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There is something so safe and stagnant about all of Fates Warning's work beyond the 80s that I often wonder just where the magic went. Clearly, the band was once one for intricate melodies, powerful vocals and captivating lyrics and subject matter, but Fates Warning 2K (which started arguably with the abysmal 1997 album A Pleasant Shade of Gray) is a modernized, forgettable creature that no longer hangs at the edge of brilliance, but languors in confusion and mediocrity. Disconnected is the band's 9th album, and though the cover image makes for an amusing portrait, much of the music is quite uninspired, reduced to plodding, groove metal rhythms, and the lyrics have grown so vague that they seem the sort that any bland radio pop band would write, the lowest common denominator of progressive rock or metal. Even with all these issues, though, Disconnected is a superior beast to A Pleasant Shade of Gray, for at least a handful of decent riffs exist here.
Like its predecessor, Disconnected is a conceptual piece. It's not some head-trip, just another album about life and society, so most should be able to relate to it. What is interesting is that the band refrains some of the material on the album, almost as if it were once cycle that begins and ends in largely the same, dull pallor. This is manifested by the two parts of "Disconnected" which wrap the album like a soggy turkey sandwich. The first barely exceeds a minute's length, but the closing track is over six, and they involve samples, subtle washes of piano, and a similar use of electronic pulses and percussion as the synths swell alongside the central, solitary electric guitar bend. The extended track is the better of these, simply for its ability to take a breath and get the listener more deeply involved in its structure, which is the most unique thing on the album.
Between these poles are the other five tracks of the album, which all feature vocals and make up the 'meat' of the concept, and herein lie most of the weaknesses. "One" is a groovy rock track with an extremely dull focal riff, which leads me to believe some influence might have crossed over to Fates Warning from Alder's other project Engine (who are, sadly, better than this). The riffing is totally pedestrian here, and no amount of Zonder's percussive depth can repair this, not even Alder as he hits a Chris Cornell-like howl at about 2:45. "So" begins with some stark electronics that are actually quite cool, if brief, before a steady, pumping guitar rhythm (complete with gimmick squeal) arrives to herald in a mire of bluesy boredom, not necessarily due to Alder's soulful tones, but the fact that there is simply NO music of value to accompany them. Seriously, the riffs here wouldn't be suitable for a Puddle of Mudd track, so why bother? "Pieces of Me" is not much better, as its basically a techno metal track with riffing worse than some of KMFDM's middling rhythms, and the big Engine-groove of the chorus is awful, as Alder intones the title repeatedly.
The two longer tracks "Something from Nothing" and "Still Remains" are far from perfect, but seem like a major improvement over the rest of the album. The former transforms from a moody ambient clime into an electro sequence of rumbling synthesizers and distorted drum beat, later to evolve into a Tool-like guitar rhythm, and some of the more convincing vocals on the album. It's not great, and in fact there is almost no intricacy to the writing whatsoever, but as a whole it at least takes you somewhere you might wish to travel. "Still Remains" is over 16 minutes in length, so of anything on the album, it bears the brunt of the responsibility to involve the listener. I did enjoy the opening moments, with acoustics that flowed like water, drifting, distorted vocals, and some nice somber synth lines that build the mood, and after that it goes outright prog, with keyboards slicing through the jamming rhythms and a sense of alien expression that had me wanting to break out my Chick Corea and Yes records. But like so many parts of the song, it arrives and departs in short order, attempting to reign one in with its constantly shifting landscape, and the downside to this is the amount of pretty dull groove metal rhythms that populate it. Despite its flaws, it remains one of the best songs here, and the closing moments do feature some soaring guitar lines.
The title is perhaps so very accurate as to where the band were at musically, for it seems some tether to their glory days has clearly been severed to the point of no return. Fates Warning still have a few thrills tucked away into the 51+ minutes of Disconnected, and I felt no immediate impulse to chuck the CD out the window to the nearest landfill as I did with the last album, but in even if I put on my rose-tinted goggles and think of this as a pleasant experiment, it's still no more than a mundane footnote to a band that once reigned over the filthy state of Connecticut (never met someone from that state who did not screw me over in some way, so pardon my terminal case of state-ism).
