Read an Exclusive Excerpt from ‘Destination Onward – The Story of Fates Warning,’ The New Book by Jeff Wagner

Veteran metal author Jeff Wagner (Mean Deviation: Four Decades of Progressive Heavy Metal and Soul on Fire: The Life and Music of Peter Steele) releases his new book, Destination Onward – The Story of Fates Warning, today! The 400-page behemoth chronicles virtually every facet of the progressive metal heroes’ 40-year history with the cooperation of every single member of Fates Warning, past and present. And now you can try before you buy, via this exclusive book excerpt recounting the time following the recording of the band’s landmark second LP, The Spectre Within.


FWII: The Omen Bird

While in Los Angeles, an idea was formulated over beers and perhaps more illicit substances: The Spectre Within is going to have a great album cover . . . Let’s burn the Bröcken artwork! The original was sitting in Brian Slagel’s office, and even he was on board with the immolation idea. One evening, during a photo shoot for the new album in Long Beach, the band arranged for someone at Metal Blade to bring the original Night on Bröcken artwork to them. At some point, they took a break from shooting and, in a rather casual ceremony, set the ugly thing ablaze on the sidewalk in front of the photographer’s house.

Perhaps it stood for something greater: an effigy burned in commitment to never again settle for less than their music deserves. And with album cover number two, they upped that game considerably.

Back in Connecticut, the guys contacted Connecticut artist Ioannis Vasilopoulos in the hope he could deliver something befitting of their new material. He could and did. The imagery of the horned wanderer, surveying a cold foggy blue landscape, with an omen bird and circular glass portals in the background, evoked the mystical metal inside. The back cover connects even deeper to the music, depicting “The Apparition”: “In the four corners of life are the golden mirrors, reflecting what you are and what you are to be.”

The artist recalls, “[WHNU’s] Pete [Sotere] calls me and says, ‘there’s this local band, Fates Warning, and I told them about you. You should meet with them, I think you’d really like their stuff. They sound like a Black Sabbath/Iron Maiden kinda thing, and a little bit of Queensrÿche.’ I forget how it happened but they came to my studio. I was working on the Heaven cover [Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door] when they walked in. It was the middle of the summer and all I remember is half of them were in shorts and bare- footed. They looked homeless! The guys who stood out immediately were John Arch and Jim Matheos. There was, like, lightning coming out of their eyeballs. Joey was pretty laid back, Vic was pretty laid back, and Steve was one of the funniest people I’ve ever met. All he would do was make jokes. But John was very serious about everything. He told me about the lyrics and started to describe the whole concept of The Spectre Within. As we’re talking, Jim is walking around and looking at the artwork, the artwork for Heaven, and the cover I did for Art in America [1983], these spheres. They looked at recent paintings I had done for my proposed comic book script for Heavy Metal magazine. Months earlier I had picked up H.R. Giger’s book Necronomicon at this very old hidden bookstore at the heart of Yale.

The artwork was mind-boggling. I had started to experiment with black ink and airbrush on paper to see if I could imitate his technique. Jim spotted one of the drawings, an early version of the Spectre charac- ter who was actually a character in my script.”

Matheos asked if they could use the piece—titled Dark Angel— for their new album. Ioannis told him to come back in a week so he could fine-tune it.  “Even though I had Necronomicon on the mind, my own style started to come through. To this day it’s one of my most favorite pieces.”

When the band saw the final version, measuring 30 inches square, they were stunned. It was shipped to Metal Blade, who also loved it. The days of shoddy watercolor cover artwork faded into the ether.

“The guys flipped out over the cover.  And so did Brian Slagel. He said, ‘I want it. Can you do a back cover?’ and I go, ‘yeah, sure.’ He offered 900 bucks and overnighted me the check. John described to me his idea about what the back cover could be [based on the lyrics of “The Apparition”]. A lot of people like the back cover, but if you look at it, it’s not as good as the front cover because I’m not a guy that’s good at drawing figures. I’m good at drawing the character but trying to draw an old man and a baby and all the ideas John had, with the mirrors and all that, it wasn’t my schtick, you know? The [front cover] character, that was a character of my invention for my comic strip for Heavy Metal. I just made it look more like a Giger, but I had that character drawn up about three years prior.”

