Fates Warning – “Awaken the Guardian Live (Disc 1)” CD/ DVD/ Blu-ray/ Vinyl (Metal Blade Records)
A cult classic since its release in 1986, “Awaken the Guardian” was the first charting success for US prog metallers Fates Warning, and with an unwaning popularity over the years, resulting in several re-issues! Although their 3rd album, it would also mark the departure of vocalist John Arch, himself destined to become a cult figure despite the band’s continuing success – the fact that he spent 17 years away from the music business only adding to his mystique!! During this time, the emergence of the ‘true’ metal scene in Germany had begun to grow, along with underground festivals like Keep It True who specialized in bringing back long forgotten cult bands and especially original line ups of certain acts. As if willed by fate, the original recording line-up of “Awaken the Guardian” – including Arch – were re-united at Keep It True XIX some 30 years later for the album’s anniversary! Needless to say, it was a packed out show and thanks to the amazingly resilient vocals of John Arch – still able to remarkably hit those quasi operatic highs – the roaring crowd needed no cue whatsoever to sing along to the likes of ‘Guardian’, and my personal fave ‘Fata Morgana’. Although tagged with the ‘prog’ label, I would say this might apply to some sound elements as well as the mesmerising technical guitar work of Jim Matheos and Frank Aresti, but overall, the band are metal which is probably why I’ve always appreciated them, with much of their material resonating epic Maiden-esque tones. This unmissable live release, which may in time become a cult release in itself, captures the band’s entire 12 song Keep It True festival set, being made up of the 8 original album tracks, along with early classics like ‘Night on Brocken‘ off their namesake debut release in 1984. Undoubtedly a special show in every sense, the enjoyment for those unable to see this original line up live or make it to these special shows can be appreciated whatever the format – be it CD or the deluxe package – as the energy and passion is unmistakable from the band and audience coming together to celebrate these unforgettable songs 30 years on, and still going strong! Definitely one of the year’s top live releases and as a parting note, the title says ‘Part 1..’ and having also played the ProgPower USA festival that same year, no doubt a follow up will soon be due of that show too!!!!