Lifeson's Victor for the first time. This is a kind of protocole we don't ecounter often in the metal prog world. More instrumental goodies would've been appreciated, but I guess this is done on purpose. I guess the final tip is to listen often before making any judgment!

Everything 's grey on this record (litteraly!) and it lefted me wondering at first, but don't worry if that's you first reaction. This is not a flashy, showing off exercice. If you want pyrothecnics, go look someplace else. For others, this is a good companion for cloudy dayz when you feel like being alone with your thoughts.

The grandfather of Office of Strategic Influence?

Review by Melomaniac
5 stars In my humble opinion, the best Fates Warning album. Period. Songwriting is excellent, musical performances are flawless, and Alder's vocals are the best he recorded. I love the idea of recurring themes exploited differently throughout a concept album, and let me tell you, APSOG is an example in this field. Kevin Moore shines by his restraint, playing what fits where it fits. Zonder's beats, patterns and fills clearly set him close to Neil Peart on this one. Joey Vera also does a great job. Matheos, not displaying virtuoso capabilities, instead displays restraint and uses the guitar as a songwriting instrument more than a means to show off technically. Arrangements are great, lyrics too. Really not a happy album, Grey seems to be a suitable color for the music. Dark, depressing, but so heartwrenching. A great balance of feel and technicality through and through. Fates Warning magnum opus, nothing less !
Review by OpethGuitarist
3 stars An album I never got what all the hype was about.

Fates Warning is a very talented band. The addition of Kevin Moore makes it even moreso. However, I just never bought into this one. The concept is actually quite good, straying from the oh so popular "my friend is in a coma" concept that has been done to infinity.

Compared to the majority of prog metal, most of this record is much more subtle, with drums and keys serving more as an accompaniment rather than the "in your face" approach expanded upon by so many other bands. No denying that Kevin Moore had something to do with this, as he can give any band a great deal of class and "touch" similar to the way Wakeman handled himself. This is a sign I like, as it's far to easy to go with the norm and lump yourself in with all the other acts. I'm also highly impressed by the stylistic elements of the drummer.

This album is much less "metal" than others. Sure, there is still the signature guitar tone and a nice rich bass, but this album is more drawn back to a large degree. I'm also a bit dissapointed that one of the sections reminds me of a line from Images and Words. The first 2/3 or so of the album are better than the last bits, which appear to get a bit over dramatic for no apparent reason, this album didn't need it, it was well without. Their also is not a whole lot of shift in the singer's style, which is a downer for those looking for variety that you might find in a Daniel Gilednlow.

Overall a well thought out album, and a definite must for fans of prog metal. I'm wishing more would have been done in closing the piece, but if you're a Kevin Moore fan you'll like what you get out of it.

Review by The T
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars I'm sorry, this will be an extremely short review for my usual standards. The reason is that I already reviewed this album more than 6 moths ago, but had that review deleted when i read it again and found it sucked. It was written after just one listen of the album, in a rush, pressed by my own self to "finish my first ever review", and trying to prove the world and outside galaxies that the band's singer, Ray Alder, was the worst thing to happen to the world of music since the day MTV was created. It was a bad review, a bashing exercise that now I find ridiculous.

So here am I again facing the task of writing something about A PLEASANT SHADE OF GREY, an album by a band I just recently truly discovered. The problem is, I've been here, I've done this, so I'm going to give just a general idea about my feelings towards the record and what I think about the music.

APSOG is a truly progressive-metal album. It's like a long song sub-divided in shorter ones that share common themes and elements that provide the whole work with unity and equilibrium. The general mood of the music is dark, dark-purple like the cover (or dark-blue) but, better yet, as the title implies, grey, obscure, pessimistic. I've just realized how un- optimistic Fates Warning's music has turned as of late, and this album is no exception. The songs are slow, heavy, the band never really goes in full-speed mode. The Maiden references of old are gone for good, waht we have here is 100% progressive-metal with interesting, complex, innovative structures and rhythms. The whole concept grows and grows till it becomes a fact, from a whisper it turns into an assertion. The overall gloomy atmosphere, the fog the music creates in our minds, has a lot of twists, there are a few catchy melodies, but most of them are just pragmatic, to-the-point themes that serve a purpose. The usual instruments are joined by scarce keyboards that add to the dismal environment. There is a certain "alternatuve, grungy" vibe going on at times, but never too present.

