Fates Warning, ‘Darkness in a Different Light’ – Album Review
It has been nine years since we last heard from Connecticut’s power-turned-progressive metallers Fates Warning. They left us with the dark and brooding ‘Fates Warning X,’ and after years of nothing new from the band, fans began to wonder if the group would ever return to the studio.
Of course, the members haven’t been slouches since 2003, keeping busy with other projects. Singer Ray Alder has been active with the progressive power metal outfit Redemption; guitarist Jim Matheos has OSI; and bassist Joey Vera has Armored Saint.
Since their last album, Fates Warning have added drummer extraordinaire Bobby Jarzombek (Halford, Spastic Ink) and guitarist Frank Aresti, who has made his return to the band after his absence since 1996. The current inception of the band, save for Ray Alder, played on the exceptional Arch/Matheos album ‘Sympathetic Resonance,’ which saw the return of original Fates Warning singer John Arch. So, was there any gas left in the creative tank to make another Fates Warning album?
The short answer is simply “yes.” Fates Warning have made the leap into the modern age with ‘Darkness in a Different Light,’ reinventing themselves while retaining pieces of their hallmark sound. Ray Alder’s cigarette-weathered voice is as silky as ever, especially following his underwhelming performance on the last Redemption album. His vocal harmonies are some of the most pleasant things human ears can experience and a familiar elements to the band’s sound as they invite fans back with this album. For the most part, his lyrics are inquisitive and reflective, given depth by the emotion in his voice.
As far as the music goes, it appears Fates Warning have been keeping up to speed with their progressive contemporaries over the last decade, drawing influence from Opeth and Porcupine Tree in particular. ‘Darkness in a Different Light’ is rhythmically driven with start and stop riffing complimented by Jarzombek’s world-class drumming. ‘One Thousand Fires’ serves as the opening track here, immediately letting fans know that they have moved on from the atmospheric electronic breaks that were so present on the last two albums. Other highlights include ‘Desire,’ ‘I Am’ and one of the band’s best, ‘Into the Black.’ Fates Warning strike a balance between heavy, catchy, and somber, with the brief ‘Falling’ and the ballad (not power ballad) ‘Lighthouse.’ What these songs do is set up everything for the final 14 minute epic.
‘And Yet it Moves’ is the epitome of the term “progressive,” showcasing a diverse range of guitar work and most unconventional song structure. The song begins with some classical guitar playing and gives way to distortion and the first true lead playing on the album. After minutes of riffing from founder Matheos and crew, Alder’s golden voice comes in and the song starts to take shape. A tug of war between heaviness and acoustic breaks ensues, with a lengthier acoustic section following what initially sounds like the end of the song. This segment flirts with heaviness and a brief distorted moment interrupts the acoustic guitar before reintroducing the band’s metallic realm yet again, with the title sung, bringing the album’s end.
‘Darkness in a Different Light’ is a nine-song sort of overture that culminates with the epic closer. Fates Warning have written some of their best material since 1994’s ‘Inside Out’ and some soon-to-be fan favorites. It feels good to have this band back and hopefully with some regularity in the future. This album has its flaws, like any album, but the flaws are far outweighed by the bright spots. After long periods of absence, it can be tough for a band to rekindle the creative fire, but Fates Warning fans don’t have anything to worry about here.