Evil Dr. Smith : The very first Hardrock album (vinyl of course) I bought immediately after it was released was 'No Exit', Fate Warning's 4th full-length. I already had a pile of Maiden's Metallica's, Manowar's and so on to call my own of course, but they had been on the market for ages and well-established as well before I acquired them. Fates Warning was something special alright. 'No Exit', and the ultra-lengthy B-side( 'The Ivory Gates…'), not to mention the superlatives used in the Aardschok, fascinated me to such a degree that I resorted to (for the first time ever) to flop a huge amount of money on the counter (at that time to me al least) for an LP I had seen nor heard before. And it turned out a good choice. In all honesty I would have to admit I was predominantly fascinated by the complex song-structure and the high pitched, somewhat nasal sound of debutante Ray Alder's voice, and not so much drawn in by the music. Maybe I was still a bit too young for that: my adolescent age of 15 craved for straightforward testosterone-metal all the time. But over the years I have picked up the 'No Exit'-LP (later CD) at irregular intervals and became more and more involved in the music. Fates Warning added that extra bit when later they surpassed themselves by releasing 'Perfect Symmetry'(1989) and 'Parallels'(1991). The following albums Ínside Out'(1994) and 'A Pleasant Shade Of Gray'(1997) - made after the Mike Oldfield-concept, so all music combined into 1 single enormously lengthy song - did not get enough of my attention to leave a lasting impression. The same goes for Fates Warning's latest CD 'Disconnected'(2000). Although I have been listening to it on a more regular basis lately, and was surprised by its dark, sinister, moody and sometimes even triphoppy atmosphere.
Jim Matheos composition-wise fathered Fates Warning and the bands tends to swerve away ever more from 'pure metal, therefore vocalist Ray Alder applied himself to a hobby-band to personally express his 'metal-aggression'. This band is called Enige and involves Alder's friends guitarist/co-composer Bernie Versailles (Agent Steel), producer/bass player Joey Vera (Armored Saint) and drummer Pete Parada (ex-Steel Prophet/Face To Face). The tough character of Enige's first release (3 years ago) surprised me, it was far more straight up and down metal than the complex Fates Warning music. And this new album is similar. Do not expect Machine Head or Pantera, though the odd nu-metal element comes sipping through in this spherical, but rough, slightly progressive metal (staccato riffs and Bernie's guitar-sound in 'Suffocated' and 'Mine', for example). Ray's vocals differ from his Fates Warning contributions also, they are lower in pitch and more aggressive. In opener 'Losing Ground' his voice is almost unrecognisable, but his voice's dramatic expression gives Engine (just like it did for Fates Warning) a certain melancholic edge ('Realize' and 'Save Me').
Surprisingly, the album also holds an unexpected cover-song. Ray (with either Engine or Fates Warning) only rarely goes for a cover, but The Cure's 'Fascination Street' left me inclined to maybe go for a re-evaluation of that band. Engine's cover version made me check out the original The Cure song ('disintegration'1989). I always thought that awful whining git Robert Smith had not managed to come up with any good song after 'A Forest'. Engine's metal-version is good, but the original is even better! Anyway, I am rambling again….
Engine's second CD comes across just a tat stronger than their debut did; producer Joey Vera gave the whole thing a warmer and also darker (i.e more atmospheric) sound and the songs show just that extra inch of excitement. But in the end its six of the one or half a dozen of the other, because the albums are not THAT different. And there is no problem in that as the debut was good already. Ray may call Engine a hobby-band or side-project, but this is too good to be downplayed like that! Read more in the interview with Ray Alder about his efforts with Engine (the odd reference to Fates Warning creeps up as well, of course)