|Classic Review: Fates Warning - Perfect Symmetry|
Label: Metal Blade Records
Year released: 1989
Genre: Progressive Metal
Review online: January 25, 2004
Reviewed by: Sargon the Terrible
Rated 4.54/5 (90.77%) (26 Votes)
This is the fifth and perhaps most significant album in the FW discography, as this was the album that departed most stridently from their old sound and forged irrevocably into prog-metal territory. With this album, Fates Warning left the Maidenesque US-Metal of their old days behind them, and they have never really looked back. "Perfect Symmetry" was widely seen as a sellout album back when it was released, and many old-time fans were quick to express their hatred of it, but like so many other albums of this type, with time it has been seen for the masterpiece it is.
The first thing you will notice is that on this album FW have all but completely ditched the heavy attack of their previous 4 albums in favor of a dry, Rushy guitar tone (It is no accident that longtime Rush producer Roger Probert was at the helm for this one). The skill and style of the guitarwork, however, is not diminished in the least. Rather than the pummeling, chunky riffs of the old days, Matheos and Aresti shine with rich, shimmering chords and licks that amaze me with the subtle harmonics they conceal. With the guitars mixed with so little low end, bassist Joe DiBiase really got to shine on this album, and for the first time his complex and textured playing can be clearly heard. Ray Alder sounds miles better than he did on "No Exit", though not so magnificent as he would on "Parallels". The real kick in the pants here is the addition of ex-Warlord skin-basher Mark Zonder, who may be the most amazing drummer ever born. Not just the way he plays is stunning, the way he uses his skill to create cadences and beats that sound simple but are anything but is truly mind-blowing. I defy you to keep time with him on "At Fates Hands" - you just can't do it, as he never hits where you think he will, and yet he is never off-time.
If the songs here had not been up to the drill, this would be a sellout record, but some of Fates' best songs are here. The 'single' "Through Different Eyes", the careening "Static Acts" with its blistering riffs and soaring vocals, "The Arena" likewise. All must bow before the epic "Nothing Left To Say" which opens up slow and ballad-esque, then charges into complex riffs so tasty they make my eyes water. The production is dry, and not heavy in the conventional sense, but the mix is crystal clear so that you can hear every beautiful note.
The CD booklet has the monochrome old-guy cover that Shitallica and Megasuck would both rip off a few years later. The lyrics are a vast improvement over "No Exit", even though they are even bleaker and more depressing. As I have said: I am not and have never been a fan of the school of depressing, realistic lyrics. Kill me now.
This album pretty much redefined Progressive Metal at the time, and I maintain that Dream Theater could not have produced "Images And Words" without this album to kick off from. On "Perfect Symmetry" Fates Warning redefined themselves as a band, as well as updating prog for a new decade. DT get a lot of credit for modern prog metal, but Fates Warning were there first. I don't really like prog, and I don't like depressing lyrics, but I can't argue with this album, and neither can you. Classic.
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