The musicians are fantastic. Jim Matheos is a skilled song writer and more so a guitarist, his riffs very original and distinguishable from other ax-men's. There's not too much soloing in the album but enough to satisfy the hunger for at least some virtuosity. Joey Vera gives us a good performance in bass, always keeping it on time and precise. Mark Zonder, the drummer, one of the most underrated in the business; his hi-hat patterns are so unique, so HIS OWN; he never over-plays, never relies too much in double-bass or tom-toms; his work is the work of a clocksmith: accurate, on time, right where and when it's needed. Kevin Moore helps on keyboards, not shining but collaborating. Now a final word about my former "musical-foe" named Ray Alder. I still don't like his style completely, I still think he could SING more and yell and scream less; but he doesn't annoy me anymore; I don't regard him as the most-awful singer on this side of the earth or the other one for that matter; and at times, even if not throughout the whole album, I actually find him GOOD.

This could've been a 5-star album with just a little more in the way of dynamics; it's just that through this album, is as if Fates Warning was a racer that never switches gear from 4th to 5th or 6th. There's only one song when the band plays in a slightly fast tempo, and that's my only complaint. Other than that, almost a masterpiece.

Recommended for: Fans of Fates Warning; fans of Progressive-metal: fans of intelligent metal; rock fans that can bear precise, never extreme of grinding metal.

Not recommended for: People that can't stand any thought of metal; people that like fast- paced albums and music; old-style Maiden-ish FW fans; but, specially, THE T VERSION 1.0...

...he is human after all (insert any face you like here).

Review by Mellotron Storm
4 stars This album would see the band moving in a different direction on a number of fronts. First would be the exit of lead guitarist Frank Aresti and bassist Joe DiBiase. Bassist Joey Vera would be added as the sole new member. If your familiar with their previous two records "Inside Out" and "Parallels" then it won't be surprising that they didn't replace Frank on lead guitars as one lead guitarist would be enough. Kevin Moore would play an integral role on this album as a guest keyboard player. This wasn't his first time playing with FATES WARNING as he did guest briefly on "Perfect Symmetry". The sound of the two previous records were much more commercial sounding then anything they had done before while this one would be a return to the progressive sounds of "Perfect Symmetry" only different. This is different then anything they had done in the past, a slow moving, atmospheric and melancholic album. Yes this is a gray record as the title suggests. I laughed when I read the thankyou section in the liner notes.They thank producer Terry "How much grayer could it be ?" Brown.That shows you they got their desired results.They also thank "Mike Portnoy (an honourary Fates member)". Cool. Hugh Syme again does an excellent job on the cover art. It's gray.

This album is supposed to be one song broken down into 12 parts. I must say this doesn't feel like one song as there are breaks between songs at times and it just doesn't flow well at times either. Certainly not like GREEN CARNATION's "Light Of Day, Day Of Darkness" which is truly one long song. "A Pleasant Shade of Gray" appears to be about the thoughts (or words) of a man towards his partner as he lies in bed.

It opens with a guitar being strummed once as you hear the rain fall. Vocals come in. Part II is atmospheric with processed vocals and it has an industrial, mechanical feel to it. The mellow sections of Part III remind me of PORCUPINE TREE. The drumming from Zonder is great ! Nice bass as well.This is a heavy passage. Zonder shines again on Part IV, the sound is fantastic on this one. Part V has a good piano melody followed by some complex guitars and drums. Synths follow and the sound is great ! Part VI is my favourite section. It opens with a FLOYD-like melody before we get some ominous bass lines. A guitar melody rises slowly and builds out of the soundscape.The vocals come in as only bass remains. It gets heavy 4 minutes in and the long slow guitar solo is incredible.

Part VII opens with some great keys from Moore. Heavy drums and guitar come in as well as rough vocals from Adler. Part VIII has some beautiful piano melodies. Part IX is a gorgeous song with acoustic guitar and fragile vocals. A tasteful guitar solo 3 minutes in. Part X is industrial sounding. Part XI is an uptempo rocker and it's great ! Part XII is dark, heavy and atmospheric. Nice. The song ends as it started with rain falling before you hear an alarm go off.

I really like this album but I feel that it doesn't measure up to "Perfect Symmetry". Both are progressive and complex but "Perfect Symmetry" is more metal. 4 stars.

Review by Prog Leviathan
2 stars I am amazed by the praise this album receives-- I found it utterly underwhelming and unworthy of its high marks.

