Fates Warning - Long Day Good Night

Fates Warning Long Day Good Night cover
Fates Warning
Long Day Good Night
Metal Blade Records
I must admit that if I like Fates Warning for any reason, over any of the other popular prog bands, ie Dream Theater and Queensryche, not to disregard some less popular, but equally artistic contemporaries of theirs is that they somehow always progressed, never resting on their laurels (for too long), or released a patently bad record. They might have experienced slower periods, times when they changed their sound rather drastically, but they always seemed to be artistically driven.
The past couple of decades have been a little different, as a reunion of the earlier lineups in order to tour some seminal albums, after MZ left the band and the Arch era projects since, have interfered with the work schedule more than a bit. If one listens to the past few albums of “Fates”, one might be inclined to think that they might have run out of ideas about how to creatively channel their artistry and they just go for a supercharged and modernized version of their late eighties/early nineties sound – (ie “Perfect Symmetry” to “Inside Out”). While that is not entirely false, it’s also not the whole truth… as it seems that the resulting sound is as much planned as it’s an aporia of circumstances and the timing of each of the releases.
The new “Fates” album is as one would expect… technical, melodic, heavy, often melancholic and all encompassing daring to be free, but at the same time not taking any particular chances with that freedom, with the band rather playing on its strengths. It manages to easily creep up and invade your psyche, almost without you realizing… it’s that organically woven.
“The Destination Onward” builds for nearly three minutes, over a bittersweet ambiance, before it decides to metal it out, but the “Parallels” one could draw to a lot of songs from the band’s catalog, are numerous and not that hard to discern.
“Shuttered World” is audibly heavier and its melancholy and elegy are exemplified, by the sublime melodies and steady but ear-worming build. This is a band retreading familiar waters and retracing its steps but doing so with finesse and not by trying to flaunt virtuosity over musical substance.
“Alone We Walk” has a persistent riff and ambiance over it… in the intro and Ray Alder bares his soul with a performance that’s sincere as it is heartfelt. That’s prior to the man-octapus of a drummer known as Bobby Jarzombeck (Riot, Halford and more) coming in and filling the song, with some rather tasty drum patterns that keep it from stagnating as they push the vocal performances into overdrive and leave just enough space for some superb Matheos ideas to develop and cement the whole thing as a great song.
“Now Comes the Rain” is closer to a ballad… well more of a soft, melancholic tune, which feels cathartic, than anything else, but it’s as welcome as rain after a long drawn-out draught. I love how smartly the band manages to one-up it into something much heavier midway… only for it to slowly decay again afterwards.
“The Way Home” has an almost Floydesque ambiance initially and after a rather jazzy interlude it just forays into the deep ocean of heavy prog, without losing its lyricism or gusto.
And while the album could use a jolt of energy at this point, the band decides to take it a step further, by stripping a song down to its bare essentials and incorporate some strings as well (not the first time they’ve done that either)… the result is “Under the Sun” one of the most lyrical things the band has done, this side of the millennium and definitely among its best ever. Even in its stripped down state, the trademark melodies and the atmosphere are everywhere to be found, thus justifying the bands risky wager to go “naked”.
The aforementioned jolt of energy that the album might have needed comes in the form of “Scars” that following a far more delicate cut sounds way heavier. It bears all of Fates trademarks over an eastern sounding ambiance and a wall of grungier guitars that create a very interesting amalgam. The lead as well might be short, but it’s to the point, so it doesn’t distract too much from the rest of the track… it just accomplishes the role of making things interesting and up-tempo again.
“Begin Again” has an intro that you could mistake for some alt-rock band, but then just turns into typical Fates fare, at a tip of a hat… and even if it feels a little leftfield, it would not be the first time either… as any listeners of “Disconnected” might attest.
Talking about leftfield… well “When Snow Falls” feat. Pineapple Thief drummer Gavin Harisson (also formerly with Porcupine Tree) in the place of BJ and his performance, as well as the overall ambiance, make this song feel like something that wouldn’t have felt out of place in “FWX”.
“Liar” feels more to the point, but at every turn the band idiosyncrasies just pop up to remind you, who you’re listening, be it Matheos’ solo, the busy drumming of Jarzombeck or Alder’s comfortable delivery over the complexities going on in the background. That’s not to also understate Joey Vera’s ever-present bass that accents rhythmically everything that Mr J throws his way.
“Glass Houses” is a joy to behold and obviously to hear – as it feels like a culmination of all Fates, strengths – into an upbeat, yet organic track that sits among their best this side of the millennium and something that wouldn’t have felt out of place in any of their classic albums…
“The Longest Shadow of the Day” has all these Ja(r)zzy spastic-isms that lead it into a “Symmetrical” instrumental section that is delectable, only for it to go acoustic midway, whereupon the first vocals arrive – some six minutes into the song. Things get electrified again and Matheos interjects for a bit, with the whole thing resembling a more “traditional” song for just a bit – since Matheos just solos the living shit out of it – bringing it to a close. Nice, if not a little too drawn out and adventurous, without it necessarily managing to fulfill all expectations.
“The Last Song”’s title is a little tongue in cheek, but its musical contents are nothing sort of amazing, with Alder once more pouring his soul over some sublime acoustic guitars, singing some beautifully poignant lyrics.
In short, this is an album that Fates aficionados will just love, but other people’s tolerances or attraction to it might vary – depending on their musical background and taste. After a momentarily hesitation over semantics, I decided that I liked this newest step in the band’s slow but sure evolution of sound and once I surrendered myself after consecutive replays I found myself liking this album almost as much as any in their long but always eclectic catalog. One of the best albums of 2020 for sure!