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Review: Fates Warning "A Pleasant Shade of Gray"

Updated on November 12, 2023
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Ara is a journalism graduate from California State University, Northridge, who is always looking to explore his writing opportunities.

"A Pleasant Shade of Gray" is Pleasant for sure!

American progressive metal band Fates Warning has been one of the best bands of this style and this is especially true when they try to create music that has been different from what they usually do. Their 1997 album called A Pleasant Shade of Gray is an example of this good difference. It is an album that is one track that looks like it is split into 12 different parts. Released on April 22, 1997, it is the band’s 8th studio album and it is a rather pleasant listen. If you need early proof of this pleasant album check out part 9 first. But if you are a patient music fan you will enjoy the journey through this album that is only one track. What else can we say other than the fact that this album is unique in that respect. How often do you see heavy metal albums that are programmed as one track in a CD? Without further rambling, let's get to discussing an album that most fans of Fates Warning may overlook. Note: the words gray and grey may be used interchangeably.


A Great Question is Asked in the First Part of the Album

What should we do today? That’s a great philosophical question in the first part. Today. The first day of updates to this review which was on January 21, 2018, we were taking an even deeper analytical approach to this album which is a drastic difference to Fates Warning’s previous albums in the sense that it is an album that has 12 tracks yet it is programmed and written to be just one track.

The highlight from the first 25% of the album is Part IV

The first part of the album starts with the sound of rainfall mixed in with some acoustic guitar and then the synthesizer kicks in to create a sort of classical feel but it is more of a modern classical sound. The second part of the song is about someone that keeps on drifting back and forth between the past and present replaying the regrets of the past in his mind. The fast riffs that we heard on the band’s first three releases have largely been replaced by slower, more atmospheric parts. But when we get to part 8, we will hear some fast piano playing by Kevin Moore which has been one of my favorite parts of any Fates Warning song and you will see why this is the case. Part 4 has an interesting dual guitar sound in it before Ray Alder’s voice comes in. The part ends with some outstanding melodic guitar play starting in the 2.5 to 3 minute mark. That has to be ranked in one of the top 10 songs that the band has written. A Pleasant Shade of Grey can be seen as a longer version of The Ivory Gate of Dreams.

Band Personnel That Play on A Pleasant Shade of Gray

Ray Alder

Jim Matheos

Mark Zonder

Joey Vera

Kevin Moore

A Pleasant Shade of Gray Part 4

Parts 5 through 8: Kevin Moore's piano and keyboard skills

It is one song divided into 12 chapters so you can look at it as viewing a musical “book” in a sense. Part 5 has some very interesting repeating piano play which isn’t something you hear from this band all the time. Part 6 sounds like a part that Dutch band The Gathering would incorporate into their music. The guitar repeats for a while before Alder’s voice starts again. The song is about someone that realizes that he cannot turn back the clock and go back to the past even though he is still holding on to the memories of yesterday. Part 7 is where the piano playing by Kevin Moore starts and that is what leads into the impressive part 8. The part has some guitar play in it but then the band allowed Kevin Moore some time to express his creativity and he does a fantastic job even as the guitar plays alongside the piano.

This rain and puddles symbolize what goes on in the first part of this album.
This rain and puddles symbolize what goes on in the first part of this album. | Source

Parts 10 through 12

Part 10 is a very short instrumental part with some technical and industrial style sounds that we would hear in other albums as well. Part 11 is interesting as well also because it has a short of new-age style part influenced by Greek musician Yanni. Part 12 is the longest part at 7 minutes and 45 seconds long and it is a part about reflecting on the sadness and the morning light which hangs in the air like a memory. Sometimes we can close our eyes and sleep as we wake up to another day with more hope and promise as we get through the gray parts of life. We must learn to embrace some of the down times in our lives as the part suggests and if we do this we will come out stronger because of it.

"Part IX or Part 9"

A Heart Shaped Like a Tree With Leaves

An an attempt to make my album reviews more creative, here is a heart created in the shape of a tree and it symbolizes Part 9 of this album.
An an attempt to make my album reviews more creative, here is a heart created in the shape of a tree and it symbolizes Part 9 of this album. | Source

A Pleasant Shade of Gray Part 8

Final Thoughts About A Pleasant Shade of Gray

Overall, A Pleasant Shade of Gray is a nice concept album by Fates Warning and this wraps up 13 solid years in a row for this band as they prove to be quite possibly the best American progressive metal band.

This sure isn’t the album Inside Out but something unique in terms of progressive metal in general. I’m not saying either album is bad. They are both very good in their own way but this album is good and unique.

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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.

© 2017 Ara Vahanian


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