FatesWarning_01Circumstances have not been kind to prog-metal forefathers Fates Warning. For most of the past decade and a half, the band has been sidelined while far lesser acts have laid claim to the entire genre (oh hi, Dream Theater). The fact that Fates have released some incredibly inaccessible albums has not helped their cause, nor did their 9-year hiatus from making new music altogether. 2013’s comeback Darkness In A Different Light was a heavy, catchy and focused record, and it seemed like Fates Warning was finally back on track. The quick (by FW standards) turnaround for Theories Of Flight seems to bode well, but can the band maintain the high standards they’ve reestablished?

“From The Rooftops” initially seems like an odd choice to open the album, as it does so on a mellow, understated note. But worry not, as all this relaxation is merely a setup for one of Jim Matheos’ patented off-kilter riffs and a particularly fierce delivery from singer Ray Alder. Alder’s vocal abilities have been the subject of some consternation, but on Flight he displays more range and energy than we’ve heard from him in years. The song continues with some fancy cymbal work from drummer Bobby Jarzombek (Halford, Spastic Ink), leading into a ripping solo by lead guitarist Frank Aresti.

Once the dust clears, “Seven Stars” continues in slightly more straightforward fashion, essentially verse/chorus/verse except that said chorus is HUGE. “SOS” is at once catchy and proggy, delivering another soaring chorus from Alder before delving into a dark, keyboard-driven middle section and some stuttering double-kick work on the way out. This one gives me chills. Also worth noting is the involvement of producer/mixer Jens Bogren, of Opeth/Katatonia fame. Bogren handily makes the band’s previous album sound like little more than a glorified demo, adding both clarity and immense sonic girth.

“The Light And Shade Of Things” is the first of two extended-length tracks on this album, and somehow combines the despondent style of Fates‘ last 20-plus years with shiny choruses reminiscent of the Parallels era. Again, Alder’s voice is in top form, and I can’t help but wonder if the band’s return to regular work has inspired him to greater heights. The record continues with two surprisingly heavy numbers. “White Flag” takes a meaner approach to the band’s late-’80s gallop, while Alder rocks an almost-power metal vocal line. This song also features a guitar solo tradeoff and some stellar bass work by Joey Vera (also of Armored Saint). The chugging “Like Stars Our Eyes Have Seen” veers a little too close to modern metal for my tastes, but I gotta admit that the bridge section is one of the coolest moments on the record.

FatesWarning_02

Fates Warning often return to lyrical themes of nostalgia and longing for more innocent times, and the 10-minute-plus “The Ghosts Of Home” is perhaps the most point-blank expression of that emotion yet. Beginning with gentle clean guitar and an almost nursery-rhyme-esque melody from Alder, the song wastes little time morphing into something more chaotic, before finally erupting into a flurry of aggressive, technical riffs. Put bluntly, “Ghosts” is one of the most ambitious tracks Fates have ever done, weaving through a variety of musical and emotional movements with expert precision. The instrumental title track acts as a kind of postscript, ending the record with one of the shorter and stranger compositions in the FW catalog.

Fates Warning have realized that being technical and being introspective are not mutually exclusive, and have figured out how to meld both those halves into a cohesive whole. On Theories of Flight, the band’s late-’90s melancholia combines with the heaviness and technicality of their early years, with an ear to the ground for new sounds as well. After a long layoff, Fates Warning prove that Darkness was no fluke, and while Theories may be a bit less immediate than its predecessor, it’s no less stunning.


Rating: Excellent!
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 192 kbps mp3
Label: InsideOut

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  • “The Ghosts of Home” is a great song!

  • sir_c

    if the embedded track is a good indication for the rest of the album, then indeed we can shout off the rooftops that this is excellent stuff. Thanks for the review man

  • brutal_sushi

    Of of the very few reasons to be proud of being from CT.

    • Hey, you’ve got some great breweries there too.

    • OzanCan

      CT is Connecticut, right?

    • Blueberry Balls

      Also a point of pride, some of the most filthy flea-bitten ambulance chasing lawyers to ever scar this earth!

  • André Snyde Lopes

    Fates Warning are such a great underrated band. Really consistently good stuff all throughout their career.

  • robpal

    Fantastic album. Sounds great, much more interesting than the last one. Ray Alder is my hero of the year.