Highlights: Disconnected (Part II), Something from Nothing, Still Remains
Fates Warning is a true progressive metal band that values the music first. These guys are into making solid songs and records, effectively using their individual talents without however, showing off in the process.
“Disconnected” consists of 7 songs. The first song works as an intro and the last one as an outro. Both serve their purpose well. The reason i just mentioned that is to highlight the fact that in “Disconnected” the listened is faced up against 5 songs. Personally i dig this kind of philosophy where less is more and where 5 quality oriented songs beat 12 or 14 song-albums any day of the week.
As far as music is concerned Fates Warning writes progressive songs full of melodies, emotion, attitude and groove in this album. Interestingly “Disconnected” has its share of heavy moments which of course are always welcome. The music of “Disconnected” is truly progressive in nature as it connects with the listener well. The mood effectively changes from one song to the next. “One” and “Pieces of Me” are the up-tempo tunes of the album, thus being in a way the two potential hits. “So”, “Something for Nothing” and “Still Remains” are closer to the standards set by the progressive metal genre both in feel and length. Personally i find both lengthy and shorter songs to work well together, allowing “Disconnected” to have a wonderful flow, when listened from beginning to end.
I think the element that successfully differentiates this album from the rest of the genre is Ray Adler’s unique performance. Adler’s melodic and full-range voice is truly breathtaking. In “Disconnected” his vocal performance uplifts the entire album to levels of progressive excellence. Of course there is more than just Ray’s voice on this one.
Matheos’s guitar parts are amazing. There is equal dose of melodious sections and technical moments. The use of keyboards adds value and quality to the songs. They complement Matheos’ melodies and solo work exceptionally well, giving them a prog-based edge.
Mentioning that Joey Vera’s bass work is solid is definitely not needed. The low end is definitely present and works well with Zonder’s drumming. I do need to highlight that Zonder’s artistic drumming makes this album whole. I do consider him one of the great progressive drummers out there. Again, its no mystery that his personal style complements the songs of the album masterfully. Just like his colleagues on Fates Warning, he feels no need to show off and his performance is exactly what the songs need in order to move on to another level.
Production wise i would say this album is excellent. It sounds exactly as a progressive record should sound. The sound is full, 3-dimensional, the mixing is great, leaving room for all instruments to shine and the end-result is simply exceptional.
Progressive junkies I'm sure have this one in their collection. I think however, it is not wrong to say that, “Disconnected”, targets at a greater group of open minded music listeners; those, willing to judge their music on the basis of quality and that alone.
Stand outs: All songs are great. I do think however, that the 16 minute “Still Remains” is the true masterpiece of the album.
This is Fates Warning's second-to-most-recent release, judging by the band's homepage(if I'm not mistaken), and I'm impressed. I don't want to make it out to say that we have another Dream Theater on our hands here, but this is some good stuff.(Well, we mustn't forget that there are equal parts Warning fans and DT fans in the metal universe) Alder has some very raw, bare, intuitive, deceptively facile vocal stylings that engender him to be a prog metal force to be reckoned with, but the feeling--the emotional power of Labrie doesn't measure up, nor will it ever in the foreseeable future. That doesn't matter so much in all actuality, however, since this is a band roughly in the same musical parameters with their own initiatives of artfully contrived performance pieces.
Each song serves to encapsulate the listener in a 'Black-metal-Wall-of-Sound' aural aesthetic that only leaves the semicircular canals in utter 'almost-orgasm'. The focus is not to take the listener on a gleeful 'merry-go-round' adventure with solos that whip the medulla oblongata into a furious, fluffy fiasco, but rather to keep him or her grounded in earthly marvel.
It goes without saying that this EARTHLY marvel is not so much as so as you might think when you think about what prog metal and/or what any derivation of it is all about. We're talking about well-planned, organized opuses of ornate musical fusion or schematic fission...odes to exorbitance with meager sprinkles to homeostasize the homogeneous(or heterogeneous) mixture.
