Fates Warning at Gagarin 205 (2007)

Gagarin 205 (Athens, Greece)

Fates Warning
It was about six o'clock in a scarily rainy Monday afternoon when I was leaving […]
By Alex Zervanos
November 19, 2007

It was about six o'clock in a scarily rainy Monday afternoon when I was leaving Gagarin 205, having finished interviewing FATES WARNING's guitarist, lyricist and only remaining founding member. Jim Matheos was following me off the meeting room and down the stairs, unenthusiastically dragging his apparently fatigued feet to the stage. He was lazily pacing his movements like some efficient, but rusty old generation pocket-size robot. The soundcheck should now be taken care of, and Jim waved me goodbye with the cool politeness of a professional touring performer taking care of business. Out of the club, and having the door emphatically closed behind me by an impatient stage manager, the fear of an upcoming possible downpour forced me to stop reflecting on the impression I got from the metal titan I had just met, and focus instead on reaching my car in time and have my borrowed equipment sheltered.

Quite a misleading series of events... The rain never came, whereas Matheos'worn out edition never reappeared for the rest of the day.

Same place, about three and a half hours later, and after a quite interesting DJ set which unexpectedly concluded with MASSIVE ATTACK's Angel, Jim stormed the stage of what was now an anticipation-packed room, half full of their devoted fans. Several inches taller than I recalled him to be in our previous encounter, and full of energetic, willful emotional engagement to the meticulously crafted rhapsodies in blue that FATES WARNING present as 'songs'. From a bored water-only drinker to a captivating, majestic stage presence, their leader's effortless transformation bares in it the essence of a band exclusively relying on their music, it is in their music's context that they will reveal their truths and their real power, both as separate personalities and as a collective.

Armed with a set-list that heavily relied on their more recent releases (Pleasant Shade Of Grey, Disconnected and FWX) and digging out songs no older than No Exit's Silent Cries, FATES delivered inspired performances, as masterful and invigorating as suggested by their reputation. In fact, most of the songs from their aforementioned modern albums function a lot better live, as their complex structures and heavy riffing passages strike harder when benefiting from a concert's natural bombast. Matheos told me that he loves contemporary production techniques of noise reduction, no matter the subsequent loss of frequency range, but some of his compositions do get hampered from time to time by that kind of studio perfectionism, in my humble opinion that is. Pleasant Shade...'s suites were sounding crushingly vital on Monday night, despite the muddy mix that blurred some parts of the first four numbers of the gig.

Ray Alder sported a short haircut, initially hidden under a woolen cap, and was in fine form, despite allegedly having caught a cold. His velvet, smooth tenor has over the years been infused with a really discreet raspy undertone, adding depth and a sense of maturity to his never-less-than-impressive vocals. It is needless to say that the falsetto histrionics of his now distant past, so loved by some and so heavily criticized by others (including Ray himself), are no longer in any use at all. The upper range vocal parts of, let's say, Eleventh Hour or Nothing Left To Say have been adequately replaced by less indulging mid-range singing. On the contrary, almost nothing was altered in the chaotic textures of Mark Zonder's labyrinthine drum parts, efficiently performed by Bobby Jarzombek (HALFORD, RIOT, JUGGERNAUT). In terms of groove and percussive imagination Bobby is not as versatile a player as FATES' longtime hero-drummer, but he is a true monster of his own, and his brutal kit-bashing more than made up for what was lost dynamic-wise. Supporting Bobby on bass, Joey Vera (ARMORED SAINT, OSI, TRIBE AFTER TRIBE, ANTHRAX) is a power-house, he has got more energy, aggressiveness, punk attitude and creativity than the vast majority of youngsters half his age.

A great, great group, in a great, great live performance, FATES did proceed to resurrect Eye To Eye, a gem that they claimed not to have played for several years now, paying tribute to their ever-supporting Greek fan base, even though the event did not end up as lengthy as promised (clocking at one hour and forty five minutes, its duration satisfied the most, but still lurked disturbingly far from the two and a half hours it was marketed to last). By the time of their powerful cover (SCORPIONS' In Trance) or their set's final sprawling prog epic (Monument), people either drunk or just spellbound by the fierce interplay coming through the PA were already bouncing off each others' backs.
Plenty left to say, Jim...


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