After a near decade long recording hiatus, Fates Warning are back with their 11th full-length studio album Darkness In A Different Light. I am going to be completely honest with you here, while I knew of Fates Warning, I am ashamed to admit I had never actually listened to a complete album before this release. Something I definitely need to rectify as Darkness In A Different Light is a good and solid heavy progressive metal release.
Darkness In A Different Light was recorded with the stellar current line-up of Ray Alder (vocals), Jim Matheos and Frank Aresti (guitars), Joey Vera (bass) and Bobby Jarzombek (drums), and it is clear that these guys know what they’re doing. New drummer Bobby Jarzombek is one of the musical highlights throughout the album, drumming intensely and pushing great double bass drum parts and complicated fills in the songs wherever he can. Frank Aresti returned for his first studio recording with Fates Warning since 1994’s Inside Out release and vocalist Ray Alder is very clear and has an amazing vocal reach, adding huge layers of melody to the heavy riffing prog metal.
Fates Warning started in the early 1980’s playing a traditional style of heavy metal, but they soon changed to a more Rush influenced technical proficient style and they are considered to be the first true prog metal band. This is interesting as the more I listened to Darkness In A Different Light, the more I was categorising this album as a basic heavy metal album with plenty of progressive elements. Guitarist and main composer Jim Matheos stated that they were aiming to go back-to-the-roots with this release, recording a true guitar metal album, without using any keyboards, samplers or sequencing. This explains probably why I get a more heavy metal feel than prog-metal feel when I listen to Darkness In A Different Light.
The album itself is very well balanced. After 3 heavy songs with varying rhythms, heavy riffing and great vocals, we hit the 4th track ‘Falling’, which is with its 1.5 minutes almost a “pre-balad”. It is a nice breathing space after the first 3 tracks. ‘I Am’ then kicks in in a pretty spectacular fashion, with an almost Tool-like intro, comprised of drums slowly building up, that characteristic Tool bass sound to then hit what’s probably the best riffing of the album. Then almost perfectly in the middle the “true balad” ‘Lighthouse’ is up next, before we get to the second half of the album. The following couple of tracks are good, but not as good as the opening tracks, but the final track ’And Yet It Moves’ is a true epic, building riff upon riff over 14 minutes long, taking the listener on quite an amazing musical journey.
Overall, Darkness In A Different Light won’t be my favourite prog metal release of 2013 (which is a difficult feat anyway as we’ve had so many outstanding prog metal release this year), but Fates Warning demonstrates nicely with this release that they are still pretty much part of the prog metal genre they started in the 1980’s. The production is spot on, the song balance is good and the musicianship is outstanding, especially Bobby Jarzombek’s drumming. It feels a bit clinical and cold at times though and I’m missing some warmth and emotion, but this doesn’t take away from the fact that Darkness In A Different Light is a great heavy progressive metal release.