Fates Warning | Awaken The Guardian – 30th Anniversary Retrospective
Label : Metal Blade Records
Release Year : 1986
Genre : Progressive Metal
Awaken The Guardian Line Up
John Arch – Vocals
Jim Matheos – Guitars
Frank Aresti – Guitars
Joe DiBiase – Bass
Steve Zimmerman – Drums
Jim Archambault – Keyboards
Produced By – Fates Warning & Brian Slagel
When you are 15 years old with a wad of chore money you earned in your pocket and you have a love for music, a record store was like a kid in a candy store. This was at least the reality in my case. I remember earning $50.00 and was on my way to Los Angeles to the Sunset Strip where a very well know record store called Liquorice Pizza was located. This was 1985. My cousin was out to get some Judas Priest, Raven and Motorhead that he lacked in his collection.
As for myself I was out to get the new Iron Maiden Live After Death. As I was walking in the store I spotted a Metal Blade new releases cardboard stand up feature display. What I saw blew my mind it was like a black demon like with horns and bright blue eyes. This was Fates Warning’s Spectre Within. When I got it home on the turntable I was floored. I was a fan since. Waiting in anticipation for a future release, that day finally came in 1986 when Fates Warning released their follow up Awaken The Guardian.
I remember how utterly cool the album art work was. It looked like a portal into a new universe that the band had created with the music and lyrics in the songs. The arch was like a gateway into a multi universal dimension that the listener was about to embark on. Album art was extremely important in 1986 and sold 50% of the albums. Awaken The Guardian was no exception to this rule.
Ever since Kansas debuted in the 1970’s, America had really never had a strong foothold in the world of progressive rock. Meanwhile on the metal side bands like Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Motorhead, Diamonhead out of the United Kingdom were flourishing. Soon Germany would have its own answer for it with bands like Warlock, Helloween and Gamma Ray. This also not to mention that a Canadian powerhouse as RUSH was bridging both hard rock and progressive rock into a distinct sound since the early 1970’s .
In 1975 RUSH would create the first of many blueprint albums combining harder rock and progressive rock when it released Caress Of Steel and later 2112. Later the bands of the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal like Iron Maiden, Saxon, Praying Mantis and Diamondhead would incorporate a more modern melodic sound. Around 1980 there was a tempest building in the Pacific Northwest of Seattle Washington in the form of Queensryche. It would create a perfect storm in the New England region of the United States and Fates Warning would be born.
Fates Warning would be one of the first metal and progressive metal bands on Metal Blade Records and would release Night On Brocken (1984) and Spectre Within (1985) before releasing Awaken The Guardian in (1986) .
Awaken The Guardian
Despite some misconceptions, Fates Warning were no Iron Maiden knock off like a few branded them to be back in the day. They totally broke that myth with their previous releases Night On Brocken and Spectre Within. Fates Warning were even so much more than a metal band, they were one of America’s first real progressive metal band with a two guitar duo sound where as bands that would come after them came with a more keyboard ethereal polished sound. Fates Warning definitely did not play in the traditional metal 4/4 time signature. They really explored various time signatures and progressions.
The three major songwriters John Arch, Jim Matheos and Frank Aresti certainly have both a instrumental and lyrical cohesive vision on Awakening The Guardian. Musically Jim Matheos and Fran Aresti were doing for progressive metal what Robert Fripp and John Wetton were doing in King Crimson a decade earlier. On the rhythm section of Joe BiBiase – Bass and Steve Zimmerman – Drums they were doing what Chris Squire and Alan White were doing in Yes. Vocally John Arch held his own with the monsters of metal of the day like Bruce Dickinson, Ronnie James Dio and Rob Halford and John (Midnight) MacDonald of the fledgling Florida progressive/power metal band Crimson Glory. It was almost essential to have a towering voice in any form of metal back in that time.
Lyrically, this album follows a fantasy-based concept, which was one of the first of its kind. It almost seems mandatory to write a conceptual fantasy-based album in progressive and power metal today, and each band that does so tends to to revert back to the roots of this album given that it’s the pinnacle of this style. The lyrics, putting this bluntly, are some of the most beautiful I’ve ever read. The , lyrics were exceptional from how beautiful they were delivered it especially makes up for a wonderful story in the theater of the mind. The concept of this album occasionally varies but is ultimately about existence and life which the band would later develop further on in a more direct approach, aside from tackling the subject metaphorically. Like Dio era Rainbow and the classic progressive albums of the past ie. Yes’ Tales Of Topographic Oceans, Jethro Tull’s Thick As A Brick and Rush’s 2112 and Caress Of Steel, Fates Warning’s Awaken The Guardian forced the listener to use their own imaginations, create their own worlds of fantasy, dragons and lands of dark enchantment.
Awaken The Guardian would also mark John Arch’s last official album with Fates Warning. Although there were no videos for MTV which were practically necessary at the time, there really did not need to be. With all the great musical and lyrical content on Awaken The Guardian, it was enough to paint full motion pictures inside the theater of the mind of its fans and listeners. Awakening The Guardian had a wide influence. After its release there seemed to be an explosion of progressive rock bands such as Watchtower, Savatage, Crimson Glory, Dream Theater, Symphony X , Vanden Plas, etc … to name a few.
For fans of John Arch era Fates Warning who attend this years Prog Power event in Atlanta, Georgia are in for a treat. The Awakening The Guardian line up including John Arch are doing the entire Awaken The Guardian live. Happy 30th Anniversary to Fates Warning’s Awaken The Guardian.