Fates Warning Awakens with Parallels Re-Release and Reunion Shows
By BRIAN HEATON
Heralded as one of the forefathers of progressive metal, Fates Warning clearly hasn't taken advantage of the genre's revival during the past few years. Aside from a one-off festival performance in 2009, the band has been off the road since 2006. But part of the machine is once again beginning to turn, with the Parallels-era lineup reuniting for a brief run of shows.
Vocalist Ray Alder, guitarists Jim Matheos and Frank Aresti, bassist Joe DiBiase and drummer Mark Zonder kick off their reunion appearances on March 19, at the Avalon, in Hollywood, Calif. Following that, the band has two shows in Greece and a European festival show booked. In addition, a couple of gigs in the United States are also being planned for later this year.
The catalyst behind the reunion shows is Fates Warning's re-release of Parallels. Originally issued in 1991, the album is now featured as a three-disc set, containing remastered audio, demo songs and a live DVD. As Matheos explained, it wasn't until the band members starting working on the re-release, that the idea to play some shows together was hatched.
"I think the first person in passing to suggest playing live was Mark," Matheos recalled. "All five of us had been talking for awhile to put the Parallels package together, so the dialog was open. Everyone said it was great and we decided to do it."
Not surprisingly, Matheos revealed that Fates Warning likely will play the entire Parallels record and then focus on songs from Perfect Symmetry and Inside Out – the two other albums this particular lineup recorded together. The shows will be the first time Parallels will be performed in its entirety by any Fates Warning lineup.
"We've never played 'The Road Goes on Forever,' mostly because it's a very mellow song and partly because there's a lot in the production that we thought would be hard to reproduce live," Matheos said. "We're all very curious to hear how this will sound and be received live. Other than one acoustic performance, I can't remember ever playing 'We Only Say Goodbye' with this lineup either."
Parallels was a significant creative turning point for Fates Warning. Up to that time, the band was known for its long songs with numerous time changes. But Parallels changed all that, featuring more accessible songs. Matheos revealed the shift was a conscious effort, but not with a goal of "breaking through" to a mainstream audience.
"It was a direction we started exploring on Perfect Symmetry with 'Through Different Eyes,' among others," the guitarist said. "We liked the idea of trying to write shorter, more concise pieces, while still trying to stay true to our progressive roots. In a way, this was more of a challenge for us than some of our earlier, more technical work."
To help guide the band through its new direction, producer Terry Brown was recruited. Noted for his legendary work with Rush, the producer would drop in to check on the band's progress in pre-production and make suggestions. He also had a hand in some of the final song arrangements.
But it was Brown's ability, not his history, which was remembered most fondly by Matheos.
"First and foremost, he helped us to finally get sounds and a mix we were happy with," Matheos said. "Terry was great at getting the best performances out of each member, changing his approach to work … with each of our individual personalities."
Overall, the Parallels time period was something Matheos looks back on positively. Calling it a "really creative time," he said the group was on the same page as both musicians and people.
"I think at that point, more so than any time in our history, we had a really good feeling about the band," Matheos reflected. "People in the industry told us that Parallels would be a big record. We just all got closer. It was a good time for us."
Upcoming Shows a Gift to Fans
Matheos was quick to point out, however, that the upcoming shows by the Parallels-era band are a special treat to celebrate the album and not a permanent lineup change. The modern-era Fates Warning lineup that consists of permanent members Adler and Matheos along with touring members Aresti, Joey Vera (bass) and Bobby Jarzombek (drums) is still together.
"This is just fun for the re-release and everyone has their own lives to go on with," the guitarist said. "I sat down and told Joey and Bobby that we were going to do a few special shows and not think anything funny was going on."
While the Parallels reunion shows are exciting, Fates Warning's absence from the metal scene in recent times has been a point of frustration for some fans. When pushed for a reason behind the band's hiatus, Matheos explanation was simple, but candid, saying burnout was the major cause.
"Taking a break from Fates had nothing to do with financial concerns, how the last few releases have been received or even the general musical climate," Matheos explained. "It just felt like we had come to a creative block. I decided to put my focus elsewhere."
"Elsewhere" included three albums with ex-Dream Theater keyboardist Kevin Moore, in a project called Office of Strategic Influence. The duo had previously worked together on and off for years before conceiving OSI. Moore appeared on several Fates Warning albums, including Perfect Symmetry, its 1997 release A Pleasant Shade of Gray, and 2000's Disconnected, along with the band's 2005 concert DVD, Live in Athens.
Moore, however, likely will not appear on any future Fates Warning studio albums. While Matheos was adamant that he enjoys his work with Moore, he doesn't want to throw a wrench in the rapport the two have built up over the years.
"We have such a connection with OSI that I really don't want to dabble with it outside of that and mix up the chemistry," Matheos revealed. "A lot of Fates stuff isn't keyboard-oriented, so I don't see it happening as far as appearances on studio albums. But any time he wants to come play live, I am all for that. I'd love to play all of A Pleasant Shade of Gray again at one point."
Songs fans won't hear from Fates Warning any time soon, however, are the ones featuring original lead singer John Arch. Released in 1984 1985 and 1986, respectively, Night on Bröcken, The Spectre Within and Awaken the Guardian have a zealous following. For years, the group's followers have clamored to hear cuts from those three albums, with the requests going unfulfilled.
The buzz for an Arch reunion intensified in 2003, when Matheos, Vera and Dream Theater drummer Mike Portnoy wrote and performed on Arch's solo EP, A Twist of Fate. The recording was Arch's first musical appearance since 1986.
But while Matheos and the singer still have a relationship, until Arch agrees to hit the stage, the songs he and Matheos wrote together won't be performed live by Fates Warning.
"I still like a lot of that stuff, but I just won't do it without John," the guitarist maintained. "It's really personal to him and his voice, so I have basically retired the songs. I told John that any time he wants to do a whole tour or a set with me, I'm ready to do it. He knows that."
In the meantime, Matheos continues to write new songs. Whether or not they become the next Fates Warning record remains to be seen, but Matheos seemed fairly confident the direction is leading that way.
"I write all the time and some of this stuff would mostly likely be Fates," Matheos revealed. "Up to this point it's only been me writing on my own, as I'm not sure what I'm going to do with the material. If it turns out to be a Fates record, then I'm sure Ray will be contributing at least a few lyrics.
"There's really no long term game plan," the guitarist added. "If we do another record I'm sure we'll do some dates to support it. After that, it's anyone's guess."
For more information on Fates Warning, visit www.fateswarning.com. All photos courtesy of Fates Warning and Metal Blade Records.
Copyright 2010, Brian Heaton. All Rights Reserved.