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Perhaps I’m a bit conservative with my ideas, but if you ask me bands writing more radio friendly material often results into trouble. Not even Fates Warning could resist attempting this, but perhaps this move not totally unexpected. ”Through Different Eyes’’ from Perfect Symmetry did hint the band’s interest in a more lightweight direction after all, but that track alone sounds far superior to anything you’ll stumble upon here and if that doesn’t sound problematic, then I don’t know what does.
Whether Fates Warning was trying to follow Queensryche’s footsteps at the time we may never know for certain, but the band has sunken so low at this point that the most of the material sounds lifeless and soft to a point that they’d work as excellent lullabies. You’ve got the predictable soft acoustic verse / distorted chorus construction of “Leave the Past Behind” and “Eye to Eye” – the former is driven by Ray Alder’s far too restrained vocalizations that gently blend with the dreamy ambiance and the “heavier” guitars that don’t kick in until its fairly predictable chorus presents itself. Listening to Mark Zonder’s sophisticated, yet fitting drums is still enjoyable and the same counts for Joe DiBiase’s engaged bass lines, but Jim Matheos and Frank Aresti offer very little here by relying on bland chords and cleaner passages that go one ear in and on ear out. Only “The Eleventh Hour” partially resembles Perfect Symmetry in terms of choppy riffing and angry wails, but even that track goes down the toilet once Ray Alder’s claims that nothing’s easy anymore. I can already picture an over-sentimental crowd singing along while waving their hands during a gig as the whole track slowly becomes embarrassing to listen to. That said, it goes without saying that the worst offenders of Parallels are clearly these fluffy AOR ballads named “Eye to Eye” and “We Only Say Goodbye”. It’s as if Fates Warning tried their best to convince your parents how progressive metal musicians are just as human and have feelings, too!
But it’s fortunately not worthless. Whereas Parallels sounds dull and gets somewhat catchy (“Life in Still Water” does see Ray Alder doing a suitable job with no irritating results at least) for the most part, it features two compositions that I actually get a kick out of. “Point of View” features that simplistic spider web of a lick that drives the verses onward, while Ray Alder slides up and down the octaves with control and ease during the captivating pre-chorus. “Don’t Follow Me” is quite a harmonizing track – literally! It sees Jim Matheos and Frank Aresti harken back to the Maiden-inspired harmonies for a while and Ray Alder finds himself self-harmonizing during its catchy chorus with decent results. Surely it’s not exactly a heavy or emotionally overwhelming track in any way, but it works enough for me.
Production-wise, Parallels feels feather light and while it’s not exactly ideal, it’s not bothering me too much either. At least it fits the stylistic choice Fates Warning was aiming for, so why nitpick about it? Anyway, this album was effective from a financial perspective and while it fortunately didn’t mark the beginning of a serious disaster of outputs (again, I can’t help but think of Queensryche here), it was nonetheless their first misstep.
Release date: October 28th, 1991
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