In September, while awaiting the October release of their new album, Fates Warning made their first visit to the Midwest, playing two shows in Ohio and one in Michigan. It was the furthest from New England the band had ventured thus far, and the crowds, while small, were rabid with the exciting novelty of seeing this cult Connecticut metal band in the flesh. Most songs from the first two albums were aired, with the new material going down especially well. The band felt encouraged and looked forward to more touring.

Unfortunately, only one show was played shortly after Spectre saw release, and it was a hostile audience that greeted Fates when they stepped on stage November 22 at Brooklyn’s L’Amour to open for English legends Motörhead. Reports vary between the band members regarding how it went down, some of them recalling that the audience remained uninterested if not hostile throughout their set, although Arch recalls that they won over enough people to call it a success. Steve Zimmerman, in 2004, told Matt Coe of Snakepit that “the whole front row was giving John the middle finger the whole time we were on stage. There were people trying to spit on John and booing. There were some people headbanging to our material but they weren’t up close—all the people up close were hoping we were like Motörhead, and we weren’t, and we hurried to get off stage.”

While the band were willing to rough it in rental cars and vans, sleep on floors, and make all the sacrifices expected at their current level, a quality tour opportunity did not materialize. The Spectre Within was widely hailed as a massive leap forward by both fans and the metal media, but the kind of tour they wanted to be part of, to bring them to that proverbial next level, never came to fruition. But it was just as well, because if the opportunity had arrived, one of the members wouldn’t have been able to participate.

Nearing the final months of 1985, Victor Arduini was feeling a constant gnawing tension. He had a wife at home who was several months pregnant with their first child. The guitarist had lost his job a week before leaving for LA in August, which was simply in the cards, as, according to Arduini, the employer likely would have dismissed him entirely for choosing The Spectre Within over his job anyway. At this time, Arduini was working on a new song called “Look to the Sunrise,” intended for the third album, and he enjoyed the recent shows, both in the Midwest and the Motörhead slot in Brooklyn. “It was great,” reflects Arduini. “There was nothing more than the five of us wanting to be together. Being on tour together, we had a blast. A lot of debauchery going on. You party, you stay up late all night, you drink, you do shit and have fun. We had to sleep on people’s floors and stuff like that. You were lucky if somebody gave you a house to sleep in, you’d be ecstatic. The other guys were all single and loving every second of it. We had a blast. Including our road crew, who we were very close to. They were like brothers to us.”

But Arduini felt a shift after the band returned from their short Midwest jaunt. “We came back from those shows, and that’s when things started getting a little weird, where Jim just kept saying, ‘We’re going on tour again, you gotta be able to go on tour,’ and sometimes he would say it in a way where it was like we had no choice. And I was getting to a point where I was like, ‘Well, wait a minute. I’d love to go on tour, but I can’t just quit my new job.’ And then all of a sudden my wife got pregnant and that put more pressure on me. Now Jim’s pushing for another tour. Sometimes his attitude would piss me off a little bit. At that period, to Jim’s credit, he had a vision. He wanted to push this band and go forward, and if I was single and had nothing else going on in my life, I’d probably be doing the exact same thing. I can understand it from afar, but at the time I was part of this group and this brotherhood, and I was kinda like, ‘Wait a minute, I don’t have a say here?’ But they were always like, ‘Well, everybody gets a vote. Democracy wins.’ And when Jim had democracy, I think a lot of people were afraid to go against what Jim would say.”

