Every now and then a release comes along that deserves attention but for various reasons, a full blown review isn’t in the cards. Since two April releases fit that bill, we’re doing this rare and unusual music alert for the more discerning metal mavens (i.e. people with the good taste to share our tastes).

In short, knowledge is power and music (and whiskey) costs money.

Fates Warning //Awaken the Guardian Live

Fates Warning has been around forever, and for most of their long and storied career they’ve been helmed by frontman Ray Alder. But for old timers like me, the glory days of the band were back in the early 80s when John Arch led the troupe through Maiden-esque flights of galloping prog fancy. Albums like Night on Brocken and The Specter Within were killer platters of early prog-metal artistry, but their magnum opus was 1986s Awaken the Guardian. It was there the band’s ever evolving style exploded into a bigger-than-life experience blending traditional metal and progressive tendencies with near-perfect song craft. It still felt metal but there was so much going on musically and lyrically it could make your head swirl1.

To mark the album’s 30th anniversary (that makes me feel really fookin’ olde) the band reassembled the classic lineup for a series of appearances at the Keep It True and ProgPower USA XVII festivals where the album was played in its entirety. This 2 CD and DVD package documents those shows in rich, vibrant sound. For fans of the album and the Arch-era, this is like a time portal back to 86 and it’s unbelievable how little Mr. Arch’s voice changed over the decades. He delivers an amazing performance and it seems as if he never left the band at all. Metal Blade Records assembled a really nice package sure to ring nostalgia dollars from geezers like me, but every prog and classic metal fan should check it out.

Written By: Huck N’ Roll

Steve Grimmett // Personal Crisis

2017 has not been kind to Steve Grimmett. Partway through a South America tour, the veteran Grim Reaper warbler lost a limb due to an infection. Props to Mr. Grimmett, though, who has had a fantastic attitude during recovery, and will be hitting the stage once again this summer. As luck would have it, Dissonance Productions is re-releasing Steve’s 2007 solo album, Personal Crisis. For those of you who haven’t heard it, now is as good a time as any to give it a spin. If you were a little disappointed in last year’s Steve Grimmett’s Grim Reaper release Walking in the Shadows like we were, Personal Crisis will make up for it.

Aside from the superb Grim Reaper cover “Wrath of the Ripper,” Personal Crisis is very much a straight-up metal album – and a good one, at that – with no real Grim Reaper feel. The songs are catchy, with top-notch axework and a killer rhythm section. At times the keyboards are a bit too dominant, lending a couple of songs a slight power-metal quality, but that doesn’t make them any less enjoyable. And Grimmett himself is in prime form here, his voice full of power and his upper range as good as ever. I’ve always thought of him as a metal version of Lou Gramm, with his classic-sounding airy rasp, and Personal Crisis is a perfect backdrop for Steve’s vocal prowess.

Show 1 footnote

  1. Especially the arcane and hyper-obscure lyrics which nearly require a PhD to fully appreciate
  • Gaëtan Baratin

    New Solstafir coming soon as well :)

    • That gets a big ass review though.

      • AlphaBetaFoxface

        The production alone should be worthy of a 4. If that album gets anything lower than a 3.5, I’ll have empirical evidence of this site’s objectively bad taste and pursue class action.

        • Kronos

          Still frothing about Artificial Brain, are we?

          • AlphaBetaFoxface

            Fuming. I feel like a middle aged white lady at the DMV.

  • Ivan E. Rection

    For various reasons Awaken The Guardian is one of my all time favorites for various reasons.

  • Genezer

    Hologram Earth – Black Cell Program definitely deserves an AMG review. Year list material.

  • Dagoth_RAC

    I used to (attempt) to to draw that AtG album cover on my textbook covers in high school. In other words, I am old and the target audience for stuff like this. But I don’t think it is nostalgia that fires my love of John Arch. He is one of the most powerful, talented, and unique voices in metal who still remains unique. While most vocalists of now-legendary 80s bands have dozens of imitators, are there are any John Arch clones in later metal bands? I don’t think so. He truly is one of a kind.

    • He is a unique vocalist. Always been one of my favorite singers.

      • Huck N’ Roll

        I personally equate Arch’s voice to a cat caught in a lawnmower. I’m on Team Ray. Which is precisely why Steel wouldn’t let me anywhere near this release.

        • Welcome to Nu Metalville. Population: YOU.

          • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

            May I suggest he reviews Angry Whie Elephant? It doesn’t really matter that someone else already reviewed it.

