Parallels (Special Edition)
posted on 3/2010 By:
In its original incarnation, 1991's Parallels was my introduction to Fates Warning. I'd heard the band's name before, then as now almost always mentioned alongside Queensryche and Dream Theater, and since I was (and am) a massive fan of the first of those two bands (up to the tipping point that, at that time, they hadn't yet reached), it made sense for me to explore Fates Warning post-haste. So I started here, inadvertently beginning with the band's most commercial and most 'Ryche-like moment. Coming off a string of four consecutive future-classic releases, Fates shifted gears, streamlining their sound, which was, by this point, almost wholly removed from the traditional metal that characterized their earliest efforts.
Although songs like the moderate hits "Eye To Eye" and "Point Of View" are certainly more radio-friendly than most previous Fates efforts, Parallels is still filled with the requisite convoluted time-signatures and off-kilter riffage that one expects from progressive metal. The band's musicianship is stellar, particularly that of drummer Mark Zonder, clearly laying the groundwork for their friends in Dream Theater, who broke through with Images And Words the year following Parallels' initial release. (That said, fear not, noodle-fearing masses--Fates' brand of prog isn't wholly an instrumental workout. Like those of DeGarmo and Wilton, Jim Matheos' riffs and patterns are odd, often deceptively complicated, but they are not dizzying displays of practiced virtuosity.) These songs are moody, melancholic, largely down-tempo, with Ray Alder's clear (and blatantly Geoff Tate-like) vocals and Zonder's busy-but-not-overly-distracting drumming. While not as consistently commanding as material on earlier records, particularly that on the essential Awaken The Guardian, tracks like "Leave The Past Behind" and "The Eleventh Hour" are still great examples of emotive and challenging prog-metal songwriting. (The latter half of "Eleventh Hour" is probably my favorite part of the whole record, alternating between moments of moody arpeggiation, Alder's soaring trad metal vocal, and a killer jaunty ascending riff.) Terry Date’s production is clear; the remastering on this version sounds good, although I had no problem with the sonics on the original edition.
This special version of Parallels also adds a live set from Hollywood, California, featuring most of the record in live form, plus "Through Different Eyes" and "Nothing Left To Say" and the "Quietus" portion of the multi-part "The Ivory Gate Of Dreams." (No John Arch-era material was tackled here, I'm afraid.) There's also a bonus DVD with live footage and a documentary and six demo recordings of Parallels tracks, all of which are exactly what one would expect. (The DVD wasn't included in the promo, so I cannot comment upon its quality.) Metal Blade has done a good job with these Fates re-issues, and while conventional wisdom rightfully holds Parallels as the least essential of the set in terms of its prog-metal legacy, it's likely the easiest place for a neophyte to ease into the band's classic era, as I did all those years ago. Fans of the band will undoubtedly be pleased with this expanded edition, and any fan of prog-metal who hasn't heard it would do well to change that.
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