Jim Matheos was emerging as a leader throughout 1985. It wasn’t that he had a selfish agenda. He looked at the band as a tribe of equals, and he valued each member for what they brought to the band’s distinctive sound. But he also possessed the traits of a born leader: unquenchable drive, long-term vision, diehard work ethic, boundless creativity, and a toughness that understood the difference between personal insult and professional necessity. His vision allowed Fates Warning to overcome adversities such as member changes and the myriad difficulties one confronts in the music business. Thus, the parting of ways with Arduini on December 4, 1985, the first lineup shift Fates Warning experienced, was simply a matter of survival. Despite the difficulty of the decision—saying goodbye to a brother, a writer, and a large part of the Fates Warning essence—the band would persevere.

“No one was surprised or shocked by the decision,” says Matheos. “The writing had been on the wall for a while. We all, Vic included, knew that things couldn’t go on as they were. He had increasing commitments at home, and you could see him struggling with that, trying to find bal- ance between the two biggest demands on his time. I know he loved the band, if not all the members, and he had been giving it his all the whole time. But, of course, in his situation, family wins out. That left a void in the band though, where it was no longer the five of us against the world no matter what. It started to become the four of us and Vic, and that’s  never  a good situation in a band. It was never, in my memory, nasty or confrontational. It was just a slow drifting apart. In any event we, the band, made the decision that we had to make a change. I have a pretty vivid memory of Vic coming to practice one night, and us—me, I suppose—saying some- thing to the effect of ‘We have to talk,’ and his immediate reaction being, ‘I’m out of the band, right?’ And that was it. No fights, no arguments. He knew that it probably couldn’t go on as it was and, as tough as it was, this was the right decision for everyone involved. We talked a little more and parted amicably.”

John Arch recalls that “Vic had a baby coming, and that’s enough to freak anybody out. He had made up his mind that he had responsibilities and he had to tend to them. It was totally understandable. I know he was very sad about it, and we were sad to see him go. Sometimes we come to these crossroads, and we have to make tough decisions because we know what is best in that situation. He did what he had to do. At least he had the brains to do that, rather than try to drag it out and cause animosity.”

With the invaluable benefit of hindsight, Arduini better understands not only how he felt then, but how the other guys did too. “They don’t have to explain anything. Those guys were all twenty, twenty-one, ready to rock, and I couldn’t do that. I did realize at the time that, as much as I wanted to be a rock star and wanted to live the life, being married with a kid on the way kinda stopped me from being that. I went out of that meeting like, ‘No problem.’ There was really no argument. I wasn’t up for an argument. And I went home, and I think I balled when I got home. I was pretty upset. It was more of an emotional thing for me, knowing that I couldn’t do much about this. I could have easily gotten on the phone and said, ‘Screw it, I’m going on tour, I’ll make this work, don’t worry about it.’ I could have lied to myself and my family and made it happen, but I think it would probably have been my biggest regret. Not being in the band anymore, missing out on everything they did after that, was one of the best decisions I made in my life because I was able to raise my kid and be a good father.”

Just before leaving for Los Angeles to record The Spectre Within, Fates Warning became acquainted with a guitarist from Marlborough, Connecticut named Frank Aresti. Born September 12, 1967, in Hartford, the Aresti family moved to Italy in 1973, where they had family roots, before moving back to New England five years later. Aresti was first turned on to music through his parents. He remembers the Fiddler on the Roof soundtrack, music by The Partridge Family, “Puff the Magic Dragon,” and one of several common threads linking Aresti with Matheos: a working knowledge of the music from the 1964 film Zorba the Greek.

Aresti fondly recalls his first music passions: “I remember the energy in the music of Fiddler on the Roof and especially Zorba the Greek. There was a lot of energy there! That’s what I appreciated. That’s what really stuck with me. Something that’s  always been super important to me in music is energy.”

Drawn toward the guitar at a very early age, Aresti laughs about his first encounter with one: “My parents bought me a little toy plastic guitar, and I remember being disappointed that it was a toy. Even though I was, like, four years old!”

