Know what? In light of the fact they have a brand new album out, the brilliant Darkness In A Different Light, I thought for this week’s Classic Albums we’d have a look-see at what is my all-time favorite from Fates Warning, 1991’s Parallels. This is a polarizing album, as it represented a stylistic shift from more traditional power metal and emphasized melody and intricacies, most notably in the rhythm section. Again, some die-hards hated it but me, I loved it, and it’s still my favorite to this day.
My old friend Steve from Melville, NY showed up one day with this tape in tow in the winter of ‘92, and one song was all it took. I had forgotten about this band since the underwhelming No Exit in 1988, but when “Leave the Past Behind” kicked in, it was one hell of a memory jog, believe you me! New drummer Mark Zonder had one album under his belt, and really got to flex here. He seemed to have eight limbs, and appeared to be in Perfect Symmetry (see what I did there?) with bassist Joe DiBiase. The man is criminally underrated, and nowhere is it more evident than on next song, live staple, and my favorite track “Life In Still Water”. The choruses soar, and are made even better thanks to backing vocals from the one and only James LaBrie who had just joined Dream Theater.
“Eye To Eye” is next, and is arguably their most successful song to date. The main riff over which the chorus is sung is heavy, yet tugs at the heartstrings, and you can hear a real longing in Ray Alder’s voice. It’s such a great song, it really is. Closing out side one is the eight-minute “The Eleventh Hour”. Guitarists Jim Matheos and Frank Aresti really shine on this one, knowing when to let fly and when to hold back. Alder’s voice is also at its peak, artistically and range-wise. I remember sitting in my room for hours just listening to the man sing over and over and over. Once again, in a day and age where we friggin’ over-use the word “epic”, this is a time where the term is not only applicable, but necessary.
Side two opens with another MTV-single “Point of View”, but that doesn’t mean it lacks bite by any means. DiBiase and Zonder once again weave a rhythmic tapestry of bass lines and off-beats to go with the searing guitars, and it’s one of the album’s best. Some people label “We Only Say Goodbye” as a power ballad, and that just pisses me off. Wrong! Thanks for playing! Tell him what he did win, Johnny…Nothing!! I’m actually glad this beautiful song didn’t get played to death on US radio and ruined forever. As I said, it’s an absolutely gorgeous melody, and I’m glad it hasn’t been cheapened.
“Don’t Follow Me” is definitely a song that I gravitated to immediately, and features my favorite solos on the record…dual harmonies. No one loves them more than me. Well, no NON-guitar player, that is. Listening now it sounds a lot like the older brother of “Don’t Look Back” from the latest Queensrÿche album, which I touched on in my review of that release. That’s probably why I fell in love with it from the get-go. Closer “The Road Goes On Forever” ends things on a softer note, with watery guitars, and Zonder steering the ship home, steady as she goes.
Parallels to me is the non-prog progressive metal album. Yes it features off-beats, fills, stellar bass and guitar work to sometimes jaw-dropping extremes, but it still manages to keep it simple, and accessible where necessary. No one can accuse Fates Warning of over-indulgence on this record. What they did deliver is perfection, and this is without a doubt one of my “Desert Island Albums”, and always will be. I hope I’ve inspired some of you to either dust it off and give it a spin, or maybe check it out for the first time. ~dc