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Review of Awaken the Guardian by American Progressive Metal Band Fates Warning:how Good Does It Sound 30 Years Later?

Updated on September 15, 2021
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Ara is a journalism graduate from California State University, Northridge, who is always looking to explore his writing opportunities.


Awaken the Guardian Songs List

  1. The Sorceress (can anyone guess which song one of the riffs in this song sounds like)?
  2. Valley of the Dolls
  3. Fata Morgana
  4. Guardian
  5. Prelude to Ruin
  6. Giant’s Lore (Heart of Winter)
  7. Time Long Past (instrumental)
  8. Exodus

Note: the strongest songs in this album are in bold.

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 whining of John Arch in songs such as "Valley of the Dolls" and "Fata Morgana" may be too much for some of you to handle.

"The Sorceress" (Black Sabbath Influence in this song)

Fata Morgana Has an Iron Maiden Influence In It

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.

"Valley of the Dolls"

"The Sorceress" Is a Song Among the First Four That Stands Out

Note: we are in 2021 and I find myself wanting to revisit this album. “The Sorceress” is a great opening song also because of that one middle riff section that sounds like Black Sabbath. Those of you that have a good enough ear musically can spot the similarity.

"Giant's Lore" (Heart of Winter)

About the Songs Giant's Lore (Heart of Winter) and Time Long Past

"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. The giant has been popular in video games especially the original Final Fantasy. 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.

"Exodus" (song)

Final Thoughts About Awaken the Guardian

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 the Guardian is like a warm-up album that helped these guys get better.

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.

© 2016 Ara Vahanian


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