  • RDGEEK

    FYI, the FAQ just answered by question about DR. Q.E.D.

  • Bart the Repairman

    Strong tension resolved with incredibly catchy chorus in the embedded track. Beautiful! And Alder somehow sounds much stronger and more passionate than on the last Redemption record, which came out, like, yesterday (?!). I will certainly spend many, many hours with this album.

    I hope I’ll see this cover again in a few days on the ROTM list.

    • Dr_Fisting

      Now THAT would be cool.

  • Wilhelm

    FW always puts out something interesting. I might not like every single Alder album, but they hardly ever sound repetitive. From the song sample, I think this is gonna be another winner.

  • Dr. A.N. Grier

    Nice fucking review dude. This is a nice change of pace right now and just a damn good album.

  • jetblindracos

    This time the masters are really back.A certain band must listen to this so they relearn how to make good music.again.

  • Carlos Marrickvillian

    I’ll look forward to this the embedded track didn’t get me straight way but a few more listens should do it.
    Off topic is a Witherscape review being penned at the mo?

    • Oh yes indeed. The album drops 7/22 so expect a review around 7/12 or so.

      • GardensTale

        Hot damn, a new Witherscape? I remember liking the Inheritance, although the sudden poppiness of Dead for a Day completely threw me for a loop.

  • Martin Knap
    • Wow. This kinda gives me seizures.

      • brutal_sushi

        Well I don’t think its meant to be stared at for more that 30 hours straight.

    • sir_c

      Taste the rainbow, shag a clown…

    • Blueberry Balls

      OOOOOHHHHH!!!! Its a unicorn-humanoid pissing rainbows!!!!!!!! OOOOOOOOOHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Norfair Legend

    I remember then nearly getting booed off the stage opening for Pantera at the Vic, t’was a shame. With the obligatory first opening band The Plague…I miss The Plague.

    • “I miss the Plague” #ThingsEnglishPeopleDon’tSay

      • sir_c

        nothing wrong with a nice bit of black/death

    • Dr_Fisting

      Holy shit, the Plague! Lots of Chicago-area AMG commenters giving me flashbacks lately.

  • ronin1572

    I also really like the Arch Matheos project as well.

  • beurbs

    I fuckin love this band and this is a welcome/awesome surprise. Only downside for me is the lack of Jon Arch. I’ve always dug Alder as a vocalist, but Arch is superhuman.

    • Arch was/is a special singer. One of the all time greats.

      • beurbs

        His first phrase in Prelude to Ruin is like “what’s up, I’m better than whoever you like the most”

  • Mwis

    I think its an a very strong album, but I still prefer Darkness over it for whatever reason. Maybe it has to do with the fact there’s fewer full songs and this isn’t new for Fates since Disconnected was to be put out the same way. A beginning and an end with longer tracks but the overall count was under 10 songs. The trademark riffs on here dating back to Disconnected which I believe is the start of the new sound moving on from Pleasant Shade of Gray. The renewed theme of heaviness also continues from Arch/Matheos and I think Jim was first inspired by Redemption particularly that 2009 album, which was coincidentally around the same time the Arch/Matheos record was being written and originally intended to be that new Fates album.

  • Gaëtan Baratin

    At first I thought “There we go, here’s our RotM for June!”

    But nah, it’s a July record. I won’t make the same mistake twice. I wonder how June’s going to turn out without a 4.5…

  • Dagoth_RAC

    I already like that embedded track more than anything on Darkness In A Different Light. I have been a Fates Warning fan for almost 30 years and was really pumped up for DIADL, but somehow found it disappointing. It was in that “less than the sum of its parts” category. Everything seemed to be there that I want in a Fates Warning record, but it never clicked. I would listen to it and go, “Yeah, that is pretty good,” but have no particular desire to listen to it again.

    But I am kind of weird in liking Disconnected and FWX. Yeah, not as much Perfect Symmetry or other golden era Alder albums, but they had plenty of good songs. I consider “Still Remains” from Disconnected one of my favorite songs of all time.

    True story: Fates Warning are the only band where I ever joined their fanclub, back in like 1989 or something. I think it was called “The Tower” and you had to include like 4 self-addressed stamped envelopes (remember those!) and you would get quarterly newsletters.

    • BaboonKing

      Still Remains is an amazing song, one of their best. The “Deep in the night, underneath the darkest sky” segment is pure magic.

