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Fates Warning – A Pleasant Shade of Gray Expanded Review

Fates_Warning_-_A_Pleasant_Shade_of_Gray

 

Released by: Metal Blade Records

Release date: 2 October 2015

Genre: Progressive Metal

Links: fateswarning.com , Facebook , Twitter

 

Lineup:

Jim Matheos

Ray Alder

Joey Vera

Bobby Jarzombek

Frank Aresti

 

Track Listing:

Disc 1

01. Part I

02. Part II

03. Part III

04. Part IV

05. Part V

06. Part VI

07. Part VII

08. Part VIII

09. Part IX

10. Part X

11. Part XI

12. Part XII

Disc 2

01. Part I (Live)

02. Part II (Live)

03. Part III (Live)

04. Part IV (Live)

05. Part V (Live)

06. Part VI (Live)

07. Part VII (Live)

08. Part VIII (Live)

09. Part IX (Live)

10. Part X (Live)

11. Part XI (Live)

12. We Only Say Goodbye (Live Soundcheck)

13. In Trance

Disc 3

01. A Pleasant Shade of Gray (Pre-Production)

02. A Pleasant Shade of Gray (Instrumental)

03. Part II (Remix)

 

Fates Warning’s epic A Pleasant Shade of Gray is one of those albums that from the moment I heard it all the way through, and every listen subsequently (and that is numerous,) I loved deeply and immensely. So much about it connected with me on a far deeper level than music listener or fan: it touched my soul, and very few albums have managed to do that with me. As divided as most Fates fans are over Arch vs. Alder, this album has split many folks too. It took a drastic change in their sound, delving deeper into the progressive realm than they had previously, and left some fans scratching their heads wondering why they went this direction. As a long time fan of the band since the release of No Exit, I was instantly entranced by the new direction. As a prog fan, it easily is one of my favorite albums ever. On so many levels it did exactly what I had always wanted a prog album to do: it had majorly complex musical passages, brilliant instrumentation, haunting vocals, and even within this complexity there is a simple melodic tone throughout. Alder’s voice transcended anything he had done before, and perhaps since, tapping into an emotional longing, this haunting sadness, matched with the stunning guitar work of Jim Matheos, the syncopated brilliance of drummer Mark Zonder, the pulsing bass of Joey Vera, and the stunning keyboard mastery of Kevin Moore making APSoG such an unbridled joy for me.

When Fates Warning started reissuing their back catalog, remastered and chock full of bonus material, there were two albums in particular I was the most anxious to get my hands on: No Exit and A Pleasant Shade of Gray. I have picked them all up over time and have yet to be disappointed by one, but for some reason they held out releasing APSoG. The wait is finally over and listening to this again brings back that same feeling I had the first time, under this musical spell, winding through so many musically dark and familiar passages, it felt like I was reconnecting with a long lost old friend. The sound of the album is spectacular, and has stood the test of time. The bonus material is what makes these reissues so awesome to have for fans. I don’t have the DVD yet, but will, because there are two shows of this album performed in its entirety. One is a performance that was released on VHS, which I have seen before and found it to be excellent, plus a show from the Whiskey A Go Go in 98. The 2nd CD is a full live performance of APSoG from their 1998 European tour for the album, a sound check version of “We Only Say Goodbye,” and a studio version of “In Trance” from Scorpions. The live portion is absolutely amazing, demonstrating just how talented the band is, pulling this masterpiece off live. The sound check track is such a great document to have as it shows that even while warming up they still take it seriously, and knock it out of the park. The FW guys rarely have done covers, and when they do they’ve been excellent, and “In Trance” is yet another one. The 3rd and final disc is pre-production and writing of the album, and it is really cool hearing these songs I have loved for so long take form, where they went from their earlier version; to me this hits me close to home reminding me of when I played music, and how that creative process truly was the best part of making music.

I get where this album can create conflict for some people. Progressive music isn’t for everyone, and though this album is super prog, I still think there are some absolutely beautiful moments of melodic rock, driving metal riffs, and that voice that it should appeal to everyone to some degree. If you’re a fan like me, this is the expanded album you have been waiting for, and it has been well worth the wait. A Pleasant Shade of Gray is an album that will forever be one of the main soundtracks of my life. My fanboy feelings for them might make me a bit biased for this review, so take that into consideration when checking out the album (if you haven’t already.)

Written by: Chris Martin

 

Ratings: Chris 10/10

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