"Parallels" is the 6th full-length studio album by US progressive metal act Fates Warning. The album was released in October 1991 by Metal Blade Records. "Parallels" was re-issued in 2010 in a Deluxe Edition. In addition to the original album, The Deluxe Edition contains a bonus CD with live tracks and demo tracks and a bonus DVD which features a full concert recorded live in New Haven, Connecticut on February the 13th, 1992. Fates Warning had with each album, since their inception in the early eighties, added more and more progressive elements into their heavy metal sound culminating with the release of their, at the time, most progressive release "Perfect Symmetry (1989)". If the fans had expected an even more progressive release with "Parallels", those expectations weren´t met.
...in fact Fates Warning crafted a much more melodically accessible and subtle progressive metal release in "Parallels". The album features a pleasant warm atmosphere and mellow thoughtful melodies. A stark contrast to the cold, hard and at times even aggressive sound on "Perfect Symmetry". While the tracks on "Parallels" are certainly progressive, they are not progressive in an abrasive fashion and I see why some people would question if "Parallels" is a progressive metal album or actually more a melodic heavy metal album. If you listen closely to the music you´ll find plenty of time signature changes, unusual off-beat drumming and other features that are usually associated with progressive metal. Other than the 8:11 minutes long "The Eleventh Hour", which features a moderately complex structure, the song structures aren´t terribly adventurous but again there are subtle progressive details in all tracks that keep the tracks interesting throughout. The most obviously progressive tracks on the album are the above mentioned "The Eleventh Hour", the opening track "Leave the Past Behind", "Life in Still Water" and "Point of View". Tracks like "Eye to Eye", "We Only Say Goodbye" and "Don't Follow Me" are very accessible and some people might say commercial sounding, but all three tracks feature subtle time-signature changes and off-beat playing that ensure a progressive edge. I guess the only track I haven´t mentioned is the closing track "The Road Goes on Forever". A beautiful mellow/ soft and again subtly progressive track and a perfect closing track (check the lead guitar part in that track. Just beautiful).
One of the defining features in Fates Warning´s sound at this point in their career (besides the clever and sophisticated drumming by Mark Zonder which is also a feature that stands out a lot) is how the two guitarists (Jim Matheos and Frank Aresti) compliment each other´s playing. Jim Matheos plays a lot of clean (non-distorted) electric guitar parts under the distorted rythm and lead guitars by Frank Aresti. The consequence is a layered "busy" soundscape that´s very characteristic for this era Fates Warning. The dynamic it gives, that you have both mellow/ soft clean guitars playing at the same time as heavy distored guitars, is vast. Many metal releases suffer from the fact that the bass is either too low in the mix or that it just follows the guitar, but that´s certainly not the case with "Parallels". Joe DiBiase is a very active part of what makes the sound on the album so special. You´ll often notice his sophisticated yet powerful playing. Lead vocalist Ray Alder delivers an emotional and paatos filled vocal performance. His vocal style on "Parallels" is quite different from his style on "Perfect Symmetry". He sang in a very high pitched screaming vocal style on that album and while his vocals are still occasionally high pitched on "Parallels", he mostly utilizes more "human" registers and lower volumes too, which gives his performance a more varied sound than on earlier releases. The lyrics on the album mostly evolve around broken relationships and emotions.
"Parallels" is superbly produced by Terry Brown (Rush, Voivod, The Rolling Stones, Lizzy Borden...etc). A perfect sound which emphasize both mellow warmth and colder edge. A very suiting dynamic sound production to these ears.
"Parallels" has been a favorite of mine for many years now. It´s one of those albums that gets several spins in a row when I listen to it, because I simply can´t graps how good it is and I always discover a little detail I hadn´t heard before. Very few albums have that effect on me and of course "Parallels" deserves a 5 star rating.