To start with, the band's playing is not nearly as exceptional as it is hyped to be. I acknowledge some exceptionally complex instrumental passages, but as a whole there is little to grab the listener here; the heavy parts are monotonous and the textures are not nearly as dynamic as I've come to expect from Moore; moreover, Maethos' guitar is consistantly crunchy/distorted and has little emotion. I found the band's non-metal moments to be there most interesting, unfortunetly they are few and far between.

Worst of all though-- and I think this is probably what ruined the album for me-- is the TERRIBLE singing of Ray Alder. At his best, he sounds like an '80's hair-metal frontman, but he is more often than not groaning out uncreative, monotonous passages with zero range or charisma. The band would be much better off as an instrumental act, and even then only if they upped the ante with more inspired songwriting and playing.

Listen before you buy, and even then buy any of the many many many more excellant prog-metal albums out there before getting this one!

Songwriting: 2 Instrumental Performances: 2 Lyrics/Vocals: 1 Style/Emotion/Replay: 1

Review by b_olariu
4 stars First this is a lot diffrent album than the predecesors, in good way, and second is one of the best Warning records so far. Much more symphonic than Symmetry for example, but still prog metal of the highest calibre. Fates Warning reches a new level in their career composing an album, hard to forget, at lest for me. The album is comprised of one long song with 12 parts and more than 50- minutes, delivering the high skills from each member, Mark Zonder is a techer, absolute stunning drumer. Lead guitarist Frank Aresti and bassist Joe DiBiase are put on hold and bassist Joey Vera would be added as the new member. One of the most varied albums from prog metal with Kevin Moore ex Dream Theatre keys shining on every piece.What more, a recommended album in every way, but still not their best in my opinion, i remain to Symmetry to be the best Fates Warning album. Great voice from Ray Alder. 4 stars
Review by 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.

Review by SouthSideoftheSky
4 stars A little bit gray perhaps, but very pleasant indeed

A Pleasant Shade Of Gray was another step in the evolution of Fates Warning. While the previous album, Inside Out, was a continuation of Parallels, the present album constituted a significant step forward for the band. It is arguable that A Pleasant Shade Of Gray is Fates Warning's most progressive album, only rivaled by Perfect Symmetry. The whole album is one continuous piece of music divided into 12 parts running for over 50 minutes. It took several listens to get into and at first I did indeed find it a bit "gray". But with time new layers revealed themselves and it grew on me.

Kevin Moore of Dream Theater fame once again provides piano and keyboards to great effect and there are some superb but subtle acoustic passages. The whole album was performed live and the whole first disc of the live album Still Life is occupied by a very good performance of the album in its entirety.

Highly recommended!

Review by Warthur
3 stars Fates Warning's A Pleasant Shade of Gray earns points for ambition, presenting as it does a single multi-part song, but it fails to make that song compelling enough to hold my attention. In particular, I find the repetitive and tedious Part VIII so irritating that it ends up as a roadblock to my enjoyment of the piece as a whole. It's good that the band were trying to do something different - in particular, for a lot of the time the album is more sedate and sombre and less traditionally "metal" than most preceding Fates Warning work - but it isn't quite my cup of tea.
Review by UMUR
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars "A Pleasant Shade Of Gray" is the 8th full-length studio album by US progressive metal act Fates Warning. The album was released through Metal Blade Records in the US and through Massacre Records in Europe in April 1997. There have been two lineup changes since "Inside Out (1994)" as longtime bassist Joe Dibiase and lead guitarist Frank Aresti have jumped ship. The three remaining members (vocalist Ray Alder, guitarist/main composer Jim Matheos, and drummer Mark Zonder) opted to continue as a three piece but they are joined here by session musicians Joey Vera (Armored Saint) on bass and Kevin Moore (Dream Theater) on keyboards/piano.

"A Pleasant Shade Of Gray" is a concept album where all tracks seque into each other to form a 58:38 minutes long piece. The tracks are titled "Part I", "Part II"...and so forth. The atmosphere is bleak and reeks melancholy. Often delivered in a sort of monotone fashion which further emphasize the gloomy atmosphere. Monotone in this case doesn't mean non-melodic or anything like that, but the music on "A Pleasant Shade Of Gray" is still a far cry from the very melodic and to some degree sing along friendly last couple of albums.

