Early career and first three albums (1982−1986)
The first album, Night on Bröcken, was released in 1984 on the Metal Blade label. Mainly influenced by Iron Maiden and other heavy metal bands, in songs like the title track and, particularly, "Damnation," there were prog aspects that would be developed in subsequent albums. The Spectre Within, which was released in 1985, featured a more progressive approach with songs like "The Apparition", "Epitaph", "Pirates of the Underground" and "Traveler in Time", with many tempo changes, a greater complexity in the arrangements and fantasy lyrics full of symbolism and double meaning .
In 1986, original guitarist Victor Arduini left the band and was replaced by Frank Aresti.
The third album, Awaken the Guardian - regarded as a groundbreaking and essential prog metal release - was launched in that year, moving towards a more mythical atmosphere and a fully progressive approach towards song form, full of complex and unusual riffs and numerous tempo changes, on frenetic and evocative vocal lines, maintaining, however, a basic fluidity.
Fates Warning @ KIT Festival (2016)
Fates Warning @ KIT Festival (2016)
Lineup changes and rise to near fame (1987−1993)
In 1987, original vocalist John Arch left the band prior to the start of work on the band's next album. Ray Alder joined the band later that year. The first album with Alder, No Exit was released in 1988 and further developed the route taken by the prior album with a more powerful sound while setting aside the fantasy themes and atmospheres. It featured the first prog metal suite of the genre, "The Ivory Gate of Dreams," which is based on the Gates of horn and ivory.
Following the tour in support of No Exit, original drummer Steve Zimmerman left the band in 1988. He was replaced by Mark Zonder in 1989. Perfect Symmetry was released in the same year. The album abandoned the aggressive sound of No Exit in favor of a more melodic and experimental one along with a melancholic atmosphere and intimate lyrics; full of extremely complex arrangements and an unusual and very articulated rhythm section, it is often regarded as a seminal prog metal album, "which laid the foundations of the sound of the 90s". Kevin Moore (keyboardist for Dream Theater at the time) was featured as a guest on the song "At Fate's Hands", while the cover is signed by Hugh Syme, famous for his work with the Canadian progressive rock band Rush.
1991 saw the release of Parallels, which was distributed by Warner. The album, which started the collaboration with Rush producer Terry Brown, contains more accessible and streamlined songs than in the past, except for tracks such as "The Eleventh Hour" and "Life in Still Water". Parallels is considered an essential album that "has influenced a great amount of subsequent musicians" and is possibly the band's most commercially successful record. James LaBrie (who had just joined Dream Theater) provided guest vocals on the song "Life in Still Water".
Later years (1994−2009)
Slowing down after the momentum of the previous releases, the band took two and a half years to complete 1994's Inside Out, which continued in the general vein of the previous album while adding more melody to the songs. The band's lineup also remained intact between albums for the first time since Spectre Within. Band members have attributed the album's comparative lack of success to confusion while writing this album in the wake of the success of Parallels and their subsequent failure to maintain release momentum. Inside Out was followed by a 1995 compilation, Chasing Time, which included two previously unreleased songs.
In 1996, both Joe DiBiase and Frank Aresti left the group.
The three remaining members, Alder, Matheos and Zonder, joined by new member Joey Vera on bass and Kevin Moore as a guest keyboardist, released A Pleasant Shade of Gray in 1997. Written as a concept album, A Pleasant Shade of Gray revealed a much darker and bleaker mood in songwriting style than had been heard before from the band. The album consists of a single 53-minute song split into twelve parts, making it the longest track Fates Warning has ever recorded.
A live two-CD set, Still Life, was released in 1998, containing A Pleasant Shade of Gray performed live in its entirety. Joey Vera (bass), Bernie Versailles (guitars) and Jason Keazer (keyboards) accompanied the group on this album. A Japanese version included a studio Scorpions cover, "In Trance."
The A Pleasant Shade of Gray lineup consisting of Alder, Matheos, Zonder, Vera, and Moore, returned to record Disconnected in 2000. In 2003, Frank Aresti was asked to fill in on a tour with Dream Theater and Queensryche. He officially rejoined the band as a full time member in 2005.
Their tenth studio recording FWX was released in 2004. Drummer Mark Zonder stated it would be his last album with the band, as he wished to pursue other interests, and left in 2005. Although an official member again, Frank Aresti did not appear because the writing had been completed and contracts had been signed already.
Live in Athens, a concert DVD, was released in 2005; This DVD included guest drummer Nick D'Virgilio.
In the liner notes to the 2005 expanded edition of the Awaken the Guardian album, Dream Theater drummer Mike Portnoy noted that, "very often fans and critics credit Dream Theater for creating a whole new genre of progressive metal music in the late '80s/early '90s, . . . but the truth is Fates Warning were doing it years before us."
The band has recorded songs for various "tribute" albums, including "Closer to the Heart" on the 1996 Working Man Rush tribute, "Saints in Hell" on the 1997 Legends of Metal Judas Priest tribute, and "Sign of the Southern Cross" on the 2000 Holy Dio Ronnie James Dio tribute.
Reunions with former members, Darkness in a Different Light and Theories of Flight (2010−2017)
In 2010, Fates Warning played select dates with the Parallels lineup (Alder, Matheos, Zonder, Aresti and DiBiase) to celebrate the reissued, remastered and expanded edition of the classic album.
At the beginning of 2011, an announcement was made that Matheos and original vocalist John Arch had formed a band called Arch/Matheos. Their debut album was released in the autumn of that year, also featuring Joey Vera on bass guitar, Bobby Jarzombek on drums, and Frank Aresti on additional lead guitar.
After many delays, Fates Warning released its eleventh studio album Darkness in a Different Light on September 27, 2013. It was the band's first album since 2004's FWX.
In March 2016 the Awaken the Guardian lineup (Arch, Matheos, Aresti, DiBiase and Zimmerman) reunited for a European show to celebrate the album's 30th anniversary. That lineup also headlined the Progpower USA Festival in Atlanta, Georgia in September 2016.
Fates Warning entered the studio in December 2015 to begin recording their twelfth studio album, which was planned for release in early 2016. The album, titled Theories of Flight, was released on July 1, 2016.
Return to Metal Blade and upcoming thirteenth studio album (2018−present)
When asked in a June 2018 interview about the thirteenth Fates Warning album, frontman Ray Alder stated: "Right now, we're not in a writing mode. Everyone is kind of doing their own thing. I'm sure that will come out soon enough, of what everyone is doing. For the meantime, there are no plans to write another Fates Warning album — not in the near future, at least." Alder also commented on the band's future, saying: "Right now, there's just no plans to go into the studio or write. But, people are working on different things and we're working on another tour right now for South America, so that is still a little up in the air. It's 90 percent sure, but we'll see what happens with that. I can't say anything until it's confirmed."
On February 15, 2019, it was announced that Fates Warning had resigned to Metal Blade Records, and plans to begin working on a new album, for a 2020 release, after their spring tour with Queensrÿche. In a December 2019 interview, bassist Joey Vera stated, "Fates Warning is not quite done writing, but pretty close. I think that the Fates record is also gonna be recording probably around January, February. I'm still very involved in both of those bands, obviously. So, for sure, a new Armored Saint record and a new Fates Warning record is on the horizon in the next 18 months, for sure."