Fates Warning have been a formidable presence in progressive metal for more than 35 years, helping to shape and drive the genre without ever compromising their integrity or losing relevance. They return in 2020 with Long Day Good Night, the most epic and longest album of their storied career. "The styles of music we've written distinguish this record from the rest of our catalogue," states vocalist Ray Alder. "There are some songs with electronics and some with a nice ethereal feel, as well as some pretty straightforward grooves, at least for us. And there are also some pretty heavy songs. We tried to give the listener a host of different things to listen to, as opposed to an album where every song sounds the same." As such, the album is something of a rollercoaster ride, moving through various moods and making for perhaps their most vital release to date.
Following touring with Queensrÿche, guitarist Jim Matheos began writing the album in mid-2019, working closely with Alder for about a year, honing the songs, completing 13 for their 13th full-length - which un-coincidentally has a total running time of 72:22. Despite their long history of making records, Alder makes it clear that the songs take a lot of work to realize. "Like all albums, nothing comes easy. It's quite a process to go from the idea to the actual finished song. Sometimes you think you're done with it, then you hear something else and you have to try that. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't, but you at least have to try it just so you know that in the end you've done everything possible to make it as good as it can be. Jim and I spent practically every day for the last year writing this album. I am very happy with the outcome, and with the blend of styles. I guess I could say that this album represents all of the years that we have been together." From opener "The Destination Onward", which is a dynamic romp that covers a lot of ground, to the warmer, more contemplative strains of "The Way Home" or the 11+ minutes of "The Longest Shadow Of The Day" that pushes in a number of directions without losing focus, they don't repeat themselves, always delivering the goods with heart. While gratified by all of them, Alder is particularly proud of "Under The Sun", which came about unexpectedly. "It was actually a small section of another song on the album. I don't think Jim had any vocals in mind for the particular part, but one day he sent me the guitars and asked me if I thought we could possibly make an entire song of it. I said let me work on it. Ironically, I had a melody in my head that I had been singing for a couple of months, I didn't know what I would use it for, but it was there. While I was walking my dog that night, I realized that it fit perfectly in the part that was to become the chorus. I recorded the melodies the next day and sent them to Jim. We decided that day to make it an entire song. Serendipity, I guess."
While he elects not to discuss the meanings behind any of the songs, Alder makes it clear that there is no unifying concept on Long Day Good Night, his method of working dictating the directions he goes in. "Whenever I write melodies, I usually sing a lot of nonsense words just so that I can find which particular vowels or consonants work best for the notes being used. A lot of it is subliminal. Sometimes a lyrical idea comes from this gibberish and I can go from there. The word 'home' came up a lot, whether it be missing home or just being comfortable there. Not sure why exactly." With Matheos acting as producer, the musicians tracked their parts in their various homes/studios in Los Angeles, San Antonio, Texas and New Hampshire while Alder, who lives in Spain, recorded in a small studio in Madrid. His commitment to completing his contributions on time saw him going above and beyond. "Spain was on total lockdown due to the Coronavirus pandemic. This meant that no one was allowed to leave their homes for any reason other than to get groceries or walk the dog. Due to ours and mixer Joe Barresi's timeframe, I had to record in May or the album would have been delayed for a very, very long time. So I basically snuck to the studio in a moving van under the pretense that I was moving - which was allowed - and slept in the vocal booth for two weeks. It was pretty nerve racking since there were checkpoints set up on the highways to stop anyone that was going about without a good reason. If you were caught, you would be fined around 600 euros and maybe jailed. I also had a timeline that I had to finish by so the days were long. There wasn't time to mess around and think, 'Oh, I can do that later'. As soon as I finished a song, it was being mixed. This was the first time this has ever happened, but it all went well and I was able to finish on time." The record also features guest appearances from touring guitarist Mike Abdow, who contributed some solos, plus Porcupine Tree/The Pineapple Thief drummer Gavin Harrison plays on "When Snow Falls", and "Under The Sun" sees the band incorporating a full string section for the first time. The result of all the hard work put in by all involved is undeniable, and with Long Day Good Night, Fates Warning once again take a bold step forward into the next phase of their exhilarating career.