There are actually quite a few differences between the music on this album an the music featured on "Parallels (1991)" and "Inside Out (1994)". On those two albums Jim Matheos and Frank Aresti explored and perfected their distorted/clean guitar style, where they would compliment each other playing clean and distorted guitars in layers. It's a rather distinct sounding guitar style, which is abruptly ended on "A Pleasant Shade Of Gray" as Fates Warning opted to continue with only one guitarist. The loss of Frank Aresti also means that "A Pleasant Shade Of Gray" features very few guitar solos, which has otherwise been a trademark of Fates Warning's sound on all seven previous studio albums. Another feature which has changed significantly compared to the last couple of albums, is the sparse use of backing and harmony vocals. On "A Pleasant Shade Of Gray", we're predominantly exposed to Ray Alder's naked voice.

What the listener gets instead is a more riff heavy sound (the bass is generally also more heavy than in the past), with a lot of keyboard contributions from Kevin Moore. The keyboards generally play a big role on "A Pleasant Shade Of Gray", with both electronic sounds, mellow piano parts, lead keyboard parts, and atmosphere enhancing floating chords. While there are several heavy riffs featured on the album, it's generally a very dynamic release, which shifts between distorted and clean guitar parts and heavy and softer atmospheres. There's also an ambient element which at times reminds me of "The Wall (1979)"-era Pink Floyd.

Fates Warning has opted for a pretty cold and clinical sounding production, which also sets "A Pleasant Shade Of Gray" apart from it's predecessors (especially the voice production sounds vastly different). It's a very well sounding production though. Powerful, detailed, and professional.

Upon conclusion the material on "A Pleasant Shade Of Gray" is of a high quality. It's memorable, intriguing, and adventurous. The overall concept and the way the tracks seque into each other doesn't always work as well as it could have, and to my ears there is a greater compositional coherence on the first part of the album compared to the last part, which sounds a bit more disjointed. Had the piece ended after the thrilling and emotional finale climax of "Part VI", it would have been an almost perfect progressive metal epic, but instead Fates Warning decided to continue the track for another 25 minutes or so. And don't misunderstand me here, because those last 25 minutes are absolutely stunning in their own right (the 9:18 minutes long closing "Part XII" is for example quite a brilliant mini epic on it's own), I would just have prefered that those last parts of the long concept piece had been broken down into individual tracks instead. I think it would have worked better. When that is said "A Pleasant Shade Of Gray" is still an incredibly unique sounding release filled to the brim with high quality material, high level musicianship, and a well sounding production. A 4.5 star (90%) is fully deserved.

Review by VianaProghead
5 stars Review N║ 122

'A Pleasant Shade Of Gray' is the eighth studio album of Fates Warning and was released in 1997. The line up on the album is Ray Alder, Jim Matheos, Joey Vera and Mark Zonder. The album had also the participation of Kevin Moore, Bill Metoyer, Lydia Montagnese, Lindsay Matheos and Terry Brown. This is the first Fates Warning album with Joey Vera. The former Armoured Saint bassist was recruited to substituted their previous former bassist Joe DiBiase.

Fates Warning is perhaps the only progressive metal act that helped develop this genre from the 80's to this time, but they have always been overshadowed by their contemporaries. In the 80's everyone had their attention focused on Queensryche and Crimson Glory, and the 90's saw Dream Theater and Symphony X dominating everything in that area. And, while very few bands have managed to maintain their consistency, always putting out quality material, carving their own little niche in the ever-growing genre, many of them went for the easy way out after scoring one or two major albums. For Fates Warning, on the other hand, it was a slower, but perhaps safer, process of growing and establishing themselves as one of the greatest progressive metal bands of all times. Unfortunately, this is an underrated band.

Matheos is also an underrated musician. His genius is always passed up for some reason. He wrote all the lyrics and composed this entire album on his own. What's more is that he hasn't taken the easy way out laying down some meaningless riffs and solos throughout this album. On the contrary he only plays few solos on the entire album. These solos are slow and minimal but emotionally charged at the highest level possible. Alder does his best vocal performance ever here. He stays comfortably in his own range and delivers the tunes with passion, emotion and conviction. Vera had just joined the band and this was his first stint with the band but he fits in perfectly in Matheos' song craft. Zonder is best known for restraining himself when necessary and always giving the song what it needs.

Finally, we have Moore. His presence on the album makes all the difference. Fates Warning had never used keyboards and piano this effectively before, but for an album like this, no one would have been a better choice. Moore's minimalist playing and the heavy atmosphere that covers the tunes delicately complement the songs very well. He particularly shines on this album. I really think this is the best album with Moore, as a guest, in his post 'Awake' musical career.

