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Fates Warning: Theories of Flight

As one of the most important bands in the history of progressive metal, you can easily say that Fates Warning have never released a bad album, though it's hard to top such beloved classics like Awaken the Guardian, No Exit, Perfect Symmetry, Parallels, Inside Out, and A Pleasant Shade of Gray. Over the last decade or so, lead singer Ray Alder spends half his time with his other band Redemption (who arguably have put out stronger material than Fates), longtime drummer Mark Zonder has left, Bobby Jarzombek has joined, guitarist Frank Aresti has popped in and out, and the band had a few reunions with original vocalist John Arch. Fast forward to 2016, and the line-up of founding guitarist Jim Matheos, Alder, bassist Joey Vera, and Jarzombek have created the follow-up to 2013s strong Darkness in a Different Light, titled Theories of Flight. How does it stack up you ask?

Well, quite well actually. While Theories of Flight is certainly a familiar sounding Fates Warning album, in spots it's very heavy, as well as proggy, no doubt the shadow of Alder's success with Redemption weighing over Matheos, as he seems to have upped the ante here with more challenging arrangements and thought provoking lyrics this time around. "From the Rooftops" is classic, brooding, complex Fates Warning, filled with churning guitar riffs, intricate rhythms, and Alder's always soaring vocals. The vocalist also shines on the lengthy "The Light and Shade of Things", a tune that starts off with a tranquil, almost bluesy intro before crushing riffs and potent vocals come crashing in, complemented by a killer chorus that Alder drives home as only he can. "Seven Stars" is another driving prog-metal thumper with an equally killer hook, and the tumultuous "White Flag" sees Vera & Jarzombeck digging deep with some thunderous grooves over which Matheos's massive riffing totally takes charge. Though Aresti appears on the album briefly to drop in a few solos, much of Theories of Flight is sparse of lead guitar, and ironically the songs are so good as they are you don't really miss it. Take the raging "Like Stars Our Eyes Have Seen" for instance, an aggressive track that has some of Matheos' more violent riffs on the album, but other than a brief solo, it's those riffs and Alder's melodic delivery that pull you in and provide all the fireworks that are needed. The 10-minute "The Ghosts of Home" is sure to be a treat for any progressive metal fan, filled with complex arrangements, plenty of atmosphere, and just the right amount of melody, drama, and virtuosity, while the moody, melancholy title cut closes things out in gorgeous fashion, layered with electric & acoustic guitar, sound effects, and brooding atmosphere.

Not to downplay FWX, Disconnected, or Darkness in a Different Light, each one strong in their own right, but Theories of Flight is a different beast and easily the best thing this band have done since 1997s A Pleasant Shade of Gray. There just seems to be no slowing down Fates Warning, one of the front-runners of the '80s prog-metal scene, as evident by this complete winner of an album, which is sure to be a favorite of many here in 2016.

See more about this release on our recent YouTube show!

Track Listing
1) From the Rooftops
2) Seven Stars
3) SOS
4) The Light and Shade of Things
5) White Flag
6) Like Stars Our Eyes Have Seen
7) The Ghosts of Home
8) Theories of Flight

Added: December 8th 2016
Reviewer: Pete Pardo
Related Link: Band Facebook Page
Hits: 5264
Language: english

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Fates Warning: Theories of Flight
Posted by Jon Neudorf, SoT Staff Writer on 2016-12-08 23:08:24
My Score:

There are some bands that you can rely on and just like an old friend, you can pick things up where you left off no matter how much time has passed. Fates Warning is kind of like that old friend, bringing comfort and dependability just when you need it most. Take their latest full length double disc platter Theories of Flight as a prime example. The energy and aplomb on display is absolutely phenomenal as the band is rocking as hard as they ever have. Amazing when you consider this is the band's twelfth studio album. As on the previous release Darkness In A Different Light the lineup is the same although Frank Aresti (guitar solos on two tracks) is listed as a guest. The rest of the players are Ray Adler (vocals), Jim Matheos (guitars), Joey Vera (bass and backing vocals) and Bobby Jarzombek (drums). Other guests include Mike Abdow (guitar solo on "White Flag") and Carina Tinker (spoken word samples on "Theories of Flight").

As I mentioned earlier there is no doubting the power on display here; heavy progressive metal licks and chord progressions with plenty of gusto and virtuosity. That said, there are many moments when the band reel it in a little, opting for a more refined and intricate sound, especially utilizing sound effects and guitar embellishments creating a more diverse soundscape. The disc opens with "From the Rooftops", beginning slowly with Adler's clear vocals and slow burning riffs etched into the sound design. The chorus soars with catchy vocals and the riffs are both imaginative and powerful. "Seven Stars" features intense background riffage during the verse, twisty riff progressions and another lovely vocal performance including excellent backing vocals. "White Flag" is bombastically heavy right from the get go with plenty of meat left on the bone for the guitars to chew on including some neoclassical shredding and slower more emotive fills. "The Light and Shade of Things" is another textural delight featuring Floydy guitar of a mellower note and more heavy aggressive parts offering excellent sound dynamics showcasing the band's ability to transition between soft and heavy. Intricate guitar fills amidst weaving progressive metal riffs makes "The Ghosts of Home" one of the best tracks here. Light and heavy shades of colour will paint an indelible imprint on your brain making this one not easy to forget. More Floyd is harnessed in the album ending title track where voice samples, effects and clean guitar layers are integrated seamlessly together making this another high point.

The four fold digipack that I received also contains a second disc which is all acoustic and features three covers including Toad the Wet Sprocket's "Pray Your Gods" and Uriah Heep's "Rain", both excellent versions. Although Fates Warning has always been known for their heavy stuff their acoustic prowess shines on all six tracks showing just how versatile this band really is.

I have to admit it has been a while since I have revisited FW's earlier works but I have to say this is one of their best efforts and will surely make fans of progressive metal smile with delight. One of the year's best releases.

2004 Sea Of Tranquility
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