I got into Fates Warning a little late in the day, but considering that I’m a child of the alternative era, I think I can be forgiven for waiting until 1996 to pick up my first Fates album at Tower Records in Austin while my sister got her rocks off at a Smashing Pumpkins concert nearby. Within a year, I’d seen the mighty Fates perform the ambitious (and at the time, not terribly well-received) “A Pleasant Shade of Grey” in its entirety. A Fanboy For Life emerged on that hot summer night, and I immediately set about grabbing any Fates Warning CD, LP, and cassette that crossed my path. About a year into that trek, I snagged 1991’s “Parallels” and popped it into my tape deck as I cruised home.
I didn’t dig it.
But I kept listening anyway. Repeatedly, non-stop, ad infinitum, ad nauseam. And months later, it just clicked. I was a bawling mess by the time the album ended, and “Parallels,” an album I basically forced upon myself, injected itself into my DNA and earned its rightful place into my Desert Island Disc list, where it’s comfortably sat for well over twenty years.
And in that respect, “Long Day Good Night” is the spiritual successor “Parallels” didn’t think it would ever get. This isn’t to say that raucous cuts like “Shuttered World” or “Scars” don’t immediately go for the throat. How can tracks that continue the crushing foray the band took with 2013’s “Darkness in a Different Light” and continued with 2016’s “Theories of Flight” be anything other than devastating? And certainly, the brooding opener that is “The Destination Onward” defiantly marks its definitive spot near the top of Fates Warning‘s many apexes. What links “Long Day Good Night” to “Parallels” is how terrifyingly insidious it is. A spin or two will convince any metal-head with a discerning set of ears that “Long Day Good Night” is a fucking beast of a record, but it’s only through repeated listens that the delusory nature of these compositions burrows itself into that pleasantly grey goop in that skull of yours. A week will have you appreciating the record, two weeks will have you loving it, and a month has me ravenously devouring the damn thing. Will it alter my DNA the way “Parallels” did? At this point, I can’t doubt it.
And while “Long Day Good Night” certainly maintains the metallic edge the band rediscovered seven years ago, it also sees the band lightly reincorporating the spacier elements of the late Zonder era while keeping the keyboards to a minimum. “When Snow Falls,” for example, could have been on “FWX,” a point accented by long-absent electronic drumming courtesy of Pineapple Thief and former Porcupine Tree drummer Gavin Harrison. “The Longest Shadow of the Day,” meanwhile, opens with uncharacteristically jazzy sequences before bursting into a frenetic tension that recalls “Perfect Symmetry.” The turbulence intensifies in typical Fates fashion, inducing a cold sense of unease before screeching to a halt only to give way to a lengthy ambient passage inspired by bandleader Jim Matheos‘ side project, Tuesday the Sky. And, again in typical Fates fashion, the tension further intensifies with a freaking slide solo before shifting into a Joey Vera-led denouement that fades out over Mike Abdow‘s effortless shredding and Ray Alder‘s clamorous cries, signifying a state of eternal desolation. Think of this bad boy as “Still Nothing Left to Say.”
Harrison‘s guest appearance, it must be stressed, is only that. Ten-armed drummer Bobby Jarzombek‘s absurdly concise performance on the rest of the record might very well be the element that has taken the Fates Warning latter-day sound from comfortably heavy to terrifyingly crushing. Even on more direct tunes like “Now Comes the Rain,” “Liar,” and the almost grungy “Begin Again,” Jarzombek‘s flair and Matheos‘ metallic sensibility propel what could easily be solid rock performances into the sort of maelstrom that inspires windmilling and air-drumming while you wait for the light to turn green.
It’s not just one epic in a sea of rockers though. “The Way Home” is a brief-for-Fates journey unto itself, while the monumental “Under the Sun” is worthy of induction into the Finest of All Fates Files. The band’s first collaboration with a string section (“Chasing Time” and “At Fate’s Hands” feature only a violin), it opens with a melody that suggests the guys may have spent some time with that last Orphaned Land album before Matheos‘ gently strummed acoustic introduces Alder‘s always-impressive voice. The cut never lashes out into metal territory, rousing instead through shrewd use of texture and harmony. And it does so brilliantly enough to illustrate an earlier point: you could strip this material of its metal and still end up with the heavy.
The listener could be forgiven for thinking that “Long Day Good Night” would have felt just as complete with only eight or nine songs instead of thirteen, but the truth is that each of these compositions is strong enough to warrant inclusion on an album that has a lot riding on it simply because it has to live up to its predecessors. And honestly, if a lengthy record is over in a heartbeat, and if a crushingly heavy record inspires emotions other than simply rage, that’s usually testament to the record’s breadth and longevity. How benignantly malign of Fates Warning that they continue to create music this personal and this punishing.
Released by: Metal Blade Records
Release Date: November 6th, 2020
Genre: Progressive Metal
- Jim Matheos / Guitar
- Ray Alder / Vocals
- Joey Vera / Bass
- Bobby Jarzombek / Drums
- Mike Abdow / Guitar
“Long Day Good Night” track-listing:
- The Destination Onward
- Shuttered World
- Alone We Walk
- Now Comes the Rain
- The Way Home
- Under the Sun
- Begin Again
- When Snow Falls
- Glass Houses
- The Longest Shadows of the Day
- The Last Song
Another victory from a band that simply does not know how to suck