This isn't my favourite FATES WARNING CD, not even my favourite of their newer stuff, but it is pretty inarguably their best. From the day the great Ray Alder replaced the equally great but very different John Arch as their voice, FW had been edging away from the underground sound of their first trilogy of albums and toward a more accessible, traditionally progressive sound. "Parallels" is the perfect distillation of that sound, and with this album Jim Matheos' songwriting reached an apex of style, class, and precision.
Even though this shares almost nothing with bands who are normally labelled 'Prog' I refuse to abandon that genre to the fretboard wankers who throng it's ranks. FATES WARNING are one of the bands the term 'Progressive Metal' was created for, and this CD takes the style they pioneered to an almost flawless vanishing point. Jim Matheos is an amazing player and composer precisely because he is NOT of the 'look how hard this stuff I'm playing is' school of guitar. He writes direct but at the same time complex songs and plays riffs and leads that are way, way trickier than they sound - and he makes it look easy. He is abetted here by an equally impressive line up of bandmates: The always creative and dependable Frank Aresti, the splendid and complex bass-work of Joe DiBiase, Ray Alder's powerful tenor vocals, and of course the stunning ability of drummer Mark Zonder - probably the best skinsman to ever play in a Metal band. All these musicians share the tendency to create deceptively simple-sounding musical structures that only reveal their hellish complexity to careful scrutiny.
So the performances are what we expect from this band: unobtrusively complex, and intricate without being showy. But the song writing is the real star of the show. "Parallels" is the most consistent of FW later works, and contains some of their best songs. "Life In Still Water" sports one of the best riffs Matheos ever penned, and one of his tastiest leads. "The Eleventh Hour" is one of their best songs, as Zonder once put it, it comes close to summing up in one song everything FATES WARNING are about. "Point Of View" is another great tune, with one of Ray Alder's trademark soaring choruses and some great guitar work. But really, all these songs are excellent and memorable. The closing ballad "The Road Goes On Forever" goes on a little long, but is very well-written.
FATES WARNING's gloomy, introspective lyrics have never sat as well with me as the occult stuff John Arch wrote for their early albums, but the quality of the writing is inarguable. Far more intelligent than the usual run, even for this type of contemplative stuff. The CD package is very moody and understated, with excellent art design.
This is a first-class album from a band that never got the recognition they deserved. While a bit mellow for fans of extreme Metal, fans of traditional and Power Metal who do not have this album should be slapped. "Parallels" is one of Metal's greatest bands at the top of their form. Mandatory.(Online December 6, 2003)