FATES WARNING — Perfect Symmetry (review)

FATES WARNING — Perfect Symmetry album cover Album · 1989 · Progressive Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
5/5 ·
Most people consider “Awaken the Guardian” to be Fates Warning’s shining moment, but the album that outshone everything else by miles to me is “Perfect Symmetry.”

Perfect Symmetry is the band’s transition from a fantastical, proggy almost-Power Metal band into a full fledged modern Progressive Metal band, and one of the first albums ever to conceptualize this sound. Gone are the tales of high fantasy and abandoned are the speedy and uplifting metal epics that iconized their earlier sound. Here, they have traded their swords and steeds in acceptance of the reality that the world is a cold, unfriendly place that eats dreamers alive. They have become part of a machine of finely tuned skill and technicality – here the whole band play incredibly complex parts, alone but in unison, creating a cacophony of different melodies and rhythms that never play against each other.

One mistake you could make in reading that is to think they have become technical cogs incapable of producing melodies of beautiful passion. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Vocalist Ray Alder commands his voice like an instrument, but never shies away from simply crying out the sorrows of being smothered in the constraints of modern society. The lyrics across the board sound like those of a man who dreamed of grandeur as a child, but had those dreams quashed by reality. The only options are to hold out a last shred of hope that tomorrow holds something new, or allow oneself to die internally in order to carry on.

The music knows exactly when to dance the lines between progressive technical showcasing, soft passages of pure beauty, or simply catchy melodies. The band does include some strings on a few tracks that harken back to their fantasy sound (interestingly, it’s the least bleak songs with this touch). The titles might also fool you into thinking they’re still a fantasy band – tracks like “At Fate’s Hands” sound entirely medieval in nature. In reality, the song is about being helpless to make your own way in a world where people are smothered to fit roles and voices of the common are not heard. The burden of a modern society is disguised by poetic and timeless words that could apply just about anywhere if not for the context of the album.

It is a jarring shift from their old sound. It’s probably not what fans wanted. It’s also entirely pessimistic, introspective and subtly conscious. To me, it’s the perfect album from Fates Warning.
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more than 2 years ago
Thanks for the comments, and @UMUR I've added "The Towers of Avarice" to my list... thanks for the recommendation!
UMUR wrote:
more than 2 years ago
Fates Warning have many different sounding periods and albums, so make sure you check out more than one release. I´d recommend Awaken the Guardian to listen to a John Arch fronted FW album. It´s more power metal than progressive metal, but great album. No Exit and Perfect Symmetry are both great albums too. I personally love both Parallels and Inside Out, although most older FW fans don´t seem to favor the most pop metal melodic sensibilities on those two. And then there is of course the long concept epic A Pleasant Shade of Gray.
Tupan wrote:
more than 2 years ago
I've listened to some songs of FWX years ago, and at that time I wasn't impressed. Well, I've changed my tastes since, I'm gonna try some Fates Warning ASAP!

UMUR wrote:
more than 2 years ago
You never gave Fates Warning a listen :-O...!!! They are one of the seminal progressive metal acts of the 80s. I´d strongly suggest that you give them a try.
Tupan wrote:
more than 2 years ago
Never cared to listen to this band, but your review made me curious!
UMUR wrote:
more than 2 years ago
Great review of a brilliant album. I think you very successfully manage to describe the deep melancholy and despair of this release. It´s a dark and bleak progressive metal album. If you haven´t yet...do yourself a favor of listening to "The Towers of Avarice" by Zero Hour. It´s a bit more focused on technical playing, but the sci-fi concept story and atmosphere of the album is nicely dark and bleak too, if that´s your poison...


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