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Awaken the Guardian by Fates Warning:How Good Does it Sound 30 Years Later?
Awaken the Guardian: front album cover
Track Listing for Awaken the Guardian
- The Sorceress
- Valley of the Dolls
- Fata Morgana
- Prelude to Ruin
- Giant’s Lore (Heart of Winter)
- Time Long Past (instrumental)
How Does Awaken the Guardian Stand Out as an album especially for 1986?
Awaken the Guardian came out at a time when thrash metal and hard rock were dominating the airwaves and MTV. So naturally it would be very hard to compete against artists such as Dokken, Metallica, Megadeth, and Slayer. The only lineup change for this album is the addition of guitarist Frank Aresti. However, Awaken the Guardian cannot compare in greatness to Master of Puppets or Reign in Blood. The vocals are hard to understand and the solos do not measure up to the guitar excellence of Kirk Hammett. That stated, Fates Warning would be solid for the 1980’s all the way through the middle part of the 1990’s.
The Major Flaw For the Album: John Arch Sounds Too Whiny At Times
In 2016, Fates Warning’s Awaken the Guardian turns 30. How does it sound after all these years? The vocals are often strained and hard to understand for a high pitched front man like John Arch. Personally I think that Ray Alder has been a better fit for this band. John Arch’s vocals sound too whiny at times and that is a major flaw about this album. That’s why it is not an elite album. In order for a heavy metal album to be considered elite, the vocals must be top notch. Ray Alder, the man who would replace Arch has a very high voice too but he keeps it under control without whining.
The Sorceress (Black Sabbath Influence in this song)
Awaken the Guardian: A Brief Analysis
The Iron Maiden influence is once again present and we can hear this in the guitar work in “Fata Morgana.” The lyrics for the songs tend to be of the fantasy based themes. German speed metal band Blind Guardian would have these sorts of lyrics in their songs especially in their 1990 song Lord of the Rings. The Sorceress starts with a guitar part that is soft before turning into a heavy song. This one has a riff that should remind most listeners of the song Children of the Grave by Black Sabbath. Guardian has some beautiful acoustic guitar that sets up a melodic song overall. There is also some tapping style guitar by Jim Matheos. The guitar mixed in with the distorted part is something that these guys experimented with in the song Epitaph in their previous album The Spectre Within. Prelude has a sort of riff that would be present in Iron Maiden’s song called The Prophecy. Giant’s Lore (Heart of Winter) has a really catchy riff in the beginning and the end which is memorable to me even all these years later. The song is basically about a dangerous giant that will crush anyone and anything that it sees especially children that play out in the yard. As the seasons change and spring arrives, the frost giants that had been dominating the landscape disappear and fade away. Giant’s Lore is one of the best Fates Warning songs of all time. Time Long Past is a short instrumental that brings back memories of The Call of Ktulu with that main riff.
Giant's Lore (Heart of Winter)
Final Thoughts About This Album
From a popular culture perspective, this album wouldn’t rank very high in that regard. Since the lyrics are fantasy based and not based in reality, people wouldn’t pay as much attention to it. Overall, Awaken the Guardian gets a score of 80 out of 100 points mainly because of John Arch’s hard to understand and strained high pitched shrieks. This would be the last album to feature John Arch on vocals and I’m certainly glad for that because the band got better without him. For 1986, Awaken the Guardian is not a bad album but it cannot compare to what Metallica or Slayer did. Fates Warning would get better after 1988 and would be superb for the next decade. Awaken is like a warm-up album that helped these guys get better.