Laura Welsh. Tribe feat. Theophilus London. Terence Cole. Ellie Goulding. Bachianas Brasileiras No. Johann Sebastian Bach. The Rolling Stones. The Weeknd, Kendrick Lamar.
Bo Saris. Frank Sinatra. Skylar Grey. Jessie Ware. Hampton Hawes. Scott Senn. Earned It Fifty Shades of Grey. Meet Me In the Middle. Love Me Like You Do. Haunted Michael Diamond Remix. Salted Wound. Beast of Burden. Progressive metal bands have always excelled at such efforts, much like their rock forebears, and I can think fondly back to the first time I heard something like Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence, Operation Mindcrime or Nothingface, and was blown away by not only the depth of the material but the great music included with it.
What I did not expect is that when it came time for Fates Warning to put their own spin on this niche, they would fall so flat. The album is called A Pleasant Shade of Gray, and from its title alone you can gather that it will dabble in themes of melancholy, the mundane subtleties that fill all our days on Earth in this industrial, inspiration-starved Western civilization. But it's not the Album) that really stumbles here, it is the lethargic songwriting and the failure to evoke even the most average of memorable melodies that the band have always excelled in.
It's like a soundtrack to a movie you don't want to see; a 'gray' mist that descends upon the listener to most annoying semblance of ennui. It's like one of those lectures at university which had you so bored that you couldn't stop looking at the clock, wondering what the campus cafeteria would be serving in the evening and whether you had even the faintest chance of Album) laid. Seriously, your thoughts could wander nearly any place and arrive at something more interesting than what has manifested on this disc.
And it's not due to any shift in tone or style by the band. No, this music is not a far cry from anything they've previously recorded. It's simply stretched out so painfully that it inhabits a void where all the band's good ideas seem long since dead. There are 12 tracks here, each titled in Roman numerals, which are aesthetically about as interesting as the music they represent. Even when the band breaks out into the more jamming segments of the album, like "Part III" or "Part VII", there is no interesting riff to be found, no spark of life.
For example, take the dull central riff of "III" with its listless harmonic It's like some guy bored in his jam room repeating the same useless riff just to hear himself think, while the neighboring bands listen on with apathy at the pathetic rambling tone.
The heavy use of electronics, the most the band had included by this point, doesn't exactly cripple the core riffing, but it is likewise weak, summoning up nothing but a desire to repeatedly mash the 'track forward' button on your CD player. There are pianos here, and there are acoustics, both of which are also leeched of all potential captivation through the unfortunate selections in notation.
Try as hard as I might, I can find NO silver lining in this cloud. It's impossible to pick out a highlight The lyrics are dry and cliched, like a caricature of the most banal material of the past three records. I don't know what kind of vampire crawled into the Fates Warning rehearsal space and sucked out every fiber of being and talent from the band during the songwriting process for this album, but it's seriously the progressive metal equivalent to Muzak.
Only Muzak is often more memorable than the 54 minutes of wasted space and time that this album represents. It's been 13 years now, and while the band has not created anything of significance in its wake, we should all be grateful that they have not attempt to further plum these empty, uninspired depths. I came back to this album thinking there might be something I missed the last few times I suffered its endless, laconic framework, but came out of the experience trailing nothing but the eyes of the abyss at my back, laughing as I went.
Highlights: if you managed to listen through this album without a nervous breakdown, a fit of convulsive psychosis, or suicidal confrontation, congratulations, you are one hard mother fucker. The Armed Forces could use a few good men like you. Fates Warning has gone through many changes in style throughout their lengthy existence.
Shortly after the departure of John Arch, Fates Warning began to shed their power metal roots, offering a thrashy sound with Alder's first album, No Exit, and a more mechanical, meticulous sound on Perfect Symmetry.
The band then released two rather underwhelming commercialized prog rock albums, Parallels and Inside Out. A Pleasant Shade of Gray marked yet another stylistic shift for Fates Warning, this time back to progressive metal, but with a modernized sound.
While APSoG may not have the unrestrained energy of their earlier material, what it lacks in fervor it makes up for in complexity. This is some of the most interesting music ever written, and while often written off as boring, several listens will reveal a masterpiece of modern progressive metal. I recommend you listen to this while doing nothing else, because this is not background music.
Imagine lying in bed in the early grayness of the morning, as the music begins with an unsettling guitar melody over the muted rain and a crash of thunder. Soon, Ray Alder's deceptively calm vocals enter: "So where do we begin And what else can we say?
