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Fates Warning - Awaken The Guardian (Live) Award winner

Fates Warning
Awaken The Guardian (Live)
by Justin "Witty City" Wittenmeier at 03 July 2017, 9:23 AM

FATES WARNING shouldn’t need any introductions but just in case you don’t like Prog or have been living under a rock for 35 years, they are a Progressive Metal act from Hartford, Connecticut. There entire career has been legendary but their most beloved release is arguably “Awaken The Guardian,” originally released way back in 1986.

This release, a live version of the album plus an additional few classics—this is a package put together by a band with love for their fans, who view the album, and rightfully so, as a progressive metal masterpiece.  No offense to the current lineup, but getting the original members back together for this special event was a great move.  Simply put, the band sounds as good as they ever have, if not better and this makes for a great companion piece to the studio version.  Actually, as far as production goes, this release is actually better than the original studio, which has terrible sound.  The live concert features a sound so clear that the only way you can tell it is live is from the crowd.  John Arch somehow manages to sound even better now than he did when he was younger—he has joined Bruce Dickinson and Rob Halford among the ranks of vocalists who only get better with age.  Simply put, his performance on this is nothing short of masterful.

The rest of the band is in top form as well, all of them displaying a tight focus wrapped around an emotional, high energy performance.  This recording isn’t a cheap cash in on a band trying to get back into its glory days—this is a high quality gathering of consummate musicians who are truly honoring their work, the love they have for their music and fans beyond evident. The opening track, “The Sorceress,” opens with the fury of a crowd who knows what they are about to experience but the suspense is killing them.  The melodic intro opens up, featuring epic, clean guitar before the drums start it off and the metal riffs kick in.  Obviously due to the time period of the original recordings, the sound is very much steeped in the classic era of 80’s metal, featuring the burgeoning Prog Metal genre and even some thrash.  The riffs in this song are very much akin to classic thrash bands.  One thing that was always so enduring about old school FATES WARNING is that they always kept their metal roots in front, choosing to be a metal band with Prog influences, rather than the other way round.   Thankfully, these songs still stay faithful to that train of thought and the band burns through the set just as if you are hearing it on the album.

Valley of the Dolls,” which is one of my favorite song from their earlier stuff, is represented as heavy and pummeling as ever. For a Prog band, they sure know how to kick your head in with riffs both Aresti and Matheos have this crazy ability to be technically proficient yet simple in their sonic assault, making your head bang while making your brain think. “Guardian” sees the instruments weaving in and out of heavy riffs and melodic clean guitar while Arch sings his ball off in a falsetto that isn’t unlike Timo from STRATOVARIUS. “Prelude to Ruin,” matches another fellow 80’s sub-genre, NWOBH, coming off like a more Prog IRON MAIDEN but no less epic. This live album is a great way to honor such a masterful release and career.  If you are a fan of the band then you’re probably going to pick this up regardless of what I say.  If you are into this style but for whatever reasons never checked them out then this would be a good place to start.

 Songwriting: 10
Originality: 10
Memorability: 10
Production: 10

5 Star Rating

Disc 1 (Live at Keep It True XIX)
1. The Sorceress
2. Valley of the Dolls
3. Fata Morgana
4. Guardian
5. Prelude to Ruin
6. Giant’s Lore (Heart of Winter)
7. Time Long Past
8. Exodus

Disc 2 (Live at Keep It True XIX Encore)
1. The Apparition
2. Damnation
3. Night On Brocken
4. Epitaph
Jim Matheos – Guitars
Joe DiBiase – Bass
Steve Zimmerman  - Drums
John Arch – Vocals
Frank Aresti - Guitars
Record Label: Metal Blade Records


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