It’s not just incredible, it’s absolutely stunning that a band, who only a year before had released essentially a NWOBHM worship album would follow that up with an utter masterpiece of heavy metal. High praise? Certainly. But Fates Warning
deserve every single amount of praise ever heaped upon them for this album and its successor. These two albums are the ultimate expression of traditional heavy metal – better than Mercyful Fate
, Judas Priest
, Iron Maiden, all obvious influences and all excellent bands. But Fates Warning
surpassed them with this album.
Within differs quite a bit from its immediate counterparts in the Fates Warning
discography – this record is a huge step from Night
on Brocken, in terms of both quality and identity, in that while the band retain a huge amount of influences from those bands I listed (and of course Black Sabbath
), they have more of a distinctive identity than beforehand. Likewise, this differs from its successor, Awaken the Guardian
, in terms of songwriting and emotional mood – the music on this album is somewhat less progressive in nature (though absolutely not to its detriment and at times equally complex in construction), it boasts a slightly heavier production job, and in terms of lyrical matter, it is much darker in terms in mood than its successor. All in due time, of course.
The songwriting deserves highest praise I can bestow upon it. What sets Fates Warning
apart from the average traditional metal band is their seamless ability to integrate John Arch
’s sublime vocal melodies firmly into the songwriting without forgetting that the firm anchor of any good metal band are the RIFFS. Furthermore, this band had a natural talent for introducing the progressive elements into the songs at key moments and not merely for the sake of it, like a lot of other, lesser bands would’ve done. The band also showcase an exceptional ear for dynamics and song arrangements- Fates Warning
were highly adept at knowing how to pick a riff and utilize it as the main horse of a song while having the vocal melodies and the guitars complement each other, when to throw in a switch up, etc. The band clearly spent a lot of time writing and composing these songs, as they are meticulously written and performed to perfection.
’s vocals are the most immediately identifiable element of the group’s sound on a first listen, in that he most closely resembles a cross between Bruce Dickinson
from Iron Maiden and Jon Anderson from Yes, albeit still somewhat loosely. Arch’s vocals are extremely high-pitched and nasal, which might be off-putting to listeners at first. That
said, what makes Arch one of the best singers in heavy metal is his superb ability for his vocal melodies to match the guitars perfectly, without diminishing said guitar work’s importance like a lot of lesser ‘power’ metal bands would.(IE Sonata Arctica
etc) Arch’s ability to interweave his vocal lines with the rest of the music – as evidenced with “The Apparition
” and “Epitaph
”, though most every song has that – alongside his incredibly genuine delivery makes his singing one of a kind as far as heavy music goes.
The guitar work is also what makes this such a truly incredible album. Fates Warning
actually understand the idea of a great riff to carry the songs, and the riffs are absolutely among the best in their vein. The riffs are very traditional in nature, boasting an overt Diamond Head
, Iron Maiden, and Mercyful Fate
influence, but they’re by no means clones of those bands, and they’re incredibly well constructed. Heavy and bludgeoning, yet easily memorable, these riffs are absolutely perfect the way they are written. The lead guitar work is similarly incredible; they’re very melodic, the band’s Mercyful Fate
influence shining through most in them, and incredibly melodic, emotional at times – yet they never stray into saccharine and masturbatory territory, instead remaining supremely controlled and integrated into the songs, adding a huge amount to these songs melodically. They’re not the most technical blazing shreds ever, but they’re still very involved, and likewise, solos like that would’ve only detracted from this. The only traditional metal album that is better than this in the lead guitar department would be the aforementioned Mercyful Fate
’s Don’t Break the Oath
In addition, the rhythm section is highly skilled at what they do. The bass for the most part follows the guitars, but the fact that the bass is actually audible, with a thick, gritty tone already adds a lot to this album’s sound. Drums are exceptionally performed, with some very creative fills, almost jazzy fills to complement the songs alongside the usual gallop and double-bass beats. The best part about the rhythm section is that they do their job incredibly effectively, but they go about in a tasteful manner where they don’t steal the spotlight for no reason.
As for the highlights, every single song on this album is absolutely incredible. “Traveller In Time” gets things off to a long-winded and intricate start, with killer riffwork and consistently shifting song developments. “Orphan Gypsy
” is a bit more direct musically, opening up with a classic metal riff before segueing into one of the best Maiden-styled duel-leads ever, eventually shifting into a somewhat off-kilter verse riff. “Without A Trace” and “Kyrie Eleison
” are the fastest songs on the album and the most nominally straightforward, but the band continue to excel with exceptional song-craft and well-placed soloing. “Pirates of the Underground” is another intricate song, with one of the best middle sections and outros in all of metal; bludgeoning riffs and a very Diamond Head
-esque solo in the middle. The outro contains another exceptional Maiden-styled duel lead, but done so much better than even that band could’ve ever done. “The Apparition
” is the best song on the album, perhaps a bit more straight-forward than previous tracks, but still an incredible song, with an ethereal vocal melody leading the way above the guitars and some shifting riffwork before segueing into the verses. This song also contains a bona-fide thrash break in the middle, which is something Fates Warning
would expand on with their following effort.
” is the real epic of the album, almost twelve-minutes long and with four distinct parts to it. It’s the longest and more progressive song on the entire album, but the band don’t simply wank around on their instruments here, they put this song together masterfully, with an exceptional use of the acoustic guitar in this song. The four individual parts are amazingly well-written and what’s more, they form an incredibly cohesive whole without overly sticking out from one another. They even throw in some keyboards during the fade-out as a complement to the guitars and the vocals, without the cheesy, chintzy tone that many other bands favor.
The production is, simply put, some of the finest on a heavy metal release ever. The sound may be more ‘limited’ when compared to modern metal bands, but the production is crystal clear; polished, yet still heavy in sound. All of the instruments come through loud and clear, and manage to all cohesively fit together inside the mix without clashing with one another, volume-wise. The production is dark yet clear, with a thick, heavy guitar tone, gritty bass, drums with a clean yet hefty tone, and the vocals are the front. It fits all together perfectly.
Within is an absolute masterpiece of heavy metal. While I love its successor just that much more, it still remains one of the most incredible metal albums ever written and absolutely essential to any metalhead that has a vague interest in traditional metal.