One name synonymous with class in heavy music has always been FATES WARNING. The Connecticut power proggers have laid dormant the past nine years since last releasing "FWX". In that time, bassist Joey Vera took another ride with ARMORED SAINT while Jim Matheos and Ray Alder spent time in their side ventures, OSI and REDEMPTION respectively. Now coming back together to reignite FATES WARNING for their eleventh studio album, "Darkness in a Different Light", they do what they do better than most calling themselves prog metal.
The sound is retro FATES WARNING circa the nineties when they were frequently packaged with QUEENSRŸCHE and DREAM THEATER for mega tours, but there's also an amplified toughness hinting of at least the attitude of "No Exit", if not the same hustle. "Darkness in a Different Light" moves primarily at a mid-tempo or slinking groove, but heaviness prevails all over this album, and that's heartening. FATES WARNING maintains their customary traces of RUSH (particularly on "Firefly", "Desire" and "O Chloroform") while stepping forward to recognize what's hip in contemporary prog rock via PORCUPINE TREE (courtesy of the delightful "I Am" and the mesmerizing "Into the Black") to keep themselves honest and better yet, relevant.
Joining Vera, Alder and Matheos are Frank Aresti and Bobby Jarzombek, the latter recording for the first time with FATES WARNING after serving as the band's touring drummer on numerous occasions. Jarzombek's rapid bass drum thwacks and impeccable fills give FATES WARNING an added dynamic to the point "One Thousand Fires", "Firefly" and "Desire" ring as some of the heaviest-driven tunes written by this band in quite some time. Even at seven minutes, the spellbinding and often bombastic "One Thousand Fires" is a stellar opening number that puts the seasoned FATES WARNING fan into a happy place. The vibrating Alex Lifeson-esque guitar twangs hovering over the jagged riff daggers of "Firefly"'s verses is so enchanting you'll get audibly high on them.
Having worked on this album for nearly two years, the extra care going into "Darkness in a Different Light" shines on all levels, whether you're talking about Bobby Jarzombek's expansive rolls and trip hammers or Ray Alder's sooty yet smooth croons that (as always) present a welcoming ambiance no matter how soft or aggressive the composition may be. He soars on "Firefly", "O Chloroform", "Into the Black" and "Kneel and Obey" while he breathlessly pants and coaxes on the opulent "Lighthouse".
Jim Matheos and Frank Aresti are explosive as ever, putting on a tremendous exhibition of splintering solos and intertwining melodies that sweep through the bridges of eventful songs like "Into the Black". "Kneel and Obey", "One Thousand Fires", "O Chloroform" and "Desire" boast some of Matheos and Aresti's (and Joey Vera's, for that matter) thickest riffs summoned in this band. The pervasive slow grind of "Kneel and Obey" is laced with a hypnotic back melody that offsets its moodiness and erects a set of diverse (and a bit peculiar, honestly) solos, all before taking a banging strut home to the finish.
Of course, what would FATES WARNING be without a fourteen-minute closing epic, "And Yet it Moves?" Beginning with a medieval-kissed acoustic duet from Matheos and Aresti with Joey Vera slowly peeking in, the song bursts with some of the briskest pacing on the album, increasing and decelerating with Bobby Jarzombek forcing the song to stay on the cusp of agitation. "And Yet it Moves" jams for four minutes solid until Ray Alder finally sneaks in and the song takes a more melodic spring forward while maintaining the winding rock grooves in-between the verses. Joey Vera almost steals the limelight behind Alder, plunking up and down for a few measures before the song drops the hammer with Vera, Matheos and Aresti chuffing along to Jarzombek's rolling tides. Then back to the jamming modes and reverberating guitar tweaks that segue into another acoustic-led section redirecting "And Yet it Moves" into the first of at least ten different signatures.
FATES WARNING has hardly missed a step in their downtime. "Darkness in a Different Light" may have needed longer to be laid down versus FATES WARNING's other albums, but the effort pays off with their trademark sophistication and bonus heaviness. If they're trying to prove anything with this album, it's the fact they remain one of the most important prog artists of their time.