When the lines are all drawn What should we do today? What follows is nothing short of a spectacular ride through a storm of conflicting emotions, not only a masterpiece of music but a deeply moving and intricate story. There is nothing else that even remotely resembles this. The lyrics, the music, and the atmosphere of this concept album which is really just a 52 minute song are all completely unique. To horribly generalize the theme of the album, a man is lying in bed in the early morning, listening to the rain, drifting in and out of sleep, reliving and regretting parts of his past.
As for the exact interpretation of the lyrics, I'll leave that up to you. Suffice to say that if you read and listen closely enough there are some very dark and troubling things subtly implied by the lyrics.
These are the best lyrics Matheos ever wrote, even rivaling the John Arch's lyrical genius on tracks such as Epitaph. For 52 minutes, never once does A Pleasant Shade of Gray halt the onslaught of emotions and thoughts. As if it were a flowing stream of consciousness from the narrator himself, APSoG flows on, cutting some ideas musical or lyrical short, always introducing others, creating a tangled web of themes that will take several listens to decipher.
It may, at first, seem aimless and plodding, but further listening will reveal quite the opposite - everything Satori (20) - A Shade Of Grey (CD is here for a reason, every melody and line serves a distinct purpose in the large, foggy image of the music. Consequently, APSoG never truly seems disjointed or disorganized, despite the chaotic flow of themes. A Pleasant Shade of Gray is a very atmospheric album, in that there is not much that is flashy or that will immediately grab your attentions.
Here is an album nearly bereft of hooks or catchy choruses. The few choruses that there are often appear in multiple parts, and in some cases sound more grating and unnerving than catchy "Let nothing bleed into nothing".
There are very few solos to be heard, none of which are in any way flashy. The entire album is understated save possibly for the middle of part sixseemingly obscured as if covered in a fog. Fitting the name well, nothing on this album has much color. The musical style is very different from anything Fates had played before.
Far from both the energy of their earlier power metal and the quieter progressive rock of their early 90s work, APSoG is notably heavy especially on parts VII and XI and definitively "metal," a quality which had been very lacking on their previous two albums. The guitars are loud and central in the mix. Alder's vocal style is more restrained than on his previous works, but he still jumps up into some higher notes occasionally, something he would unfortunately cease to do on his later albums.
One of the most notable changes is the addition of Kevin Moore on keyboards. This album contains many more synthesized sounds than their previous works, and while often synths can become cheesy and forced, this is luckily not the case on APSoG. Even the recorded, spoken word parts, usually awful on most albums, come off as tasteful and well-placed.
There's really not much more to say about this album without going off on a long, rather boring deconstruction of the various lyrical and musical themes. This album is a must-listen for any fan of progressive metal, or simply any music fan who enjoys contemplating his music. APSoG is a unique album by a unique band.
The listener must simply keep in mind that it is not meant as a catchy sing-along or as background music. After having 2 rather successful, though a bit similar sounding albums, Fates Warning went through some rather Satori (20) - A Shade Of Grey (CD changes.
The line-up has suffered two blows, the most noteworthy is the loss of co-founding member and bassist Joe Dibiase. His influence was one of the things that kept the band grounded and kept their music accessible. As a whole, this album is grounded not in terms of it's structure, but instead by a collection of recurring themes.
The entry and exodus of these themes seems random at first, but after several listens you begin to notice that there is a structured pace to this album, though it is often blurred by some slight alterations in the presentation of these themes. Indeed, the primary flaw in this album is that it takes 8 or 9 listens, Satori (20) - A Shade Of Grey (CD, from start to finish, in order to fully understand what is going on here musically. I myself, who studied Music Theory and Composition at West Chester University of Pennsylvania, am still dumbfounded by it's complexity.
As this CD is basically structured as one large song with 12 unnamed parts, the primary thing to focus on in terms of highlighting it's strengths are these various themes that come and go, and the character of some of the various tracks. The first theme to occur is obviously the one that sticks in your head the most, as it sounds a bit similar to the Nightmare on Elmstreet theme. There is a secondary theme that occurs on track 5 that comes back in track 7 that includes the words "Let nothing lead into nothing", which lyrically underscores the nebulous and abstract nature of the album's concept.
Track 5, as a whole, includes some of the most complex set of riffs, keyboard parts, and drum fills I've ever heard. The closing track is probably the most simple and the most catchy out of the bunch, although it's more of a recitation than a traditional song with a verse and chorus. All in all, this is a highly innovative album with a ton of bizarre twists and turns.
But there is an anchor that keeps it from being a random mess of sound the way some ultra-progressive bands, the kind whom throw the book out the window merely for the sake of it, often create. The only thing that it really suffers from is inaccessibility due to being a bit too complex.
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