FATES WARNING – Awaken the Guardian (1986)

Review by: Tristan Peterson
Album assigned by: Eden Hunter

FFO: Dream Theater, Savatage, Symphony X

Well, you can certainly tell where a lot of 90s prog metal bands go their sound!

Fates Warning is a progressive metal band from Connecticut, formed in 1982.  Awaken the Guardian is their third album.  Funnily, for a third album, they sound remarkably mature as a group.  Of course, there is still the pretension that is coupled with the genre, but the album still maintains a remarkable amount of humanity to it.

Being a Dream Theater freak in my younger years, I can very much hear the influence Fates Warning had on them, as well as contemporaries Savatage and Symphony X.  In fact, if I remember rightly, John Arch auditioned for Dream Theater after Charlie Dominici left the band!

Now to get to the music.  The album, on a technical level, is very skillful.  This obviously isn’t Fates Warning’s first rodeo, and they make rather impressive instrumentals.  The guitar work is enjoyable most of the time, and the drums and bass compliment the guitar quite nicely.  The most noticeable, and arguably rememberable part of the album, is the voice of John Arch.  He has a voice which inspired many (again, citing Dream Theater, as their first album sounds terrifyingly similar to this one) and is astoundingly unique.  Although slightly grating on the ears when it doesn’t fit the music, for the most part Arch’s voice blends incredibly well with the rest of Fates Warning.  Side note: Awaken The Guardian also has rather interesting lyrics.

The main problem with the album though, is that, even with all of the plusses it has, it is generic.  I maintain the viewpoint that you are still generic even if you are the artist who started the trend.  So while the instrumentation and lyrics are good, and the vocals are equally good if also grating at times, I can’t really get behind it.  Some of the songs feel as if they go on for too long, and in those longer songs, the good moments are few and far between.  Although I said it’s surprisingly mature and human for a progressive metal album, it still feels incredibly pretentious.  The lyrics as well, while good, end up feeling repetitive, and complex only for the sake of complexity.  That being said, I still do respect the album and musicianship.

Overall, if you REALLY like progressive metal, or are interested in its history, then check it out, because it provides an interesting glimpse into the building blocks of a genre.  Otherwise, there isn’t much there that you haven’t already heard.  Which, sadly, for all it was built up to for me, made it fall flat and fall hard.


LEAST FAVORITE TRACKS: Prelude To Ruin, Guardian