Released: 2013, InsideOut Music
Reviewer: Peter Atkinson
Prog-metal icons Fates Warning return with their first album in nine years and seem rather cranky after the long layoff – though they have toured sporadically and most of the participants here had a hand in founding guitarist Jim Matheos and founding vocalist John Arch’s Sympathetic Resonance album in 2011.
Darkness In A Different Light is almost startling in its comparatively harsher tone and heaviness, which is apparent from the get-go as opener “One Thousand Fires” reaches right out and grabs you by the throat. The typically sleek guitar lines from Matheos and Fates returnee Frank Aresti (making his first appearance since 1994’s Inside Out) have a decidedly rougher, crunchier edge and new drummer Bobby Jarzombek is more aggressive and hits a lot harder than the jazzier Mark Zonder, teaming with bassist Joey Vera to provide a sturdy backbone throughout. Vocalist Ray Alder, too, delivers a huskier performance that emphasizes mid-range and only soars to the upper register on the album’s more measured material, like “Firefly” or “Lighthouse.”
That’s not to say these guys are sounding like Testament or anything like that these days, but for a band long noted for their finesse and sometimes languid flair, songs like “I Am,” “O Chloroform” and, especially, “Kneel And Obey” are quite jarring. And I mean that as a compliment.
Fates have smartly re-established their presence quite emphatically here. Why merely dip your toes back in the water when the cannonball approach can make a much bigger splash? And while their more prog-minded fans may be a bit taken aback by the forcefulness of Different Light, there’s still plenty of the clever melodies, challenging arrangements and instrumental flare that have long been the band’s forte. It all just hits a bit harder as, like its nearly decade-old predecessor FWX, the songs are tight and streamlined, rarely drifting off on extended jams or tangents.
Matheos seems to have gotten much of those technical propensities out of his system on the sprawling Sympathetic Resonance album. Granted, the lone epic here is pretty friggin’ EPIC, with “And Yet It Moves” concluding the album over a 14-minute suite that boasts all the complexity and scale you could want. But it’s still a very heavy tune overall, and ends with the same sort of abrupt, catch-you-by-surprise wallop as the start of the album.
A bold, even brazen, return.