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Blu-ray Review: Fates Warning ‘Awaken the Guardian Live’
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Fates Warning Awaken the Guardian Live banner

Fates Warning
Awaken the Guardian Live
Blu-ray | 2-CD/1-DVD | Vinyl
Label: Metal Blade Records
Release date: April 28, 2017

In 1986, progressive metal outfit Fates Warning released their Awaken the Guardian album up against such seminal works as Metallica’s Master Of Puppets, Slayer’s Reign In Blood, and Megadeth’s Peace Sells… But Who’s Buying?. With competition like that, it’s no wonder that the band’s third effort didn’t skyrocket to the top of the metal world, even though it deserved to, as Awaken the Guardian is a masterpiece, plain and simple.

The album marked the Connecticut band’s final release with original singer John Arch before continuing till today with frontman Ray Adler. But last year, for the 30th anniversary of Awaken the Guardian, guitarist, songwriter, and mastermind Jim Matheos reassembled the album’s line-up to play two festival shows. Now, Metal Blade Records has released the performances on DVD and Blu-ray as Awaken the Guardian Live, and if you’re a fan of this album and line-up, then this release is going to blow you away.

Awaken the Guardian Live, which clocks in at nearly 3 hours, pulls together the footage from the two reunion shows — the Keep It True XIX festival recorded on April 30th, 2016 in Lauda-Konigshofen, Germany, and the Prog Power USA festival recorded on September 9th, 2016 in Atlanta, GA — performed by the Guardian-era musicians: John Arch on vocals, Jim Matheos on guitars, Frank Aresti on guitars, Steve Zimmermann on drums, and Joe DiBiase on bass. So, how were these two-time performances from a line-up that hasn’t played together in three decades? Flawless, damnit. It was flawless. It’s mind-blowing, actually.

The two performances see the old line-up performing the Guardian album in its entirety, followed by a few tracks from their previous two albums, Night on Bröcken (1984) and The Spectre Within (1985), which was another treat. Both concerts are enjoyable in their own way, but the group is not as interactive in their first show in Germany, which also saw them on a smaller stage. The camera work and video editing is also slightly better for the U.S. gig, which saw the musicians more at ease with each other and the audience.

I consider Awaken the Guardian to be one of the greatest metal albums ever made, and for decades, it has been in heavy rotation first on my turntable, then my portable CD player, and now my iPhone. Its tales of Arthurian legend, evil harpy vultures, witches, giants, and dragons are as fantastically enthralling today as they were thirty-plus years ago when Arch first hit all those high notes. All these years later, the singer still manages to flawlessly and seemingly effortlessly pull off his old vocal acrobatics. For both gigs, the audiences reacted most favorably to “Fata Morgana” and “Exodus.”

While there’s no bonus features on the Blu-ray (I was hoping for some interviews and behind-the-scenes footage on the reunion), original album cover artist Ioannis provided the art direction, design, and artwork, which included motion art between between the songs (these were accompanied by voice over narration of the tales).

Along with the standard Blu-ray and DVD release, Metal Blade is also offering some limited-edition variations.

— Deluxe Edition Artbook (52 pages, 4-CD, DVD, Blu-ray – limited to 2000 copies)
— 2CD + DVD Digipak
— Blu-ray (USA exclusive)
— 180g black vinyl
— indigo blue vinyl (limited to 300 copies – EU exclusive)
— turquois green vinyl (limited to 200 copies – EU exclusive)
— purple vinyl (limited to 300 copies – USA exclusive)
— exclusive bundles with a shirt, plus digital options are also available (see image just below)

If you’re a fan of this era of Fates Warning, you will absolutely love Awaken The Guardian Live, and if you’re not familiar with it, but want to discover an old treasure, definitely delve into this new Blu-ray release. It’s progressive, power metal at its finest.

Fates Warning Awaken the Guardian Live packaging

Fates Warning Awaken the Guardian Live cover art

Preview: Fates Warning – ‘Fata Morgana’

Video: Fates Warning “Fata Morgana (Live at Keep It True XIX)”

OFFICIAL TRAILER: Fates Warning “Awaken the Guardian Live”

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