Review: Fates Warning “Inside Out” [Massacre Records]

Review: Fates Warning “Inside Out” [Massacre Records]

- in Reviews

Once Fates Warning entered the 90’s, it seemed that the band had lost their magic forever. Parallels saw the band heading into progressive rock territory and resulted into an album of little highlights and many fillers. Fortunately, Inside Out is a breath of fresh air; as it’s heavier, more thoughtful and downright more metallic than its predecessor.

Inside Out may not be a total return to the clinical and mechanical atmosphere of Perfect Symmetry; that being said, it does find a happy medium between that album and Parallels. While the accessible writing is clearly notable from the start, Fates Warning rely more on their strengths here than with the album they did prior. Jim Matheos and Frank Aresti are clearly playing riffs again and manage to use their technical skills in a more ear-friendly manner with solid results. Ray Alder’s role remains fairly simple and restrained in terms of vocal range, yet he avoids aiming for those foolish vocal lines of Parallels – not to mention that he occasionally approaches the tunes with a dirtier vocal attack. Finally, Mark Zonder remains the star as always; providing a sophisticated, yet exciting drum performance that never becomes overbearing.

Somewhat introspective, yet never pretentious – catchy, but rarely unpleasant, Inside Out is a melt pot of strong hooks and progressive tendencies and with more tunes to praise than to complain about, it’s enjoyable for most of the time. Plenty of songs live and die by their choruses, yet most tunes have their fair share of interesting riffs to boot and I’m glad that the band realized the importance of the latter. Tunes like ‘The Strand’ and ‘Down to the Wire’ rely as much on Ray Alder’s heartfelt vocals as they do on the zigzagging melodic riff work that wipes the floor with the feather light guitar work of Parallels. ‘Face the Fear’ is another good one; a complex, yet understandable mixture of sophisticated guitar riffs, moody acoustics and Alder’s restrained, yet driven vocals. Lyrically, it’s pretty introspective stuff, too, yet you’d never mistake this track for some of the pretentious nonsense that you would find on A Pleasant Shade of Grey. I’m also surprised that Fates Warning decided to make a video for ‘Monument’, which is clearly the most progressive cut on the album. Ray Alder zooms in and out of the narrative here; as his voice gently makes it between the clinical, yet robust riffs of Jim Matheos and Frank Aresti. Think of a more melodic take on the Perfect Symmetry material; minus crazy vocal wails and bleak mood that haunts the album.

You could argue that the choruses remain too predictable, or that Ray Alder isn’t using his voice to his utter limits here, but neither factors become a main issue to me. If anything, some of its material doesn’t deliver; ‘Outside Looking In’ is built on a foundation of plodding riffs and provides neither captivating atmosphere, nor does it function properly in a traditional riff-driven manner, while the tranquil soundscapes of ‘Island in the Stream’ overstays its welcome. Most of what Inside Out certainly delivers, though (and let’s face it: commercial progressive metal usually ends up way worse than this stuff). Unfortunately, Fates Warning would lose it soon after, but Inside Out marks a small victory for this band nonetheless.

Score: 70/100 – Small victory

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