Fates Warning – Long Day Good Night – Album Review

 

Artist: Fates Warning

Album Title: Long Day Good Night

Label: Metal Blade Records

Date of Release: 6 November 2020

The discussion topic for today is this: can you really call yourself a progressive metal fan if you don’t like, or have never really listened to Fates Warning?

Clearly and obviously, the answer has to be ‘yes’, because we can’t all like the same music all of the time. However, I ask the question simply because Fates Warning are undoubtedly an institution within the world of progressive metal. For over three decades, they have helped to shape the genre that so many of us love and have loved for many years. Naturally then, it is always an exciting day when a new album is forthcoming from the US heavyweights, even if I can be brutally honest and admit to Fates Warning not being at the top of my prog metal list.

‘Long Day Good Night’ is the name given to the thirteenth album from the quintet since their inception back in 1982. Fans will naturally have their favourite albums; it would be almost impossible for this not to be the case. Nevertheless, I think we can all agree that their appeal and longevity is down to the fact that they are an incredibly talented band with a generally high quality threshold. Personally, I hold ‘Disconnected’ and ‘A Pleasant Shade Of Gray’ in high regard but equally, I felt that ‘Theories Of Flight’ (2016) was a highly impressive release too, demonstrating that they are far from dining out on past glories.

So what of ‘Long Day Good Night’ then?

As with many of their records over the years, this new opus, that is stretched over 13 tracks and an impressive 72 minutes, is a definite grower. If you’re anything like me and you need several spins before making a proper judgement, you’ll probably hear flashes of brilliance initially, but you’ll hold fire on any declaration. Indeed, if I had penned this review after a couple of spins, the score would easily have been a third lower than it is today. Like all good, sophisticated progressive music, it needs time and attention.

Stylistically, it sits across a number of their previous releases, from the atmospherics of ‘Disconnected’ (on balance, probably my favourite FW album), to the heaviness and crunch of their more recent releases. Intriguingly, it incorporates a few new ideas and styles too, just to keep things as fresh as possible. In essence, it is a culmination of everything that the band is good at and is known for, plus a little bit more besides.

It goes without saying that all of the performances here are tight, precise, and out of the top drawer. However, special mention has to go to Ray Alder. It was a sad day when he parted ways with Redemption, but hearing him in this kind of form on a Fates Warning record, it was (he says through gritted teeth and grudgingly) maybe the best decision. Alder has rarely sounded so good to my ears. The passion, the range, the power, and the emotion; they’re all here and they take the music, largely co-written with original guitarist Jim Matheos, to another level entirely.

The opening track, ‘The Destination Onward’ is a monster of a song, a kind of classic Fates track that has incredibly humble beginnings, made of sounds that appear to tentatively peek from under the cracks. The distorted guitar notes are fantastic, as are the opening vocals from Ray Alder. The song builds slowly and surely, with more and more instruments gradually entering the fray. The bass rumble is incredible, the drums full of punch and snap, all made crystal clear by a super production. Once the song gets going, it gets right under the skin, ebbing and flowing smoothly, introducing great riffs and insidious melodies that you don’t really hear until it’s too late and they’ve done their damage. The flamboyance is also there for all to hear, from eloquent lead guitar solos, to dextrous percussion and everything in between. All-in-all, it’s a great start to the record.

By contrast, ‘Shuttered World’ is a harder and faster composition, that carries an infectious groove and catchy as hell chorus, which was easily one of the few highlights that emerged from the very first listen. ‘Alone We Walk’ is Fates Warning at their heavy, stomping best boasting a more and more catchy chorus with each passing listen, not to mention more irresistible groove.

What I particularly like about this album, as I hinted at earlier in the review, is the variety that the band are able to offer on ‘Long Day Good Night’. It is in no way a one-dimensional affair, but then when has a Fates album ever been that? ‘The Way Home’ features a beautifully fragile intro, arguably the most emotional part of the entire album. Alder is pure gold here, but the music’s subtlety is what enhances the performance, just as it should be with a band of this experience and talent.

Then there’s ‘When Snow Falls’, a much more minimalist piece with a more modern tone, emphasised by a greater use of electronics, including an electronic beat in places. It also boasts a guest appearance by drummer Gavin Harrison (Porcupine Tree/The Pineapple Thief). To mix things up further, ‘Under The Sun’ opens with a rich, lush orchestral string intro, only to develop into a melodic acoustic guitar-led song, full of emotion and a certain amount of drama. The addition of the real string section, however, is the icing on the cake.

‘Begin Again’, one of my lesser favourites it must be said, injects a blues-like swagger, whilst ‘Glass Houses’ is a shorter, punchier composition, with a relatively instant, catchy chorus, much more up my street.

‘The Longest Shadow of the Day’ is, unsurprisingly, the longest track on the record at over eleven minutes, but it’s over in a flash. The intro is jazzy and playful, with bass and guitar solos jamming over the top of a pulsing beat with abandon and true freedom of expression. However, on a song of contrasts, brutal drumming and muscular riffing vies for the listener’s attention with sections where the instrumentation drops away almost completely to leave just a delicate acoustic guitar or heartfelt vocals from Alder. I adore the chunky and resonant distorted chords that all-too-briefly emerge from the more introspective passages, although the vibrant bass line that replaces it is infectious. And the final exuberant lead solo from Matheos is insane.

