There’s a lot of hype behind the new Fates Warning album, “Theories of Flight.” For one thing, it hasn’t been that long since the last Fates Warning album, “Darkness in a Different Light’ which came out in 2013. Three years is short when you consider that the album before that “FWX” came out way back in 2004! Added to the hype is that legendary mixer Jens Borgen mixed “Theories of Flight.” This was welcome news to me since the mix on “Darkness in a Different Light” was REALLY weak and the album suffered because of it.
The mix on “Theories of Flight” is flat out incredible. I can’t recall Fates Warning sounding this punchy in many years, perhaps since Terry Brown was handling the duties. But just as important to the success are the songs. From the old western tremolo opening of “From the Rooftops” to the somewhat odd instrumental title track that closes the album, “Theories of Flight” has some of this band’s best material ever.
The album has 2 ten minute plus epics in “The Light and Shade of Things” and “The Ghosts of Home,” both of which are very powerful and very progressive. “The Light and Shade of Things” is a track that would not have sounded out of place on “Disconnected.” It starts with plenty of atmosphere before it kicks in around 3 minutes in. It has a very Rush-like moment two thirds of the way in that really sets up the ending perfect. Another good thing about this epic and the other is that they have VERY strong melodies and memorable riffs.
Plus Ray Alder sounds fucking amazing on everything. He sounds as good as he ever has! Honestly it just points out that his heart is more into this than his side gig with Redemption. He has so much emotion behind everything he sings on “Theories of Flight.” Jim Matheos is still the riff machine he always has been. Like any good Fates Warning album there are different riffs being played by each guitar that fit together so well.
The sequencing of the album is great too. After the opening track, you have 2 shorter, classic FW songs, then the first epic. The pattern repeats with 2 shorter and then the final epic. Each shorter track has a strong hook, lyrics you will remember and melody for days. In a perfect world, “Seven Stars” would be even bigger than some of their classics like “Point of View” or “Silent Cries.”
Plus let’s not forget the killer guitar solos that Jim does. He is aided by Frank Aresti and Mike Abdow on “White Flag,” which just adds to the drama of the track. You gotta love a song about not giving in. It would make a perfect theme song for the Steve Gleason Foundation, No White Flags.
The title track is the only song that, for me, feels a little iffy. I like it but I don’t LOVE it like the rest of the album. Too many samples (which I know are key to the idea behind the instrumental) and it doesn’t sustain my interest like the rest. In fact it feels more like the epilogue for “Ghosts of Home” since it reuses the intro radio/news samples from that song. That is the one track that Jim wrote the lyrics for. It’s look back at his younger days when he was moving from place to place and never really being able to call one town his home.
The verdict is in. Fates Warning have another masterpiece on their hands with “Theories of Flight.” If there were any justice in the world, it would be the album that pushes them to the same level as their “Prog Metal Big 3” friends Dream Theater or maybe give them the notoriety that Queensrÿche enjoyed. For now, I just hope that prog metal fans around the world sit up and take note. THIS IS HOW GREAT MUSIC SOUNDS!