About 'A Pleasant Shade Of Gray', Matheos said that the genesis of the album was a departure from their previous two albums. For him, apart from 'Parallels' and 'Inside Out', all their albums have sounded different. 'A Pleasant Shade Of Gray' is really very different from most progressive metal albums of the 90's. There is little to no effort made to make the listener's head spin with unnecessary technical prowess. You don't get dizzy listening to it trying to keep up with various poly-rhythms, countless notes squeezed into a scale played mindlessly fast on the guitar or a singer constantly exerting himself just to remain in his highest range possible. All these aspects have no purpose on this album.

'A Pleasant Shade Of Gray' is presented as a whole, parted in 12 songs. Or, if you want, you can call it a conceptual album. Fates Warning explores a darker side of the progressive rock music. The lyrics are great and the tone of the music fits the concept perfectly. Each part flows into others quite well. The pace of the album is slow and the entire album is very moody due to its extreme progressive nature. The main feeling all over this album is the 'gray-ness'. Reading the lyrics, you could be intrigued by the statement of what really is the concept of 'pleasant'? And what is this about this 'shade of gray'? I really think that the 'opposition of the contraries, gray and pleasant' is solved, in the end of the album. Emptiness, confusion and desolation, are things which lead us to a sort of desperation. But, finally, 'face to face we'll awake/ to see another day' is a kind of thing that gives us a new hope. It's like a nightmare, which finally ends. Moreover, this sensation is clarified by the clock ring in the end of the album. It's like in the beginning of the album of Dream Theater, 'Awake'. The final result is that the mood these guys managed to create is really wonderful.

Conclusion: If 'Inside Out' was a kind of continuation of 'Parallels', in musical style, 'A Pleasant Shade Of Gray' is something new compared to its predecessors. No, not fundamentally new, but still the changes are substantial, in my humble opinion. This album is a must listen for any truly fan of progressive metal, or simply any music fan who enjoys contemplating real music. 'A Pleasant Shade Of Gray' is a unique album by a unique band. The listener must simply keep in mind that it's not meant as a catchy sing along or as background music. Sometimes I wonder why this band is so underrated. It's really a shame. Everybody who likes this genre should check this band out. This album could be a very good introduction to this great band. For me, this is one of the jewels of the progressive metal discography. I even dare to say that this album is a classic in the progressive metal field. I know this isn't consensual, but it's what I think.

Prog is my Ferrari. Jem Godfrey (Frost*)

Review by BrufordFreak
COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars As much as I've resisted giving all of the highly rated Prog Metal and Tech/Extreme Metal albums here on PA a listen, there are a few 90s "classics" that are making me rethink my attitude. Omnio, Dream Theater, Voivod, and this one, from Fates Warning, have all provided me with albums that I surprisingly quite enjoyed--and A Pleasant Shade of Gray may be my favorite. I consider the album really one epic divided into 12 parts, all contributing significantly to the overall feel and story. No where do I find the "metal" tendencies to be repelling or bombastic. In fact, the pacing and use of so much spaciousness are quite surprising to me. The singer is so clean and easy to understand--and perfectly matched to the music he's singing over. The album's one song has even impressed me enough to find its way into my list of Top LP Prog Epic--sitting at #16--for the whole decade!

Latest members reviews

4 stars While I'm not convinced that this is my favourite FW album, it is their most progressive one and no wonder it's so highly rated among prog-metal fans. I used listen to FW in a random track mode and since the main motive is spread around the album, it started to get on my nerves at some point. I ... (read more)

Report this review (#2948761) | Posted by sgtpepper | Thursday, August 31, 2023 | Review Permanlink

5 stars There comes a time in every bands career when they decide it's time to make changes to their sound. Some bands do it flawlessly, gaining new fans and keeping old ones. Other bands fail miserably, alienating everyone. 'A Pleasant Shade of Gray' by Fates Warning, is an example of a band doing it p ... (read more)

Report this review (#1470942) | Posted by martindavey87 | Wednesday, September 30, 2015 | Review Permanlink

5 stars rue Art is indeed a form of Self Expression, and that is exactly what Pleasant shade of Gray is, genuine self expression. In the early 90's there was somewhat of small progressive metal bubble, which blew up in the mainstream. Pull me Under was blowing up and Fate's Warning also had there fir ... (read more)

