And yet it moves...
Genre: progressive metal
The first proper Fates Warning album in nearly ten years, “Darkness in a Different Light” has obviously been greatly anticipated. Of course, we Fates Warning fans godt a massive treat when Arch/Matheos’ masterpiece debut album “Sympathetic Resonance” was released in 2011 featuring Fates Warning’s current line-up in its entirety and former Fates Warning vocalist Jon Arch in front. While many people consider “Sympathetic Resonance” the lost Fates Warning album or the Fates Warning album that never was, “Darkness in a Different Light” is the real comeback from these pioneers of progressive metal.
Stylistically, this album falls somewhere between “Disconnected” and “FWX”, which are probably my least favorite Fates Warning albums, but in combining these albums, “Darkness in a Different Light” rises above these two albums, taking the best of both and moving it in a direction of its own. The songs on the album are, for progressive metal standards, pretty short and relatively straightforward at first listen. But after a couple of listens, the listener will discover little details that are more reminiscent of the bands legendary early 90s output. This is largely due to the return to the two-guitarists set-up, which Fates Warning exploit in a number of interesting ways on this album.
The opening track opens with a frantic wasp-like guitar figure on top of a groovy guitar riff and takes the listener – in true Rush-style – through a couple of different passages before the verse kicks in. The verse is a heavy and groovy affair with an acoustic guitar overlaid on top. Already here, the listener is reminded of some of the aesthetics of “Parallels” and “Inside Out” which made efficient use of the combination of distorted and clean guitars. But, still, what we hear here is not quite identical to those two albums, as Fates Warning pursue a much heavier and groovier sound on this album. ‘Firefly’ is dark and heavy, drawing on some simple and groovy guitar figures. ‘Desire’ has a considerably dark almost Twin Peaks-like atmosphere to its verse due to the use of clean-ish guitars with a retro flanger effect. The chorus, however, is more groovy with a sing-a-long-friendly vocal melody – which is actually characteristic of the entire album. Both of these tracks focus more on atmosphere than on technical finesse, but still they feature that band’s trademark odd time signatures, and the former in particular treats the listener to some rhythmically mindboggeling passages. ‘Falling’ is a wee acoustic piece featuring emotional lyrics and vocals by Ray Adler – I do not know if it is intended as a mere filler, but it definitely suits the dark feel of the album and is, at least, not out of place. ‘I Am’ has some groovy alternative metal elements and is slightly reminiscent of some of the most characteristic tracks of “Disconnect”, except that ‘I Am’ is slightly slower and does not feature any of the industrial elements of that album. ‘Lighthouse’ is the most atmoshperic track on the album, while ‘Into the Black’ takes the listener through various shades of black, and ‘Kneel and Obey’ and ‘O Chloroform’ revisit the heavy grooves and progressive rhythms of the first handful of tracks on the album. My absolute favorite of the album is the mammothian ‘And Yet It Moves’, which opens with a medieval-sounding acoustic intro and takes us through a number of groovy odd-metered instrumental sections with slightly different guitar figures overlaid on top each other. In the verse, Adler’s melancholic voice fits the overall atmosphere very well, and the rhythm section delivers some nice ostinatos that contrast with the guitar rhythms upon which – true to their 90s sound – Fates Warning have overlaid clean guitars. Drummers are bound to adore this track, as it is the one that showcases Jarzombek’s magnificent skills behind the drumkit. Combining heavy riffs, challenging rhythms, odd time signatures and captivating vocal melodies, this is the magnum opus of the album, and personally I hope that future output from Fates Warning will be more in the vein of this awesome, driving progressive metal tune.
The characterizing features of the album are, not surprisingly, darkness and melancholy in atmosphere (imagine the depressive atmosphere of “A Pleasant Shade of Grey” but more intence and much heavier) – and this is of course a mood that Ray Adler’s voice and vocal melodies excellently convey. Another characteristic of the album is groove and heaviness. Many of the songs on the album evolve around groovy riffs, some of which are straightforward while others are accompanied by challenging odd time signatures and frighteningly tight drumming by Jarzombek – definitely a more than worthy successor to Mark Zonder. Finally, with the return of Frank Aresti in the studio, Fates Warning have re-embraced the twin guitar sound, but not quite in the same way as on their early 90s classics. As on “Parallels” and “Inside Out”, they make use of clean guitars on top of distorted ones, but, unlike these two albums and “Perfect Symmetry”, there are no twin guitar leads. Instead, Matheos and Aresti experiment with ways of rhymically utilizing two guitars by having them play different grooves on top of eact other; this also appears on previous Fates Warning albums as well as “Sympathetic Resonance”, but this approach is much more developed on “Darkness in a Different Light” than on any previous Fates Warning related album.
We are definitely dealing with a successful comeback, and I particularly enjoy the combination of simple grooves and technical rhythms. Not all tracks on the album appeal to me equally much, but overall we are dealing with, for my money at least, the best Fates Warning release since “A Pleasant Shade of Grey”. This is a promising album, and it makes me hopeful. I hope to see Fates Warning further explore the twin-guitar sound in the future, and, of course, I also hope for a more regular stream of releases from the progressive metal giants that are Fates Warning.