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Review: Fates Warning - Awaken the Guardian (Re-issue)
Fates Warning
Awaken the Guardian (Re-issue)

Label: Metal Blade Records
Year released: 2005
Originally released in: 1986
Duration: 148:32
Tracks: 31
Genre: Heavy Metal

Rating: 5/5

Review online: May 10, 2008
Reviewed by: Sargon the Terrible
Readers Rating
Awaken the Guardian (Re-issue)

Rated 4.79/5 (95.83%) (24 Votes)

This will be my 1,000th review for The Metal Crypt, and so I felt like I had to do something special, and what could be more special than a special edition of one of my very favorite albums of all time? This is a serious re-release of Fates Warning's untouchable third album, one of metal's great classic albums. Much more than a quick reissue, this is a 3-disc set, though calling it a 'boxed set' a stretching the truth a bit — it's really more of a slipcase. It includes a gloriously unfucked-with edition of the album itself — self-contained and with no bonus crap cluttering up the perfection. It has thankfully not been remastered or altered in any way. Disc two is a collection of demo and live tracks, and the third disc is a DVD with the only known live footage from the Awaken The Guardian tour, featuring the classic lineup.

The album itself is, of course, a metal classic and also one of the albums I love best in the world. It is an album I know every note of like I know the shape of my own teeth, and it moves me every time I hear it. "Guardian" is still probably my favorite song of all time. "Prelude To Ruin", "Exodus"...metal does not really get better than this, or music in general for that matter. If you don't know this album, rectify that right now, trust me.

The second disc has three demo songs on there, which have the expected rough sound and differing vocal melodies, but they sound energetic and kickass just the same. The live tracks are rough but interesting, mostly because John Arch cannot just sing the songs like they are on the album, and constantly mutates the vocal lines into new and different combinations. Just to note: the live tracks here are not taken from the same show as the one on the DVD.

The DVD is a video recording of a show in Long Island NY in 1986, featuring the classic line up and almost every song a fan of the band's early works could want, though "Kyrie Eleison" and "Without A Trace" are sadly absent. The video quality is what would be charitably called 'rough', with the bad lighting, static camera, poor detail, and tape fuckups we are no longer used to seeing. The sound is steady and does not flutter, but it sure is tinny. John Arch displays his trademark energy and really wails, never cheaping on the high notes. The sound quality is so bad that you can't really get the full effect, but here and there his real power shines through. On "Damnation", in particular, he really gets in the groove and sounds just amazing. The video during "Prelude To Ruin" is almost completely fucked, but the audio stays steady. Even with the extremely iffy quality, it is a kick to see the classic band playing live.

The only other feature on the DVD is a slideshow, which I actually found pretty cool. True it's just a bunch of old photos cycling through while "Guardian" plays on the soundtrack, but the images really hark back to another time for me. And the few studio candids really affected me, as seeing a shot of what is clearly Jim Matheos recording the acoustic intro to "Guardian" (there's that same guitar) gave me a thrill. There in that old snapshot taken in a crappy-looking studio twenty-two years ago a guy is recording a song that has meant so much to me. I just dig stuff like that, it's the historian in me.

Overall this is a cool package. The extras are solid if not essential, but they had the wisdom to leave the album proper sacrosanct, as it should be. This is certainly a fitting replacement if you're like me and have worn out multiple copies of this album in several formats. The older I get, and the more distance from it I have, the more clearly I can see that this album was a kind of pinnacle, and I don't know if they ever could have measured up to it even if they had not changed their style. As the best Fates Warning album and the swan song of the great John Arch with the band this is irreplaceable on its own, but as a landmark in metal as a real art form (rather than just a bunch of loud drunk kids) Awaken The Guardian is an album without peer, and more than deserving of this kind of lavish treatment. A must for the serious fan.

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