Eventually he would get his hands on the real thing, and it coincided with his discovery of high-energy FM radio rock. He recalls hearing the first Boston album via an older, guitar-playing cousin: “It was all guitars! It was loud, crunching guitars, and I just remember being completely blown away by that.” From there, Aresti began listening to the likes of Foreigner and Kansas, priming him for the pivotal discovery of guitarist Eddie Van Halen. The way Van Halen bent the rules of what a guitar could be was akin to what kids in the late ’60s heard in Jimi Hendrix. The discovery of this hotshot guitarist not only led Aresti to explore guitarists like jazz fusion luminary Al Di Meola and classical guitarist Christopher Parkening, but also found him diving headlong into the work of Deep Purple, Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Accept, Def Leppard, and Ozzy Osbourne (guitarist Randy Rhoads a massive influence on Aresti), among a further variety of early ’80s bands who were morphing energy into flat-out aggression while maintaining a high standard of playing. Bands such as Metallica, Slayer, Anthrax, and Stormtroopers of Death expanded Aresti’s appreciation for the wider world of metal, and he even latched onto punk/hardcore in the vein of Black Flag and Dead Kennedys.

Like practically every other member of Fates Warning, Iron Maiden played a huge role in pushing Aresti forward as a listener and player. “I’m watching this television show with these [music] videos, and this video comes on. This music that I have never heard before. These guys have long hair and all these lights, this high-energy music, and they’re wearing leather. It turned out it was Iron Maiden’s ‘Run to the Hills.’ That was another turn- ing point. That was it for me. It was heavy metal after that.”

Metallica was equally instructive for Aresti. Their debut album revealed innovations that he had also heard on records by one of his all- time guitar heroes, Al Di Meola. “Another turning point was buying Kill ’Em All and dropping the needle on ‘Hit the Lights.’ Being like, ‘What is that? I have not heard that before! Is that a guitar? How do they do that?’ The palm muting technique. What’s funny about that is I also listened to a lot of Al Di Meola growing up, so the palm muting was there too. And with Metallica it was like, ‘Holy smoke! You can do that! You can do that with a lot of distortion! And chords! You can do that with chords and riffing!’”

Aresti’s development as a guitarist found him quickly acquiring the ability to chop, hammer, and shred like a demon while incorporating the more nuanced aspects of progressive-minded heroes outside the metal realm. “Around 10 or 11 years old, I started taking lessons,” he recalls. “I kept playing and kept playing, but it wasn’t until probably twelve or thirteen that I started jumping ahead. My teacher would be like, ‘Whoa, did you just learn that during the week, between the last lesson and this lesson? What’s going on here?’ From a very young age, I was hyper-focused. In the very early days of taking lessons, I remember sitting in my basement, making stuff up. Just taking chords from scales and putting them in different places. Making up progressions. I remember going to my next lesson, and I said, ‘Here’s my progression, and I’m gonna solo over it.’ I was probably in my early teens, like thirteen or fourteen, just making stuff up all the time. I just really wanted to play guitar, and I really wanted to be in a band. I wanted to be onstage, go on tour, things like that. But I can only see that I had a talent for it looking back, because when you’re in the middle of it, it’s just a lot of hard work. It’s a lot of sacrifice, too. It’s not going out with your friends on a Friday night to the drive-ins because you’ve got something to work on. It’s not doing stuff after school because you’ve got to practice.”

Aresti’s first band was called Demonax, formed in 1984 when the guitarist was 17. Theirs was a rough, raw, aggression-laden sound that toed the line between raging speed metal, hardcore attitude, and traditional heavy metal lunacy. They recorded only one demo in their short lifespan. Play That Metal Mean was captured in winter 1984 and sent to fanzines and sold to local headbangers in 1985. They had brief moments in the sun: opening for Anthrax in Hartford in ’85 and being positively reviewed in hallowed underground fanzine Kick Ass Monthly. But the band folded as quickly as it formed.

The best thing to come out of the Demonax experience, for Aresti, was its gateway into the world of Fates Warning.

