In my opinion, Fates Warning was the jewel of Metal Blade’s roster in the early years of that label. I’m a big fan of Fates Warning’s first three albums (the “John Arch years”). Night On Bröcken was Fates Warning’s debut. Though the British metal influence (Iron Maiden in particular) was evident, Fates Warning had a secret weapon in John Arch, whose fussy, ethereal vocal style went against the grain of what was considered normal at the time. With an album like Night On Bröcken, there is a significant time investment required by the listener in order to “get into” the album. This album seems to get better and better with repeated listens. Arch’s vocal melodies keep the listener off-balance, which, at first, may seem like a cumbersome experience. But with time, it becomes clear that Arch was a creative and unique talent.
The guitar duo of John Matheos and Victor Arduini patched together fine riffs, harmonies, and leads. Much of this calls to mind Iron Maiden’s stuff, but somewhat thicker and darker in nature. There are two instrumentals on Night On Bröcken, which do not add too much value (unless you need a piss break), but pretty much every other track on the album is a winner. Buried Alive and Kiss Of Death are two faves. So too is Damnation, which incorporates some softer segments backed by acoustic guitar. The title track contains arguably the album’s most memorable moment; at the 2:50 mark, the song turns on its head and eventually unveils a soaring, epic, refrain.
Night On Bröcken was originally issued with the cover art shown above. This was the art presented to Metal Blade by the band. Apparently, the fact that this painting looks like something out of a children’s coloring book was lost on the band. Metal Blade replaced the cover art shortly thereafter with this sorry piece of crap. In time, Metal Blade decide that one sucked too, and changed the cover to this boring mound of feces. My score: A-