Fates-Warning_Darkness-In-A-Different-LightDarkness In A Different Light is the first album in nearly a decade from prog legends Fates Warning. Arriving on the heels of 2011s Arch/Matheos project (a Fates Warning album in all but name), Darkness features most of the same lineup except with longtime vocalist Ray Alder back at the mic. Guitarist Frank Aresti makes his first appearance on a Fates record since the early ’90s, and the rhythm section now includes Joey Vera on bass (Armored Saint) and journeyman drummer Bobby Jarzombek. Of course, founding guitarist/songwriter/main guy Jim Matheos is present as well.

One Thousand Fires” makes the band’s intentions known right from the get-go, with an opening assault of tricky rhythms followed by Alder delivering the title with gusto. “Firefly” is the obvious single, straightforward and super-catchy, but it’s so well done that you can’t really fault the band for writing it. “I Am” is another highlight, boasting some effective quiet-loud dynamics, prominent bass work from Vera, and a chorus that’s sure to get the blood pumping. Traces of Tool, newer Dream Theater, [1] and even Meshuggah crop up, proving that while these guys may have been away, they were still paying attention.

Aside from those obvious winners, the deep cuts are damn good as well. “Into The Black” is a textbook lesson on how to write a good progressive metal song. “Kneel & Obey” does drag a bit, and “Lighthouse” goes nowhere, but they create a mood, whatever that’s worth. The obligatory 14-minute epic “And Yet It Moves” may be a tad over-ambitious, and a few parts feel like they belong to separate songs, but the overall scope of it is still damn impressive. I kind of wish some of that Arch/Matheos material had been saved for this album instead — if you swapped out “Lighthouse” for a crusher like “Any Given Day,” it would’ve put this album over the top. Comparisons aside, there’s still a shit-ton of excellent music on here, so no complaints.

fateswarning_2013It’s surprising how catchy these songs are, despite all the odd time signatures and musical trickery going on here. Fates Warning has made some albums that are notoriously hard to digest — most of them, actually — but this one is both accessible and memorable, without sacrificing any of the band’s complexity or style. Alder’s voice has dropped over the years, and while this means he can’t hit those nut-crushing high notes anymore, he now has a rich tenor range that’s much more pleasant to listen to (side note: Alder is the only singer I know of who freely admits that his voice has changed, which I respect the hell out of). And as usual, Matheos and Aresti keep things interesting with plenty of tasty, melodic lead guitar work.

The direction Fates Warning takes on Darkness is intriguing to me. In an era where progressive rock is suddenly cool, they could have easily made an album full of technical wankery and shreddy solos, and Dream Theater nerds would’ve eaten it up. Instead, they chose to go heavier, darker, and more direct. Yeah, the music is still plenty complex, but it’s hardly just for show. There’s a full-on embrace of modern metal, evident in the earth-scraping riffs and Jarzombek’s double-bass work. That forward-thinking approach, combined with some of the most focused songwriting since the Parallels era, makes for a compelling listen.

1. It’s worth noting that ex-Dream Theater keyboardist Kevin Moore is a member of OSI with Matheos, and actually contributed some lyrics to this album.

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  • TminusEight

    Amazing cover art.
    Will have to give this a listen… Thanks mate.

    • Fisting_Andrew_Golota

      Music aside, this album gets a 4.5 out of 5 for graphic design. Hope you enjoy it!

      • Tanuki

        It’s about time metal in general branched out and started using more diverse art. But while I like this it has a sterile graphic design feel. Funnily enough I kinda feel like that’s appropriate for this album….

        • Fisting_Andrew_Golota

          Yeah, it does suit this record pretty well. And I like how they tied the band photo in with the cover (if you’ve seen it you’ll see what I’m talking about).

  • Luís Pedro Coutinho

    I’ll listen this album during this week…I hope it don’t disappoints me. I like Prog Metal, anyway because I’m a nº 1 Dream Theater fan. m/

    • Fisting_Andrew_Golota

      If you like DT, you’ll probably dig this.

      • Luís Pedro Coutinho

        Wow, pure awewsomeness. I did not heard a lot of prog this year…more into extreme metal…but my mind is begging for something worthless to hear. I hope to start 2014 with good metal… m/ Keep doing the good job, as always

  • Leroy

    I’m with you as to Alder’s vocals being more pleasant to listen to nowadays – he has a nice, thick, husky tone it it, especially when compared with the usual high pitched, nasal delivery (John Arch/James LaBrie/Neal Morse) that prog bands seem to think is some kind of benchmark to live up to. Even the last Haken album suffered from this syndrome!

    • Fisting_Andrew_Golota

      Totally agree with you, man. I’m not really into the whole high-pitched squealing guy thing (although I do like John Arch in smaller doses). Alder has tried a few different styles over the years, to his credit, and he seems to have found something that’s working for him.

      Also, James LaBrie sucks.

  • harley_d68

    This is my top album of 2013 (welovemetal dot com). Your assessment of catchiness combined with the progressive elements is spot on.

    • Fisting_Andrew_Golota

      Thanks man! And not to give away any spoilers, but this made my top 10 this year as well. You have excellent taste.

  • Nawgs

    Someone could have cut off my nuts and I would have dragged my bleeding body to record store to get this album when it came out.

    It fucking rocks.

  • Steve

    Thought the best song was “Falling Further” which is a god damn bonus track. The rest of the album I like but I think the aforementioned song is the exact thing they should be filling albums with.