Fates Warning are legendary in my mind. They have been active since 1982, and thus should be identified as some of the original prog metal masters. They are remarkably consistent, too, which is exemplified in their brand new album “Long Day Good Night”, which releases on November 6th through their new label, Metal Blade Records.
Fates Warning is one of those bands that is simply trustworthy. You know that they have the skill and maturity to create excellent records, and they will always sound a bit different in some regard. The American band currently consists of Bobby Jarzombek on drums, Joey Vera on bass, Ray Alder on vocals, and Jim Matheos and Michael Abdow on guitars.
For me, Fates Warning has always possessed some of the most genuine emotions of any band I know. I think this is because Ray can be rather direct about what he is feeling, rather than trying to prove it through theatrical demonstrations. He gives us the hard and cruel facts, and he allows the strong writing to touch our hearts. Their album “Disconnected” is an excellent example of this.
This style of expression continues on “Long Day Good Night”. While the band hasn’t discussed the meanings of the songs, Ray has stated that “home” is an idea that came up while writing the vocal melodies. So, this album does feel like an exploration of that concept, of the idea of home in our minds. Home can be a place of comfort, a longing in our hearts, or even a medium for pain. It can mean so many things to so many people, and it can even mean different things to the same person. It is a layered idea, one that can cause joy and fear simultaneously. As the cover art suggests, we ourselves cast a long shadow over our abodes: an exploration of home is really an exploration of ourselves.
Musically, this album is impeccable. The band explores their typically dark progressive metal sound, adding in electronica and spacious atmospheres to break things up a little. There are a couple of longer tracks, but also shorter, catchier ones. It’s a good mix, and only gets better as you listen multiple times.
I should also mention that the performances are stunning. Ray sounds fantastic, just like he did on his solo album last year. Jim and Frank are legends in their own right on guitar, and you will hear plenty of dark riffs and emotional solos. One of the strongest points, however, is Joey and Bobby’s rhythm section. They simply know how to pace the music with vibrancy and intricacy. Bobby is actually one of my favorite drummers, as his delicate style of blast beats and thunderous fills is something I always notice.
Many fans seem to elevate the illustrious and ultra proggy nature of the band’s 2016 album “Theories of Flight”. I cannot deny the amazing quality of that record. For me, though, I’ve always like the darker albums, the ones brimming with humanity and isolation. Again, “Disconnected” is an example, and that is still my favorite record from them. “Long Day Good Night” is not a prog fest, though it is quite progressive. It is deeply felt, however, and shadows stretch their long gaze over its aura. I love descending into its depths.
The album has thirteen songs, all of them excellent. You’ve probably heard the singles “Now Comes the Rain” (feeling like something from Ray’s recent solo effort) and Scars (a good, vicious tune). Some other standouts are “Stuttered World”, a heavier, brilliantly catchy track; “Alone We Walk”, a slow burn with real payoff; and “Under the Sun”, a primarily acoustic track with an addictive beat and chorus. There is plenty of diversity here, such as the difference between “Begin Again” (a classic metal song that is pure awesome) and “When Snow Falls” (an atmospheric, evocative piece that allows Ray to flex his vocal chords).
My favorite tunes are “The Destination Onward”, “The Way Home”, and “The Longest Shadow of the Day”. “The Destination Onward” is the opener, and it takes its time in building an atmosphere for us. I love that. It has a strong presence, though, and it ends up feeling explosive and riveting. “The Way Home” is probably my favorite vocal performance from Ray on the album. I love the pining chorus where you can feel that extra bit of emotion in his voice. It’s perfect.
“The Longest Shadow of the Day” is the masterpiece on this record. It feels like a real event, taking time to invite us into its world with bluesy motions and a slow build. At eleven minutes and 29 seconds in length, it is also the longest song here. Bobby warms up his high hats and bounces some bass around the fidgety, hanging aura. Soon, though, roaring guitars join the chorus, and we are off! The song plays with us a bit, transitioning from darkness to light multiple times, always feeling emotional and ponderous, though. This song balances subtlety with power, and this paradox is felt even in its climax. In fact, the song is so amazing that its essence can be detected in the next track, “The Last Song”, which closes the album. The song is an acoustic ballad with a catchy central lick and chorus, but it almost feels like an outro for the previous track.
Fates Warning can basically do no wrong. They know their craft, and they know how to balance exploration with strong writing. “Long Day Good Night” is an homage to our hearts, an examination of how our relationships and struggles paint our mental picture of home. It isn’t always an emotionally comfortable experience, depending upon your past, but the band brings it home with dark clarity and plenty of pensive moments. This, I am sure, will become one of my favorites from them.
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