Fates Warning - Awaken The Guardian
Some albums never grow old.

Awaken the Guardian is the evolutionary peak of Fates Warning's John Arch era, an album that is unique on every level and cannot be compared to anything else I have ever heard. To my ears it is the perfect marriage of heavy and progressive metal and it makes no compromise. It builds on their previous two albums, Night on Bröcken and The Spectre Within, and adds a spice that has since become extinct from this world.

The album was released in 1986 and with most things that are truly innovative, Fates Warning were pioneers of this style at the time. The musical style is far from commercial, somewhat introverted and incredibly challenging, even to the observant listener. This means that even though I found the album instantly captivating, I still find the album fresh and abound with new detail 15 years and several hundred listens after discovering it.

Individually each musician is a treat to focus on, but combined they create a vast and wonderful musical universe that you can enjoy and explore endlessly. Once you hear the album you should understand.
The guitar riffs are incredibly heavy and vary constantly. Frank Aresti has replaced Victor Arduini and together with main songwriter Jim Matheos delivers an absolute firework of guitar bliss. The guitar sound is seriously addictive with a thick crunch and often brings on thoughts of Black Sabbath, only heavier and more aggressive. Listening to the guitar detail is a thrilling adventure.

Steve Zimmerman on drums and Joe DiBiase on bass lay the perfect groove and give the album a tight, yet relaxed feel. Zimmerman shines throughout the whole album with creative fills and impressive skill. There is a special vibe to his drumming that simply fits the band. Joe DiBiase on bass is mostly far back in the thick sound, but close listening will be rewarded, as fx. in the beginnings of Fata Morgana and Prelude to Ruin.

The one element that makes all the difference though is vocalist John Arch. His voice is like an otherworldly instrument that imbue the songs with mystical atmosphere and boundless emotion. There are countless, and I mean countless, moments on the album where I find myself amazed at the vocal melodies he conjures or the little detail in his voice that is able to add a whole other layer to the atmosphere. So I had a pretty hard time compiling the following top five of my favorite John Arch moments on the album. These are all true spine chillers.

Top five John Arch moments:

1. Exodus at 5:00 - That vocal melody. Never has a scream sounded so utterly melodic.
2. Guardian at 4:51 - "I had a dream I was you, Strong as the fire in my veins"
3. Fata Morgana at 3:50 - "Morrigan upon her throne. She's a mirrored mirage of my desire..."
4. Giant's Lore at 4:01 - "His frost bitten heart".
5. Prelude to Ruin at 5:40 - "Time, time, time, an imaginary line. Mine not yours nor yours mine".

Numbers 2, 3 and 5 are all unexpected and completely disarming vocal melodies. Words fail me when trying to describe the genius of John Arch. He has to be heard and felt.

Each song stands out in its own way with individual strength and detail making an impact upon repeated listens. My personal favorites would be the threesome of Fata Morgana, Guardian and Exodus but they only outperform the rest by a small margin. The dense lyrics are a chapter all to themselves and I will not even try to get into them here.

So many timeless moments inhabit each song that I feel hard pressed when I try to draw forward just one from each. For instance the way John Arch adds intensity to he last chorus of The Sorceress, the way he embellishes the word Holocaust in Valley of the Dolls, the dual lead guitar attack opening Fata Morgana, the jaw-dropping first minute of Guardian, the splendid guitar solo that follows the first chorus of Giant's Lore along with the one after the ensuing verse, the way the drumming gives the beginning of Prelude to ruin an especially cool rythm and last but certainly not least the incredible harmonies that flow through the chorus of the album's ending epic, Exodus.

I have to deepen my impression of one song in particular as it really shows what Fates Warning is capable of. The 7+ minute Guardian is an emotional and tense musical journey with a rise and a release that is simply phenomenal. Soft acoustic verses lead beautifully to heavy and ultra melodic chorus sections. The song weaves in and out of different passages and near the end it rises in intensity and speed in an unforgettable bridge section.

Metal Blade re-released the album as a 2CD + 1DVD package back in 2005 and it is worth picking up even if you have the original. 3 demo recordings, and exciting live material make up the bonus material.

Classic, masterpiece or crown jewel. You decide for yourself. Each of these declarations work for me. Awaken The Guardian is a sonic feast that deserves to be cherished with the utmost respect.

Written by Steen
Friday, December 7, 2007
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Steen: 9.5/10

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Comment by ThraX (Member) - Sunday, December 9, 2007
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This album is amazing and is by far the best album featuring John Arch, "Guardian" is one of the best songs ever created in the world of music. This is the perfect bridge album frrom what there earlier work that was thrash metal with melody this album is the first step inot the progressive rock relam in which the band would excel and set extremely high standards in the world of progressive rock. I love this album and i love John Arch's vocals..........9.5/10

Posted by ThraX
Sunday, December 9, 2007

Review by Steen

Released by
Metal Blade - 1986

1. The Sorceress
2. Valley Of The Dolls
3. Fata Morgana
4. Guardian
5. Prelude To Ruin
6. Giant's Lore (Heart Of Winter)
7. Time Long Past
8. Exodus

Re-released in 2005 with bonus CD and DVD

Fates Warning

Related links
Visit the band page

Fates Warning - Official Website

Other articles
The Spectre within (Re-release) - (Steen)

The View From Here - (Hashman)

Parallels - (Steen)

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