HardReviews 2
by Martin Popoff

Fates Warning - Night On Brocken
Fates Warning - The Spectre Within
(Metal Blade)

Part of an ongoing reissue campaign which includes works by Lizzy Borden, these two releases celebrate the first two albums by a Connecticut band now recognized as one of the first three progressive metal bands of all time, along with Rush and Queensryche. My appreciation for these records has grown over the years, their professionalism, hot-stamped vocals and competent production helping to translate the band's enigmatic melding of progressive, old school and doom. Indeed, they age well, proving that Fates Warning were pioneering, visionary, correct, not inappropriately wordy, creating a (fat, low speed, escapist) base for the power and prog scenes that thrive today. Both reissues provide tiny liner notes, lyrics, rare photos and most importantly contextual bonus tracks. For extra tracks, Night On Brocken (originally released in '84) offers a demo, a live track, and two rehearsals (from dodgy cassette?), one of which is a cover of Maiden's 'Flight Of Icarus', proving all too well John Arch's vocal prowess. The Spectre Within (original issue: '85) does much the same thing, offering rehearsal, demo and live versions of songs on the album.
Rating 7, 8.5

Sixty Watt Shaman - Reason To Live

Been living with this album for a few weeks now, having played it many more times than what is usual in the Grand Central CD station that is my plastic-stacked office and I can't get this album to sink in and stick. First off Scott Reeder has produced the band close, junky and intimate like Queens Of The Stone Age, with a weird snare sound, toms that seem to vibrate with the snare's snare, and an overall guttedness that doesn't work, even though it's different. Different also describes the music, Sixty Watt now being neither stoner rock nor Clutch clones, again, a little Queens, a little punk rock, boogie rock, '70s rock, southern rock. The lyrics, as always, are intelligent, spiritual, enigmatic, damn good, delivered by grizzled mountain man Dan Kerzwick, who seems to fall in and out of tune a fair bit more than my butt cheeks would like (see Breathe Again). I much prefer the sludgy loose pound of the band's last album Seed Of Decades, even though I applaud the band for stepping forth and really coming into their own sound.
Rating 7

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