“When I was in Demonax,” says Aresti, “one  of the write-ups we  got was in a local paper, Vox Pop. I became friends with the guy who was interviewing me. His name was Steve Blackmoor. ‘Blackmoor’ was his pen name. His last name is Kachinsky. He was also a guitar player in a local band, Steel Prophet. So we did the interview, then kept in touch. We might talk on the phone, hang out at a show, whatever. And he was friends with Fates Warning. So one day, he’s like, ‘Hey, I’m going to see Fates rehearse. Why don’t you come with me?’ That’s when I first met those guys. It was between Bröcken and Spectre. I remember that the material for Spectre was already done because they played some of it at the rehearsal. I remember sitting in front of Jim’s stack, and there was this loud, killer-sounding guitar. John didn’t have a PA. He was singing into a mic with headphones, but no one could hear him. It was just for him. I remember thinking, ‘That’s funny. I wonder why he’s not singing through a PA, but whatever. It’s cool.’ I remember the music was so heavy! I remember being blown away because I’d been familiar with Night on Bröcken. But when I heard them live, it was like, ‘Whoa! This is not like the record. These guys have an energy live.’ They had a sound that the first record unfortunately just didn’t capture. I remember being like, ‘This is amazing. These guys are really freaking good!’ ”

It wasn’t long before Aresti and Matheos discovered their mutual love for classical guitar. They decided that jamming on classical pieces, on nylon-string acoustic guitars, would be a productive way to delve into their mutual passion. Once a week, on Sunday afternoons, the two would meet at Matheos’s apartment. They played solo pieces for each other and worked on duets that Aresti recalls being “extremely difficult.” The two guitarists also attended local classical concerts together, usually string quartet performances. As Matheos remembers, “We were a couple of long-haired guys in leather jackets showing up to the symphony. Good times. We hit it off really well.”

While Matheos had declined his parents’ offer to send him to the Hartford Conservatory in the early ’80s, Aresti did attend the school for a handful of lessons before another, more interesting opportunity arose.

“I was learning classical guitar on my own,” says Aresti. “Then I went to the Hartford Conservatory of Music and took classical lessons there. The teacher, in very few lessons, taught me a lot, and really helped me clean up my technique. I could then go and learn pieces and be comfortable with the technique that I was using. It’s a very different technique than playing rock guitar. To me, rock guitar was always more like the violin than the classical guitar because you’re playing single lines. In the solos, you’re playing fast melodic lines that move the piece. They’re there for a reason; you’re moving the piece along. But classical guitar is a solo instrument. You’re doing the bass line, the trebles, the melody line, and it takes a completely different right hand. It takes a load of practice to get that right hand technique. So even though my left hand was accustomed to moving around the fretboard a lot, my right hand needed a lot of work. Back then, that was my challenge.”

Aresti identifies and appreciates the parallels between classical music and heavy metal: “Growing up, my dad listened to a lot of classical, so I was exposed to a lot of that. And, to me, heavy metal was a form of music where you could actually be a really good player, but still play something heavy, energetic, and cool. The technique was high, and that’s what I appreciated. It had to be quality. You couldn’t just fake it. Whether I was watching Jesus Christ Superstar or Iron Maiden, these guys were at the top of their game.”

Steve Kachinsky Blackmoor recalls meeting Aresti and what transpired thereafter: “I met Frank through a friend of a friend. He was from more of a small town area, close to where I lived. I think it was the singer from Demonax, Keith Bycholski, that introduced us, and somehow Frank ended up at one of our little parties or something. We  started talking, and  I got the Demonax demo tape to review. I was writing for a free music paper called Vox Pop. Demonax was more like a thrash band with a punk edge. So, Frank wanted to go to a [Fates Warning] rehearsal. We went, and I remember him and Jim hit it off because Frank was also into classical music. They exchanged numbers and would get together and do classical guitar pieces. They were both reading music, so they got together to do that and I think that gave them a little bit of a friendship and cemented the fact that Jim thought Frank was a pretty good musician. And at that time, me and Jim had that thing where we’d listen to Yes and Genesis together. We were listening to a lot of progressive rock. There was a point where I think we liked progressive rock better than we liked what was coming out of the heavy metal world. And I would listen to classical guitar and flamenco guitar and stuff like that. We  were guitarists that wanted to be playing at a high level. Being able to play classical and flamenco in addition to rock and metal, and being able to incorporate the progressive music of Yes and Genesis . . . And Marillion was a pretty popular band with us at the time, too. Stuff like that.”