The drums serve their purpose well, in addition, if only existing because they're 'there' and bands need 'drums'. I'm not downplaying the abilities of the drummer...oh no, not by a long shot, but what's offered by him is nothing truly groundbreaking, or at least instantly memorable and/or headbangable, in my opinion. Now I know that it is usually conceived that the mallcore, unkvlt-type outfits are the ones dubbed as 'stupidly headbangable' to us kvlters, but none of us can argue that you can headbang, or thrash your neck convulsively, or kick your leg hyperactively, or lash out your arms frantically, to virtually any type of music.
As far as the bass is concerned, see above. It's adequate...GOOD... but I'm just not cooking up that whole 'DT' prize-winning recipe mentally at the moment, and that's fine. Hey, though...I'm tired of DT anyway. There are plenty of other prog metal bands out there, some undoubtedly better than DT(Six Degrees is unbeatable in my mind for emotional reasons, mostly)[PoS, Symphony X, Vanden Plas, and Wuthering Heights are way up there too], so as a metal listener, and particularly as a prog metal enthusiast, it's your personal responsibility to seek out these bands and cross-reference styles.
For example, I discovered Wuthering Heights because I had a previous cognition of the title because of the corresponding title of a classic Emily Bronte work. I somehow noticed the band name Wuthering Heights on this site merely by frequenting it and I was so intrigued that I had to investigate further. Not only did I make a conscious neural connection to both titles and their linguistic sameness, but I was further gratified by the fact the band are in league with the countless other metal bands who sing often, if not exclusively, about J.R.R. Tolkien and The Lord of the Rings and what have you. This was enough stimulus for me to want to buy their album, and maybe even their entire discography, now that I think about it.
Using this same kind of thinking, you can think "Oh, DT, ok, ok, Royal Hunt, right, well...what do we have here--umm...Royal Hunt, Queensryche...aha, FATES WARNING! YES! Hmm...which album should I check out? Well, the most popular one The Spectre From Within isn't available--yeah, no X, no Night on Brocken...etc. etc. You know what? I'll just buy Disconnected and I am glad I did. It's not the best fucking progressive metal in the world, but it's some rocking shit and I can fill up a LOT of free time listening to this shit"
Anyway, you get the picture. So get off your lazy, complacent metallic posterior anal puncture pinpoint and do something about your fucking ignorance, you prick. That's right, I'm your goddamned drill sergeant. I'm the warden on The Shawshank Redemption who ominously threatens: "Your soul may belong to God, but while you're here, your ass belongs to me". That's right, you better get your ass together because if you don't, you're going to get knocked the FUUUUUCK OUT! You have been warned...
Fates Warning is one of the more quiet progressive metal bands around. They have a good strong following of fans, but they are not very well known by listeners of mainstream metal. I just decided to listen to this album tonight. I was blown away. This album has really taken metal to another place. The music is emotional, driving, atmospheric. Did I mention progressive? If you listen to this the right way, it will really fuck you up.
The album is opened and closed with a sort of title track that is mainly just atmospheric instrumental track. The opener is just over a minute, but the last track is over 6:00. There is a lot of use of keyboards. Did I mention Kevin Moore (ex-Dream Theater) provided the keyboards? I think he has a lot to do with the sounds on this album.
The other 5 tracks are all a mixture of heavy riffs, clean chorused guitars chords, VERY inspiring vocals from Ray Alder, phrasing and syncopation, complex harmonies and disharmonies. There is a lot of work going into the writing of these tracks. Moore adds such an electronic flavor to the sound in a way that a lot of metal keyboards fail to do. Half are normal length of under 5:00, but Still Remains clocks in at over 16:00.
Chances are that you will absolutely hate this album if you are expecting a bunch of Butchered Iron Maiden riffs by a melodic death band or anything with super speed. In several places, you even think "This is a metal band?" (but not often). I will say that the music on this album DOES NOT compare to anything Dream Theater has ever done. This style of progressive metal is much less flashy. The focus is on the mood of the song rather than how difficult it is to play the guitar parts although in reality, it is difficult to play, but just for reasons such as the awkward time signatures and lack of repetition in much of the music.
There are no top tracks. It's impossible.