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Metal/Prog Metal CD Reviews

Engine

Engine

Review by Vivian Lee

Fates Warning vocalist Ray Alder decided to use the interim between albums to cut his first solo release entitled Engine. Alder had to look no further than Fates Warning's most recent touring lineup. He recruited Armored Saint alumnus Joey Vera to handle bass chores, and Bernie Versailles (both of whom appear on Fates Warning's double live offering, Still Life) on guitar. Drummer Pete Parada completed the band, and the Engine boys pumped out some decidedly angrier fare than Fates Warning has of late. A good comparison to draw would be that of Rush guitarist Alex Lifeson's solo, Victor, which was much more aggressive in its songwriting and playing than Rush had done in quite a long time.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: The Early Years Volume 3 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Monster
This is a strong track. String synth coupled with a serious-sounding bass introduce this dark, gloomy and slow piece. Guitar crackles at the forefront while resonant low bass accompanies rhythmic percussion and cymbal crashing. Vocals alternate from a breathy moan, to a midtoned roar in the chorus where Alder sings about the 'Monster', which could be a metaphor for anything dark.
Alone
A discordant guitar begins the song, and consistently provides a rhythmic partner for bass and percussion. Vocals are raised to raw-edged, tenor. 3. Falling Star: Dreamy synth and guitar (Hemispheres-era Lifeson style) start out, then lead into finger-picked chords and muted bass. Until the 2:15 mark, Alder's vocals are breathy and soft, as if speaking in hushed tones into one's ear. From that point on, the semi-ballad becomes a slow, but solid, melodic tune until the end.
Falling Star
Dreamy synth and guitar (Hemispheres-era Lifeson style) start out, then lead into finger-picked chords and muted bass. Until the 2:15 mark, Alder's vocals are breathy and soft, as if speaking in hushed tones into one's ear. From that point on, the semi-ballad becomes a slow, but solid, melodic tone until the end.
Taste
Drumbeats in a fast tempo are punctuated by clean cymbal taps and crashes. This is paired with a crunchy guitar, and low bass. Alder's vocals, low and broken at first, rise to flowing midtones in the chorus, punctuated by loud high shrieks. The song ends with harmonizing guitars and Alder whispering "face" before abrupt silence.
I Don't Need
This is another strong ear-pounder and personal favorite. Synchronized, harmonized wahwah static that seems to pulsate starts the cut. Then it builds up with rhythmic guitar/bass, loud drums, cymbal crashes, and midlevel vocals. Raw, loud echoes are present in chorus. The powerful instrumental part is finished off by a repeated, shrill "I don't need to know." 6. Teach Me: Distorted synth, then low rhythm guitar, bass and drums make up the introduction. Chorus-enhanced backing vocals add to the mix. Alder's vocals are breathy, then he screams during the chorus, "Hey, I love it when you teach me how to hate you". Backed by a choir of screaming youths, Alder's wail vibrates for a bit, then is chopped off in mid-thought.
Bear Your Cross
Dual guitars begin in a crunchy melody laid over a finger-picked rhythm. Then a restrained middle tempo percussion enters. A low fuzzy bass compliments the rhythmic string section. Alder's midrange vocals give the theme of bearing burdens the progmetal treatment.
Tree of Life
Lyrically thoughtful, this is a sad, beautiful, and soft semi-ballad. It is rhythmically slower than 'Bear Your Cross'.
You're Awake
This is the last hard, cranked up rocker. Midtoned, clean vocals rise in the chorus but not to the level of screams. If you turn up the bass on your stereo, Vera's playing can be felt resonating in the chest and ears. Rhythm and lead guitars cooperate well, and the drums are clean and loud.
 
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