If I was to criticise anything on ‘Long Day Good Night’, it’d be that it’s just a little on the long side. And yet, for my money, it is the longer tracks that are the best on this album. I’d probably ditch ‘Liar’ and possibly ‘Begin Again’ to be honest; just a little pruning here and there might have been a blessing in disguise. Other than that, I can’t really fault Fates Warning here. They have taken every skill in their armoury and have blended them into a captivating album, one that underlines their importance within progressive metal circles and demonstrates that they still have the magic in abundance that made them the force to be reckoned with in the very beginning. More mature, more nuanced, but still full of hunger, desire and an abundance of skill. Let’s hope ‘The Final Song’ isn’t a prophetic statement…

The Score of Much Metal: 92%

Check out my reviews from 2020 right here:

Draconian – Under A Godless Veil

Mörk Gryning – Hinsides Vrede

DGM – Tragic Separation

Perduratum – Exile’s Anthology

Carcass – Despicable EP

Mors Principium Est – Seven

Cult Of Lilith – Mara

Helion Prime – Question Everything

Soul Secret – Blue Light Cage

Enslaved – Utgard

Dynfari – Myrkurs er þörf

Amaranthe – Manifest

Kataklysm – Unconquered

Structural Disorder – Kingdom Crossing

Skeletal Remains – The Entombment Of Chaos

Prehistoric Animals – The Magical Mystery Machine (Chapter One)

Ihsahn – Pharos

Hinayana – Death Of The Cosmic
Oceans Of Slumber – Oceans Of Slumber
Okyr – Premorbid Intelligence
Manticora – To Live To Kill To Live
Pain Of Salvation – Panther
Vanishing Point – Dead Elysium
Unleash The Archers – Abyss
Veonity – Sorrows
Nyktophobia – What Lasts Forever
Ages – Uncrown
Awake By Design – Awake By Design
Black Crown Initiate – Violent Portraits Of Doomed Escape
Gaerea – Limbo
Buried Realm – Embodiment Of The Divine
Navian – Reset
Selenseas – The Outer Limits
Quantum – The Next Breath Of Air
Ensiferum – Thalassic
Long Distance Calling – How Do We Want To Live?
Airbag – A Day At The Beach
Re-Armed – Ignis Aeternum
Atavist – III: Absolution
Frost* – Others EP
Darker Half – If You Only Knew
Atavistia – The Winter Way
Astralborne – Eternity’s End
Centinex – Death In Pieces
Haken – Virus
Pile Of Priests – Pile Of Priests
Sorcerer – Lamenting Of The Innocent
Lesoir – Mosaic
Temnein – Tales: Of Humanity And Greed
Caligula’s Horse – Rise Radiant
…And Oceans – Cosmic World Mother
Vader – Solitude In Madness
Shrapnel – Palace For The Insane
Sinisthra – The Broad And Beaten Way
Paradise Lost – Obsidian
Naglfar – Cerecloth
Forgotten Tomb – Nihilistic Estrangement
Winterfylleth – The Reckoning Dawn
Firewind – Firewind
An Autumn For Crippled Children – All Fell Silent, Everything Went Quiet
Havok – V
Helfró – Helfró
Victoria K – Essentia
Cryptex – Once Upon A Time
Thy Despair – The Song Of Desolation
Cirith Ungol – Forever Black
Igorrr – Spirituality and Distortion
Nightwish – Human. II: Nature.
Katatonia – City Burials
Wolfheart – Wolves Of Karelia
Asenblut – Die Wilde Jagd
Nicumo – Inertia
The Black Dahlia Murder – Verminous
Omega Infinity – Solar Spectre
Symbolik – Emergence
Pure Reason Revolution – Eupnea
Irist – Order Of The Mind
Testament – Titans Of Creation
Ilium – Carcinogeist
Dawn Of Ouroboros – The Art Of Morphology
Torchia – The Coven
Novena – Eleventh Hour
Ashes Of Life – Seasons Within
Dynazty – The Dark Delight
Sutrah – Aletheia EP
Welicoruss – Siberian Heathen Horde
Myth Of I – Myth Of I
My Dying Bride – The Ghost Of Orion
Infirmum – Walls Of Sorrow
Inno – The Rain Under
Kvaen – The Funeral Pyre
Mindtech – Omnipresence
Dark Fortress – Spectres From The Old World
The Oneira – Injection
Night Crowned – Impius Viam
Dead Serenity – Beginnings EP
The Night Flight Orchestra – Aeromantic
Deadrisen – Deadrisen
Blaze Of Perdition – The Harrowing Of Hearts
Godsticks – Inescapable
Isle Of The Cross – Excelsis
Demons & Wizards – III
Vredehammer – Viperous
H.E.A.T – H.E.A.T II
Psychotic Waltz – The God-Shaped Void
Into The Open – Destination Eternity
Lunarsea – Earthling/Terrestre
Pure Wrath – The Forlorn Soldier EP
Sylosis – Cycle of Suffering
Sepultura – Quadra
Dyscordia – Delete / Rewrite
Godthrymm – Reflections
On Thorns I Lay – Threnos
God Dethroned – Illuminati
Fragment Soul – A Soul Inhabiting Two Bodies
Mariana Semkina – Sleepwalking
Mini Album Reviews: Moloken, The Driftwood Sign & Midnight
Serenity – The Last Knight
Ihsahn – Telemark EP
Temperance – Viridian
Blasphemer – The Sixth Hour
Deathwhite – Grave Image
Marko Hietala – Pyre Of The Black Heart
SWMM – Trail Of The Fallen
Into Pandemonium – Darkest Rise EP
Bonded – Rest In Violence
Serious Black – Suite 226
Darktribe – Voici L’Homme
Brothers Of Metal – Emblas Saga
A Life Divided – Echoes
Thoughts Factory – Elements

You can also check out my other reviews from previous years right here:

2019 reviews
2018 reviews
2017 reviews
2016 reviews
2015 reviews

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s