Night On Brocken

Fates Warning

Metal Blade, 1984

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


The last time I listened to prog-metal band Fates Warning was in 2000. I can’t really explain why I never sat down and gave any of their other albums a fair spin… Lord knows I’ve had them queued up from time to time, only to be sidetracked by something else.

I finally got through Night On Brocken, the debut effort from guitarist Jim Matheos and crew… and I’m starting to understand why I was never in a rush to get to their discography. There’s no doubting the technical precision of the musicians, but the end result is formulaic and boring.

Granted, this was released in 1984, and you can hear more than a passing nod to bands like Iron Maiden and Queensryche in the performances. It’s important to understand the time frame this particular album came out in—but I’ve heard lots of albums from 1984 and before that sound as fresh now as they did then. This particular disc feels and sounds dated from the opening notes to the bitter end.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The band—guitarists Matheos and Victor Arduini, vocalist John Arch, bassist Joe DiBiase and drummer Steve Zimmerman—are less progressive, more metal on this first outing. Maybe this was just an album featuring a band still cutting their musical teeth and finding what direction they wanted to go. But there really isn’t much to celebrate throughout the course of these nine tracks.

With just the slightest hint at the sinister by referencing a German mountain associated with witchcraft, Fates Warning tries in vain to capture the listener’s attention with their dual-lead metal leanings and the suggestion you’re listening to something evil. The title track, “Buried Alive” and “Misfit” all walk that same line… and, though there’s no fault to be laid regarding the skills of each individual musician, the end result falls flat. (Perhaps if they had taken the echo effect off of Arch’s vocals, that might have improved things a little bit.)

Matheos’s guitar work is to be noted, though—especially in the interlude “S.E.K.,” which features some great acoustic work. And the guitar interplay between Matheos and Arduini is palatable enough, but without more solid songwriting and clearer lyrical content to back them up, it sometimes feels like it’s all for naught.

Night On Brocken might have been a first effort, but it barely has enough to make me want to go listen to later releases from Fates Warning (though the band would eventually go through several lineup changes, with only Matheos remaining constant). If you are having a craving for mid-’80s metal and you’ve worn out your Quiet Riot albums, you might want to give this a spin. But don’t say you weren’t warned.

Rating: C

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



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