Saturday, February 8, 2014

Fates Warning - No Exit

There seem to be two camps when it comes to Fates Warning.  There is the camp that absolutely worships original vocalist John Arch and there is the (much smaller) camp that prefers current vocalist Ray Alder. I'm actually part of the Alder camp. I do believe that John Arch was a great metal vocalist for his time and, unlike Ray Alder, he has succeeded in keeping his voice in tip top shape. However, there was something about his voice that just didn't connect with me and I feel that Ray Alder had a much better tone. No Exit is the first album with Ray Alder and I feel that this album is the peak of the band's career both in songwriting and in execution.

No Exit was my first exposure to the band so maybe that is where my bias comes into play. Any metal head who is around my age will remember seeing "Silent Cries" on Headbanger's Ball and that is where I first heard the band. I'm not sure why I hadn't heard of them prior to this album since they had three other albums on Metal Blade before No Exit, but nonetheless I hadn't. When I heard the song I immediately purchased the album and I about wore the grooves off of it. After that I looked into the band's past and did not believe then nor do I believe now that Fates Warning has put out a better album.

After a brief intro song (which is the title track) we go right into "Anarchy Divine." Straight out of the shoot this song just reeks power and top notch musicianship. The riffs range from pure thrash to driving power metal. The solos are skilled and classy. Ray Alder wastes no time showing his vocal range with some of the best vocals to ever grace metal music. The remainder of the first half of the album is more of the same with songs that show how the band can go from pure thrash riffs to a more prog/power sound. Songs like the aforementioned "Silent Cries" and the thrashier "Shades of Heavenly Death" are full of pure power. "In a Word" is between the two and a bit slower but no less powerful.

The second half of the album is the monumental song "The Ivory Gate of Dreams" that clocks in just under 22:00 and is in eight parts. There are beginning and ending acoustic parts that segue into parts II through VII which are absolutely brilliant. This is one of the best metal songs ever made. There are those who criticize this album for all kinds of reasons from...from it's lack of direction and melody to just the fact that it's not John Arch. If you go into this album with blinders on, you are denying yourself a quality slice of classic U.S. prog/power metal. This album is essential.


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