fanned by a flame I can't remember
but distant lights still burn bright
and the road goes on forever"
One Word Review: Wise
With the recruitment of their new singer Ray Alder, Fates Warning started moving towards a more accessible sound. At this point in their career, every album had been significantly different from the last one and Parallels lives up to this legacy. The album trilogy of "No Exit", "Perfect Symmetry" and "Parallels" shows an evolution that really comes into its own here. Parallels is the perfect marriage of challenging, thoughtful and easily accessible music. It is catchy, yet long lasting, technical and detailed, yet not overwhelming because it keeps the melodic element in focus at all times. If there is such a thing as Pop-Prog-Metal then this is it.
Part of why the album is so easily accessible can be attributed to its warm production, which really is as close to perfection as I can imagine. Every instrument is given its own clear space to unfold. Bass, drums and guitars all have a wonderful sound.
Guitarist Jim Matheos is responsible for writing all the music and I am guessing he wrote all the lyrics as well. Ray Alder sings these with a ton of emotion and his voice holds a certain sadness that really hits home. He is much more controlled than on the previous two records and it suits his voice.
Mark Zonder shows his incredible skill on the drums by constantly changing patterns and adding a ton of detail to the music. I cannot stress how amazing it is, listening to him play.
Joe Dibiase on bass is another creative spirit roaming free. His bass lines often lead the way and bring both intensity and extra nuances to the melodies.
From the gentle opening notes of Leave the past behind to the gentle closing notes of The road goes on forever the album mixes memorable choruses and vocal melodies with technical brilliance in a way that is compact, interesting and never boring.
This is one of those albums where you don't really notice the guitar solos until you start listening for them and discover that they are outstanding all around. The guitar sound has a lovely crunch to it throughout and this gives a song like Life on Still Water and extra edge.
The album doesn't take any detours into long instrumental passages or 20 minutes epics and in this case, it is better for it.
Commenting on some of the songs, you should especially check out the drum and bass detail in Leave the past behind, which is astounding. Life in Still water holds genuine tension until it is finally released in the chorus. Eye to Eye opens with a small explosion, heads into a heavy riff and has my absolute favorite moment of the album, arriving when Ray, in a spine-chilling way, delivers the lines:
All we can really share
Is the coldness we feel
And the silent memory
Of the moment we met
The Eleventh Hour opens with some big emotions and just when you think you're listening to a ballad, the song explodes in a massive display of musical fireworks, detailed in a way that leaves room for many repeated listens. I especially like the galloping bass line that pops up several times during this section. For a while, this was my least favorite song off the album, but now I don't see how I could have ever thought that.
Point of View is a superb, straight ahead rock song that might have been delicately carved out for radio airplay, but still deserves a serious banging of head during its captivating chorus. The same can be said for Don't Follow Me.
A slowly suffocating fog of sadness surrounds We only say goodbye. The clear guitar notes work wonderfully in realizing this. The road goes on forever gently ends the album with a glimmer of hope.
One way of summing up the lyrics could be: Live your life to the fullest. The lyrics beautifully touch upon various subjects of inner turmoil, but never really give an answer, just a circle to follow.
Though I long for the unique atmosphere that pervaded the albums the band did with John Arch as lead singer, Parallels has other qualities which overcome this and make me embrace the album for what it is; a compelling, thoughtful and above all enjoyable collection of songs. A classic without doubt and my personal favorite in the Ray Alder-era of Fates Warning so far.
Fates Warning are heading to Europe later this month. I will be at Rock Cafe in Hamburg for their live show on November 1'st. Hope to see you there.
Written By Steen
Online: Tuesday, October 7, 2014
Leave The Past Behind
Point Of View