When prog rock first reared its head during the early '70s, it contained elements of hard rock, but few bands crossed the line into heavy metal.
This all changed during the '80s, when bands such as Dream Theater, Queensrÿche, Watchtower, and Fates Warning merged their love of Yes and Rush with their admiration for Iron Maiden and Judas Priest. As pioneers of the progressive metal movement, the band achieved international success in the '80s and '90s via career-making albums like Awaken the Guardian, No Exit, Perfect Symmetry, and Parallels. Despite enduring numerous lineup changes -- guitarist/songwriter Jim Matheos is the only original member still active -- and a substantial recording hiatus that began in 2004 and ended in 2013, the group's penchant for pairing innovation and might hasn't wavered throughout the decades, with later releases like Darkness in a Different Light and Theories of Flight continuing to push the boundaries of both heavy metal and progressive rock.
Formed in Hartford, Connecticut in 1983, Fates Warning started off as a straight-ahead metal band (their progressive side didn't show up until a few years later) and built up a regional following, which soon led to a recording contract with Metal Blade. With vocals being handled by John Arch, the group issued such titles as 1984's Night on Brocken, 1985's The Spectre Within, and 1986's Awaken the Guardian, the latter of which became the first record from the group to appear on the Billboard album charts.
Wanting to break out of a somewhat one-dimensional metal sound, the band dismissed Arch in 1987 and replaced him with Ray Alder. The move immediately paid off for Fates Warning, as their music (and lyrics/subject matter) became much more complex and challenging. The band's first recording with Alder, 1988's No Exit, would go on to become one of their highest-charting albums ever, and was followed up a year later with Perfect Symmetry, as well as an inaugural tour of Europe. The early '90s saw Fates Warning focus primarily on touring (only one album was issued during a several-year span, 1991's Parallels), although guitarist Jim Matheos did issue a solo album in 1993, First Impressions. In 1994 the group issued Inside Out, which was supported with a U.S. tour alongside Dream Theater (at a hometown gig in Connecticut, former frontman Arch joined the band on-stage). The band's first best-of compilation, Chasing Time, followed a year later, as did appearances on tribute albums for Rush (Working Man) and Judas Priest (Legends of Heavy Metal), which helped buy Fates Warning time as they began composing the most challenging album of their career. It was also around this time that former Armored Saint bassist Joey Vera joined the group (although he was originally thought to be a temporary replacement, Vera was still present several years later).
Finally issued in 1997, Pleasant Shade of Gray took the extended suite style of 2112 and Tales from Topographic Oceans to a new extreme, as the album comprised a single hourlong song (broken down into 12 different untitled sections). The very first live release by Fates Warning, Still Life, was issued in 1998, while Matheos issued a solo release the following year (Away with Words) and Alder, having formed a side project, Engine, recorded an eponymous CD. Fates Warning continued strong into the 21st century, as evidenced by 2000's studio album Disconnected and further extensive touring -- including a set of summer dates in 2003 alongside prog metal comrades Queensrÿche and Dream Theater. The band marked its 20th anniversary with the release of FWX in 2004.
Though Fates Warning continued to tour over the coming years, a new album was not yet forthcoming. In 2010, the Parallels-era lineup of Alder, Matheos, drummer Mark Zonder, guitarist Frank Aresti, and bassist Joe DiBiase briefly reunited to celebrate the new remastered edition of that album. The following year, Matheos and former early-era vocalist Arch formed a new group called Arch/Matheos and released their own debut album. Then in 2013, after a nine-year gap, Fates Warning delivered their 11th outing, Darkness in a Different Light, through the InsideOut label. The lineup at this point included Alder on vocals, Matheos and Aresti on guitars, Vera on bass, and newcomer Bobby Jarzombek on drums. A critical and commercial success, it was Fates Warning's first album to reach the Billboard Top 200 since 1989's Perfect Symmetry. This same lineup remained (minus Aresti) to record their follow-up, Theories of Flight, which arrived in the summer of 2016 and featured some of their heaviest and most forward-thinking material to date. ~ Greg Prato & Timothy Monger, Rovi