In July of 2016 progressive metal pioneers Fates Warning released their twelfth album, the highly acclaimed ‘Theories of Flight,’ and then promptly spent the next year and a half touring it across their native US (where I had the pleasure of seeing them) and Europe. Now nearly two years to the day later they are releasing their chronicle of their European tour with ‘Live Over Europe.’ Recorded across the continent at eight different cities, and comprised of 23 songs spanning over two hours that covers their entire 30 year career, it is the ultimate representative of that tour, and one fans are sure to take notice of.
With such a large amount of material, I am obviously not going to go song by song, but rather cover what I consider the highlights and general main moments. The show begins with “From The Rooftops,” the opening track from ‘Theories,’ and it sets the tone and mood for the entire album. The power and essence of the band, their technical prowess, are all captured and on display. The music is generally heavier than it is on the studio album, which is only fitting. I also prefer Ray Alder’s vocals in a live setting; some of his higher tones can be a bit much in the studio, but his tone is a bit rougher and purer live, which for me only aids the music.
As to be expected for a live release covering the tour of a new album, the set list, at least on the first disk, is weighed heavily on songs from ‘Theories,’ but fans of their older material will be pleased to hear that the entire second disk is comprised of early tracks. I’m more of a casual fan of the band, and until fairly recently didn’t care for them much, so the opportunity to hear a career spanning set, in the heightened live setting, made me enjoy a lot of songs more than I perhaps would have if I had listened to the albums first. Case in points are the one two punch that ends the first disk and opens the second. The first disk closes with the nearly 15 minute “And Yet It Moves” which is a complex, heavy prog tour de force from 2013’s ‘Darkness in a Different Day.’ It starts a bit slowly, but builds into something wonderful.
The second disk then opens with the 16 minute “Still Remains” from their 2000 release ‘Disconnected,’ the 2001 tour which I ironically saw them on when they opened for another band, and I found them unimpressive. They likely played the song then; it is amusing to hear how 17 years can change one’s perspective (or performance). “Still Remains” is a prog metal monster, and is easily my favorite song on the second disk. They end things with “Eye To Eye,” an energetic rocker and one that gets the crowd going and rounds things off nicely.
Being a live recording taken from many different shows, the sound is remarkably consistent and the audio quality very good throughout. The bass of Joey Vera especially has a great, heavy punch to it, something that I thought their last studio album lacked. And drummer Bobby Jarzombek thunders his way through older material with seeming ease and extreme precision. Guitarist Jim Matheos should need little introduction to any fan of progressive metal, he is excellent throughout and is joined on tour with second guitarist Mike Adbow, who contributes backing vocals as well.
As for crowd interaction, there is more on the second disk than the first, including some crowd sing-alongs. I wouldn’t expect a lot of interaction on a CD though in the first place, and given the number of shows involved, any crowd rapport would be lost if they tried to splice it. Regardless, it captures the energy and intimacy of a club setting, which is so essential to live albums working. A lot of people don’t care for live albums because of a certain rawness, but that is the very reason that I enjoy them so much; they bring the studio music to life, and with most prog bands –and Fates is certainly one of them – their precision in playing is on par with their work in the studio.
Fates Warning has succeeded admirably in bringing their recent tour to life with this upcoming album. ‘Live Over Europe’ finds one of prog metal’s stalwart bands firing on all cylinders, and perfectly capturing the power and fire of their recent live shows. For older fans there’s a lot to love here as old material is again brought alive, and for newer fans or people unfamiliar with the band, this serves as an excellent introduction to their current and back catalogue. For old, or new, this collection is a delight and should please.