Report this review (#327633) | Posted by Phoenix87x | Saturday, November 20, 2010 | Review Permanlink

2 stars Mainly, I agree with the user Prog Leviathan's views about this album. This album could've done much better as an instrumental recording. There are a few exceptional instrumental passages, and the drumming is far above average. But the vocals, specially when he goes high pitched (in the more meta ... (read more)

Report this review (#208702) | Posted by Barla | Wednesday, March 25, 2009 | Review Permanlink

5 stars While other prog-metal bands like QŘeensryche were missing creativity and punch on each new album in the 90's (for example, searching for radio friendly tunes), Fates Warning fortunately released on each subsequent album different and exciting music [which was ever unsuccessful or absent i ... (read more)

Report this review (#171600) | Posted by Asiostygius | Monday, May 19, 2008 | Review Permanlink

5 stars I don't think I have ever heard a band who has changed its sound so much over the course of its career as Fates Warning. For me that is one of the great appeals of this band. This evolution has resulted in one of the finest back cataologues of music in progressive metal. A Plesant Shade of G ... (read more)

Report this review (#97949) | Posted by Hrvat | Friday, November 10, 2006 | Review Permanlink

5 stars what we have here is simply the best progressive metal album ever.. a real time concept conceived by Matheos years before its release but only after the line up could support it - with the arrival of Mark Zonder - did he start making it true... it has everything: industrial parts, heavy riffing ... (read more)

Report this review (#83296) | Posted by toolis | Monday, July 10, 2006 | Review Permanlink

5 stars I've read alot of reviews for this album calming that it is not memorable or that its no flow: i couldn't disagree more. Sure its a tough album to get into but after a couple of spins i myself have realized that this is yet another fine piece of work by the innovaters of prog metal. Fates Wa ... (read more)

Report this review (#80358) | Posted by Progdrummer05 | Monday, June 5, 2006 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Probably my favorite Fates ablum, for many reasons. First you have the entire concept album thing going on, an that's always good in my book. Second, the parts flow well and are not too much of one instrument. Not too many keys, and when you start to get sick of them the guitar takes over, a ... (read more)

Report this review (#41807) | Posted by | Saturday, August 6, 2005 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Despite the rift that many prog fans do not like progressive metal, this particular album does not typify what the genre has come to represent in the minds of most. That's why this album is arguably the quintessential album of the genre. Many progressive metal bands aren't really progressive. ... (read more)

Report this review (#37287) | Posted by HeirToRuin | Wednesday, June 22, 2005 | Review Permanlink

5 stars i know i mentioned this album before in my reviw for psychotic's into the everflow. this album is the greatest step that fates did in their career. a step forward in music and 100 steps back in fame. they never cared about fame. they never cared about money and the most important they only cared ... (read more)

Report this review (#36028) | Posted by | Saturday, June 11, 2005 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Actually a very good record, but with a lack of drama, to be honest i expected a little bit more of this record, but in the end is the real prescedent of what it turned out to be the OSI record... really. Is quite a dark album, with very solid rhythm and obvious craft for the vocal, levaing of ... (read more)

Report this review (#23461) | Posted by arqwave | Friday, September 3, 2004 | Review Permanlink

4 stars I want to explain my judgement.At first i believe that this cd is great and full of moods that come out throught every single song.Kevin Moore gives a great contribute to fates warning's prog, with keyb solos and composed melody. At the same time the most beautiful album of FW is a step down c ... (read more)

Report this review (#23460) | Posted by fred84 | Thursday, June 17, 2004 | Review Permanlink

5 stars This album is fantastic. Fates totally prog. This album is a journey from begining to end. Bringing you up and bringing you down. Song 2 has vocal distortion that everyone is now using. Songs 4-7, exellent time changes and the meat of the album, song 12 gently brings you back home. ... (read more)

Report this review (#23453) | Posted by | Friday, December 5, 2003 | Review Permanlink

Post a review of FATES WARNING "A Pleasant Shade Of Gray"

You must be a forum member to post a review, please register here if you are not.


As a registered member (register here if not), you can post rating/reviews (& edit later), comments reviews and submit new albums.

You are not logged, please complete authentication before continuing (use forum credentials).

Forum user
Forum password

Copyright Prog Archives, All rights reserved. | Legal Notice | Privacy Policy | Advertise | RSS + syndications

Other sites in the MAC network: — jazz music reviews and archives | — metal music reviews and archives

Donate monthly and keep PA fast-loading and ad-free forever.