A Pleasant Shade of Gray is a masterful album that brings out the best in progressive metal. It is essentially one long song, broken into 12 parts for ease of navigation. It’s not really a concept album, because the lyrics are not really a concept per se, but rather seemingly stream-of-consciousness lyrical diety. This album stunned me. It is nothing like any of Fates Warning’s previous works, and it is in my opinion their best. Guitarist Jim Matheos outdoes himself here, not only in his fine riffing and soloing, but in his compositional skills. For one man to write all the music and lyrics in this masterpiece is an achievement unparalled in the genre. Matheos is not the only standout, however. Of course we have the legendary singing and drumming of Ray Alder and Mark Zonder respectively, as well as powerhouse ex-Armored Saint bassist Joey Vera. But the real surprise on this album is the performance of ex-Dream Theater keyboardist Kevin Moore. Listening to Moore’s seamless integration into the sound of Fates Warning makes you swear that the band has had a keyboardist all along, when in fact they have only used one (usually Moore) on a few songs here and there. His presence makes up for the loss of second guitarist Frank Aresti who left the band in 1996 after 10 years of service. Conclusion: Jim Matheos is a genius and this album is a must-own.