      • NuddhistPunk

        I wasn’t aware of Fates Warning until Parallels, and still like Alder more than Arch, but these live sets sound amazing. Arch has lost little, if anything, off his fastball.

    • Ivan E. Rection

      Have you heard the Arch/Matheos EP from a few years back? It’s very good. Such a great voice.

  • Monsterth Goatom

    I saw Diabolus purchased Hellripper’s Coagulating Darkness. I was quite impressed when I checked it out.

  • Monsterth Goatom

    I’ve always had a rather idealized image of the mythical and oft-mentioned promo bin. This looks more like the promo shithole.

    • Don’t judge our promo bin. At least we got most of the rats and alligators out of there.

    • Eli Valcik

      I picture the promo bin as a bottomless recycle bin. The garbage goes on and on, it never ends but every once in a while you find a half eaten bag of jalapeno Cheetos and what do you have there, lunch, that’s what.

  • McTwatterson

    So what this is saying is that there’s a chance we’ll be getting February Releases You Might Overlook But Shouldn’t: Soen?

    • Too late for that I’m afraid. Likely it will be covered as a TYMHM at year’s end.

      • sir_c

        Maybe a new category on this site: Soener or later.
        For releases somewhere between AOTM and TYMHM

  • Stefunal

    I’ve tried very hard to like Awaken the Guardian for so many times now that at this point I guess I’m just too young to get into it. It just sounds so flat and… uneventful to me, I guess.
    Welp, guess I’ll just return to my diapers of bad metalcore and cringy sadboy manbun prog.

    • One week site ban for not liking Awaken the Guardian.

      • Stefunal

        Do as you must.
        But I will always stay here. Watching. Lurking. Not liking Awaken the Guardian…

        I do own it on CD though.

      • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

        He doesn’t care about the ban, hit him where it hurts: pull out the scissors and cut out his man bun!

        • I’ll unilaterally bring back the sweaty manbun for the duration of 2017 if you guys don’t get it together toot sweet!.

          • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

            Hey, just punish HIM, not all of us!

          • sir_c

            we will then keep sending you promos of the latest Amaranthe and Operation:Mindcrime

  • Paul VH

    I’ve owned ATG for years, picked it up at a 2nd hand store. Heard it was a genre defining classic but I honestly can’t say I’ve ever connected with it…..
    Maybe it’s the dated production or the fact I’ve listened to Fates Warnings offspring for so long that the original is not as fresh sounding as it likely was at the time it was released?
    Maybe it just takes a bit more effort to get into?

    • Try again. “Sorceress,” the title track and “Exodus” alone are worth the effort.

    • Huck N’ Roll

      The best FW album, for those of us with more discerning taste (ie not influenced by jugs of hobo wine) is Disconnected.

      • This is madness. Now I truly need hobo wine.

      • Dagoth_RAC

        “Still Remains” from Disconnected might their best song, and this is someone who spent their teen years with Awaken the Guardian on CD repeat.

  • Serjien

    AtG is such a great album! I am glad they did this.

    Is the new Ayreon getting a big boy review then?

    • Yep, it should be along this coming week.

      • Igor Alencar

        Still waiting…

  • defjam

    I became aware of Fates Warning when they released No Exit, literally fell in love with Ray’s voice (still a huge fan) and have never been able to accept their Arch era. Maybe I should view those albums as from a different band and give them a shot.

    • Huck N’ Roll

      The music is fantastic, the vocals might be an acquired taste.

    • Bas

      Ha. I discovered then from the awaken the guardian/ no exit double cd in the ninetees. So for me both are ‘original/the way they should sound’. I prefer no exit but i also love this one!

  • 1 Screaming Dizbuster

    What about Ancient Ascendant – Raise the Torch? *

    *A Dan Swano production

  • jetblindracos

    Personal Crisis…the memories.Sad to hear about his health problems.

  • Kevin Zecchel

    I was at the Prog Power show for that Fates Warning thing. It was beyond magical being there and it’s great that it has been immortalized as a live release!

  • Jeffrey Carter

    The Arch / Matheos stuff has been excellent, start with the “Twist of Fate” EP.

  • Jeff Kent

    I saw the single Arch/Matheos show in Hartford a few years ago and they played old Fates material. All of the original members were there. Some played in opening bands, others were in attendance. Brian Slagel was there. It was an amazing night. I assumed that there would have been some recording made, but Metal Blade insisted there was not. Perhaps they knew this was in the works.