Album review: FATES WARNING – Darkness In A Different Light

Inside Out [Release date 30.09.13]

When Jim Matheos, leader of the Connecticut-based Progressive Metal legends Fates Warning, decided to put his band into a dormant recording state back in 2004, even he could not have expected this period to last for nine whole years. Inspiration cannot be conjured up on demand, of course, and the fact that any new material would have to at least be able to compete with the magnificent “FWX” partly explains the long absence.

It was in late 2011 that Matheos and his long-standing colleague Ray Alder began working on new ideas and the fruits of this long labour are finally upon us in the shape of a ten track release, entitled “Darkness In A Different Light”.

Fates Warning’s eleventh studio album welcomes the return of guitarist Frank Aresti into the fold, albeit primarily in a recording role, and introduces Bobby Jarzombek of  Riot/Halford/Sebastian Bach fame as the new man behind the drums. How have these changes affected the band’s sound?

With less programming/sequencing involved and with Frank Aresti truly excelling himself in the role of lead guitarist, the ten compositions on offer come across as heavier and more direct when compared to those featured in “FWX”. At the same time, Jarzombek’s ability to perform in a manner and style similar to Mark Zonder’s, his much-loved predecessor, has allowed Matheos to do what he does best – that is, create compositions that, though technically proficient, focus on highly addictive vocal melodies and guitar passages of massive emotional value, making them appeal to a variety of music fans.

No composition could have done a better job at introducing such a highly anticipated album as “One Thousand Fires”, simply because it encapsulates everything that makes Fates Warning’s music so special and then some more! Massive/heavy sounding riffs, mesmerising lead passages, soulful vocals and intelligently-crafted drum parts are the order of the day and Frank Aresti’s solo half-way through the composition is among the finest he has ever recorded.

Of a more commercial appeal, but equally intelligent in terms of craftsmanship, “Firefly” is the catchiest song on offer, while both  the groove laden “Desire” and the short acoustic opus “Falling” (which concludes the first half of the album), showcase Matheos’ unique skills on the six-string.

One of the compositions that truly stood out for me was “I Am”, as I found its solid bass tunes and “Disconnected” style riffs to be absolutely irresistible. The award for the darkest composition of the album is won hands down by “Lighthouse”, a song which finds Ray Alder flexing his vocal chords to the maximum and which is followed by another highlight in the form of “Into The Black”.

This beautiful combination of massive riffs and introvert melodies continues in both “Kneel And Obey” and “O Chloroform” and the album concludes in truly epic fashion with the fourteen minute “And Yet It Moves” – one of the most varied, artistically challenging but, miraculously, easily digestible compositions ever recorded by the Alder-led version of Fates Warning.

Having Fates Warning creatively inactive for almost a decade is not something that either I, nor the remaining army of their much devoted fans, are looking forward to reliving in the future. Having said that, I believe that we should seriously accommodate the theory that “Darkness In A Different Light” would not have sounded half as explosive or fired up, had it been released a mere two or three years after “FXW”.

I always believed that in Jim Matheos, we have a music genius and an album like “Darkness In A Different Light” can only really reinforce this argument. I don’t know about you people, but I believe I know what my favourite album for 2013 is going to be!

Yiannis Stefanis

Rating: ***** (5.0/5.0)

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