By late 1985 and into the new year, Matheos kept busy writing material for the third Fates Warning album. He was coming up with ideas   that were even more complex than previous songs. The stuff he initially labeled simply “C# Minor,” “A Minor,” and “E Minor Prelude (Classical)” were remarkably sublime, even in their skeletal form, yet they retained the darkness and heaviness that defined the Fates approach. Taking the most well-developed aspects of the second album’s compositions and bringing in ever more nuanced elements, the material carried an emotional weight that acted as a compelling counterpoint to the shifting, challenging riffing. Only two years away from the Gallery demo recordings, Matheos’s constant maturation as a composer ensured a swift evolution of the Fates Warning sound.

With Arduini no longer in the band, Matheos and the rest of Fates began the hunt for a new guitarist. They had their sights set on recording new material by the middle of 1986, and an opportunity was coming up in March for an extensive tour of the southern U.S., a region they hadn’t yet visited.

Steve Kachinsky Blackmoor came to mind as a viable option, and it made a ton of sense. He had known the guys for years, and even sang with Arduini, Zimmerman, and Mike Jones several years prior when the trio were seeking a vocalist. But his main instrument was guitar, and in early 1986, he was just getting his band, Steel Prophet, off the ground. He was a fan of Fates’ music, and had even jammed with Matheos and Arduini, so he knew the Fates repertoire.

“The second album came out,” recalls Blackmoor. “We’d been friends for a long time by then. We were very close. Obviously I’d always admired Fates, and then when Vic was dismissed, Steve was saying, ‘Let’s audition Blackmoor.’  It’s natural that they would think of me. And before that, I had gone down to their rehearsals and we had a three-guitar jam, where I learned a bunch of their songs. It was the whole band, Fates Warning, but kind of like a Lynyrd Skynyrd version where I played the third guitar. We probably played four or five of their songs at rehearsal one time and it was pretty cool, it went well. And when Vic left, I definitely wanted to join the band. They gave me a list of songs to learn, I learned them, and I went down and auditioned. I thought it was pretty good.”

Everyone in Fates agrees that the Blackmoor audition went well. Still, they continued searching because something didn’t feel 100 percent about it. And Fates wanted someone that felt 100 percent.

Their search found the band casting out beyond New England. Texas guitarist Ron Jarzombek heard about the opening and buckled down on an audition tape that was as unique as his playing. Ultimately, he didn’t make the cut, which is just as well because cult Austin band Watchtower benefit- ted hugely from Jarzombek joining them in 1987.

Matheos reflects on these two prospective new guitarists: “Ron, like his brother Bobby, is insanely talented. I think we were concerned, though, with how Ron’s style would fit in this band and where our new music was headed. But I loved that tape he sent to us!”

The tape featured a song called “Fishies on Leashes,” the title of which may have been a play on Accept’s recently released “Dogs on Leads,” a band admired by Jarzombek and the Fates guys. More importantly,  “Fishies   on Leashes” was written especially for Fates Warning, in the mold of The Spectre Within, an album the guitarist loved. The oddly titled song nailed the atmosphere and aesthetic of Fates Warning but, as Matheos says, “I just don’t think it would have been a good fit in the long run, and I imagine Ron would agree.”

As for Blackmoor, Matheos notes, “Steve came down to a rehearsal and we jammed a bit. But again, like with Ron, but for different reasons, it didn’t feel like it would be a good fit. I get along great with Steve and we became good friends, a lot of similar tastes in music and other things, but musically it didn’t seem like it would work. I can’t think of anyone else we gave serious consideration to.” Other than Frank Aresti.