  • Stefunal

    I love how the numerical rating still is being added to the tags even though you stopped putting them below your reviews :D

  • Bloated Goat

    I love FW. Their previous album just didn’t grab me but I’ve given this a spin and it sounds great. Excited to let it sink in.

  • 2_Wycked

    Glad to see ol Fatez still killing it. More importantly, though, when are we getting another OSI record Jim??

  • SughHyme

    I like White Flag as the best song and the deserved first single. Ray really stands out here and even on the new Redemption. But Van Dyk himself has seemed to admit Ray was not as strong vocally on the Redemption disc. He has put a lot of high quality vocal work in a such short period of time in the past decade.

    Fates should have been given that opening slot over Armored Saint on this fall’s Queensryche US tour. Fingers crossed their is a US tour in 2017 and they headline but given what happened with FWX in 04′ who knows and the amount of other projects that keep cutting into their schedule in this case Joey Vera with Armored Saint and the John Arch anniversary which I’m sure people want to hear but more people know Fates for Ray’s vocal work and they’ve sold many more records with him at the helm.. 2004-2012 was complete limbo for a reason.

    • Dr_Fisting

      FW would blow Queensryche off the stage these days. (Armored Saint just might do that too).

  • Loewenheim

    I need some help from the experts. I recently got into this band with this album and Parallels, both of which I like a great deal. Which of their albums should I check out next?

    • Dr_Fisting

      You could work backwards to “Darkness In A Different Light,” which is most similar to the new one. Or the albums before and after “Parallels” (“Perfect Symmetry” and “Inside Out”) are both solid.

  • PepsiDanceGirl

    I hear the Rush influences all over this one. The last song sounds like Rush/Spirit of Radio with OSI mixed (The New Math) in the intro and then Dream Theater/Scenes style verses/choruses. This is why I enjoy Fates. They know how to use their influences tastefully without sounding like they are ripping others off or ripping themselves off. And all of this done with everyone in different locations and not in the same room, banged out just a few weeks in the studio when they put their minds to it. A diva band like Dream Theater with a Julliard trained keyboardist and a guitarist can’t write an album in a few weeks. It has got a take a few years. And then be over the top opera and sound so cheesy with some much cheesecake it could be a Michael Bay movie. Or they have to rip off an older album and use those harmonies are ‘guide tracks’. Right.

    • Phuong Dinh

      Not that I disagree with you, but DT is known to write an entire album in a few weeks.

  • Jeff Kent

    This will do nicely until the next Arch/Matheos record…there WILL be a next record, right? Some of the riffs in the embedded track sound nicked from Sympathetic Resonance. I was a huge Arch era Fates fan, but never got to see them live. A few years ago I managed to see the only US Arch/Matheos show in Hartford. I cried like a little girl, more than once.

  • Jeff Lenser

    This album is incredible. It’s catchy, complex, and deep. Lyrics like “There’s nothing that time can’t end” are provocative and thought provoking. That’s just one example, but the whole album just seems to kinda define my own thoughts and feelings in this world right now. Simply said this album moves me the way all the best ones do. The way I always aspire to with my own writing.

  • youcanreadthis

    Got the tidbit where they wanted to tour this time as an opener in 2017 because this year is completely gone. Not for Dream Theater or Queensryche even though the latter passed them up for Armored Saint with Vera in both bands now and on the same management firm? Someone is getting lazy, we could have another 9 year hiatus. I can’t wait.

    Next biggest band sounds like Operation:Mindcrime. They aren’t even metal, but are ‘big’ and Alder has respect for Tate. Not sure if this works but a 10 minute setlist? Unless its djent/prog metal crap like Animals for Leaders. They are bigger than Fates.

  • samsuckara

    I thought the Arch gig sounded great last week. What I don’t get is why release a new album 2 months before this show and then not tour. The promotion is not going to sell the record. But at this point in the industry no one really cares about new music except 5 people posting on a messageboard online. Or why just wait until after the Arch show and then release the album? A European headline tour is coming which is good news. Better than opening for Geoff Tate.

  • JC

    The sound reminds me a lot of late career Rush, something along the lines of Vapor Trails and a bit of Test for Echo. It’s more of a really hard, powerful rock than metal. Still haven’t decided if I like Alder’s vocals on this one.

    3.5/5