This is, to my mind, the last real FATES WARNING album. After a three year wait after "Parallels" the band released this excellent CD, then basically disintegrated. The abortion called "A Pleasant Shade Of Gray" was really just a Jim Matheos vanity project with a bunch of guest players and don't get me started on "Disconnected". So this was the last hurrah for one of Metal's great bands.
After the distilled brilliance of "Parallels" it comes as no surprise that this album isn't quite as good. There are some great songs here, like opener "Outside Looking In", "Pale Fire" and "Down To The Wire", but the dopey mellow vibe that would be given full play on the following album is already in evidence here, with too many slow, mopey cuts like "The Strand" and "Face The Fear" - songs that aren't bad, but lack the spark I expect from this band. On the plus side, this album features "Monument", one of the band's best songs and the requisite closing ballad "Afterglow" puts finish to a great career with a nice grace note.
Don't get me wrong, this is a fine album with some very good songs and the superlative performances we expect from this band, but it feels a little tired. This is really "Parallels-Part Two" and not quite as good, though it is still head and shoulders above 95% of the music out there. "Inside Out" is more openly Prog than its predecessor, with weird time signatures that take full advantage of Mark Zonder's amazing skills and more off-kilter riffing. It has a looser, more sprawling feel with a slightly dirtier production - the band's only nod to the era of Grunge. I miss this band. When they were firing on all cylinders, there was nobody like them. (Online December 9, 2003)