According to Blackmoor, “Frank just had it a little bit tighter than I did. There were a couple things where I didn’t play it exactly like the record, because I couldn’t really hear it that way, but Frank got it perfect. Like, dead on.”

There was no other way it could go. The personality and creative fit between Aresti and Matheos should have been enough, but on all levels, Aresti clicked with the rest of Fates Warning, and he was offered the gig in the waning days of winter, 1986. It was to be a trial run with Aresti, to make sure he worked out, and the opportunity to play seven shows in March was a perfect way to test the waters. The first show was to take place in Alabama on March 7. Six more dates were planned: four across Texas, and one each in Kansas City and St. Louis.

Aresti remembers preparing for the tour and the pressure he put on himself to prove his mettle. “I’m learning songs off of Spectre and I recall thinking, ‘This is the most difficult stuff I’ve ever learned. I don’t know how I’m going to get through this or how I’m going to be ready.’ I’m sit- ting there learning on my turntable in my room, just going over the parts.  It was a very stressful, high-anxiety part of my life, trying to get through that, because I’d made a promise. I was like, ‘I’ve got to keep my promise and I don’t know how I’m going to do it.’ But I did it! There’s a lot I did on my own, but Jim helped me a lot. Showing me parts, showing me different ways to play them. They were just really cool. It was just very welcoming and it was no big deal. There were no airs with anybody, it was just like, ‘Okay, let’s play.’ ”

In early March, eight fired-up men from New England set forth to the deep South, the furthest they’d ventured for a tour thus far. The band tucked themselves into a rental car,  with three roadies shadowing them   in a Ryder truck housing all the band gear. Dave “Emma” Obrizzo, Chris “Blanche” Obrizzo, and Zimmerman’s cousin, Steve “Cousin Hadd” Feivou were, by now, part of the clan.

Shortly after the caravan set out for Alabama, the band received terribly disappointing news. At some nondescript roadside stop in New Jersey, Matheos made what he thought was a routine check-in call to Metal Blade via pay phone. Bill Metoyer, who worked out of the Metal Blade office at the time, answered the call. He asked Matheos a spirit-crushing question: “How far are you from home?” For reasons that were never made clear, the rest of the tour dates in Texas and Missouri had been cancelled at the eleventh hour.

With warrior-like fortitude, they just kept on driving. One show was better than nothing. They arrived in Auburn, Alabama just under 24 hours later with plenty of energy to perform, despite a journey of over 1,000 miles. They threw their stuff into the Heart of Auburn Motel and bided time before heading to campus to put the one-date “tour” into the books.

Weirdly, and for reasons then and still unknown to the band, the promoter scheduled Monty Python’s The Holy Grail film as Fates Warning’s opening “act.” While it was a strange pairing, the band stormed on stage to a rowdy, moderately sized crowd and tore through a set of material from the first two albums.

The combination of Fates Warning and The Holy Grail spurred a protest by one particularly vehement Auburn area man of the cloth. It was “Pirates of the Underground” come to life. Arch recalls, “Before we went on, and I don’t know if it’s because this is the Bible Belt or whatever, but this preacher gets up onstage. He starts talking about ‘devil music’: ‘This is devil’s music, repent your sins,’ and all that. But the people in the crowd were all booing the guy. He just continued to talk and make his sermon. He came up to me after that and I said, ‘Hey dude, I respect what you have to say, but we’re still going on.’ It was such a weird situation, having that dynamic, but the show went on anyway.”

Thus began, and ended, in one bizarre day, Fates Warning’s infamous How Far Are You From Home? Tour. It marked an inauspicious start to the band’s era with Frank Aresti. The eight-man entourage pointed their vehicles north, drove home utterly disappointed, and continued working on material for album #3. It could only get better for the new lineup.

Order Destination Onward – The Story of Fates Warning here