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Classic Review: Fates Warning - The Spectre Within
Fates Warning
The Spectre Within

Label: Metal Blade Records
Year released: 1985
Duration: 48:25
Tracks: 7
Genre: Progressive Metal

Rating: 5/5

Review online: March 11, 2003
Reviewed by: Sargon the Terrible
Readers Rating
The Spectre Within

Rated 4.62/5 (92.45%) (53 Votes)

Fates Warning’s debut "Night on Brocken" was a rather primitive, maidenish affair with some enjoyable songwriting and so-so production, but on "The Spectre Within" they really started to shine. The leap in songwriting from their debut is really astonishing. Rather than simple, short songs in the verse-chorus-verse-chorus-solo-chorus mode, here they constructed elaborate epics filled with layered riffs, mega time changes and lead breaks, wound around with the wailing vocals of John Arch. Produced by Brian Slagel, this also sounds light-years better than the first album.

"Traveler In Time" starts things off with tolling guitar riffs that launch into the crunching opener. On this album Matheos and Co. crammed more riffs into one song than most acts manage in a whole CD. "Orphan Gypsy" carries on in the same vein, with one of my favorite choruses on the whole album.

"Without A Trace" proves again how hard it is to pick favorites on this one, as this is easily one of the strongest tunes on the album, with a riff as driving as it is memorable. Most songs have hooks, this one is a steel shark-catcher with barbed points. "Pirates of the Underground" lays down a slower groove, almost a hard-rock type of lick with some of the weirdest lyrics the band ever produced. This is followed by the monumental "The Apparition" with John Arch’s vocal harmonizing taking center stage along with some of the band’s heaviest riffing. Some might find Arch’s triple and quadruple-tracking of vocal lines to be annoying, but it allowed him enormous freedom to create hypnotic harmonies and countermelodies. Live these tunes must have lost something with only a single voice.

"Kyrie Eleison" is the fastest song on the album, and one of the band’s all-time fastest tunes. It flies along at breakneck speed with a killer chorus and some great lyrics.

All these pale in comparison to the twelve-minute epic, "Epitaph". With no less than eleven distinct parts from heavy doom-style riffs to acoustic interludes and elaborate vocal arrangements that finally swirl down into a violin-backed outro, "Epitaph" is simply breathtaking.

The CD has a cool cover by the same person who provided the art for the following "Awaken the Guardian" and contains lyrics and band photos. The lyrics are all very cool, though not as intellectual and dense as on "Guardian". There was a reissue of this classic album recently with some bonus demo tracks, but I have the old release, so I can’t review them here.

This is about as fine a metal album as you can get, complex, technical, moody and lyrical. "The Spectre Within" has long stood in the shadow of its successor, but is just as good an album, in its own way. No fan of progressive, innovative metal should be without this one.

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