Original link – http://metalnationradio.ca/album-review-fates-warning-theories-flight/
By Phil Milly
Thirty two years into their accomplished and highly artistic recording career, Fates Warning continue to tread new territory with a mature, sophisticated piece of progressive metal splendor. Theories of Flight incorporates all of their trademark virtuosity layered with their inimitable blend of melody, complexity, aggression and experimentation that has consistently pushed the boundaries of the band’s musical identity. The principle song writing of Jim Matheos and the lyrical contributions of Ray Alder combine to create inspired, emotional albums that stand the test of time and have endeared the band to their followers for decades. Theories of Flight is yet another stellar collection of songs that serve to illustrate the depth and intricacy of one of progressive metal’s finest and most revered bands.
As always, the production is absolutely impeccable and this time around the band recorded at Fascination Street Studios in Sweden. Jim Matheos took the helm for production duties and the album was mixed and mastered by Jens Bogren who has worked with Opeth, Katatonia and Symphony X to name a few. The album is a rich soundscape of heaviness, finesse, atmospheric passages and stellar vocal performances that are all driven forward by Bobby Jarzombek’s immaculate drumming and Joey Vera’s solid, creative bass playing. Frank Aresti, who joined the band back in 1985 on “The Spectre Within” Tour and left the band after they released “Inside Out”; has since become an occasional member and contributes some very tasteful solos on “From the Rooftops” and “White Flag”. Mike Abdow, who has been touring with the band for their recent “Darkness in a Different Light” album, also contributes some great solo work on “White Flag”.
Lyrically, the album explores themes of transition and touches upon endings, new beginnings and the journey in between. Album opener “From The Rooftops” begins with a slow, brooding intro that compliments the lyrics perfectly. At the two-minute mark the tempo changes drastically and the reflective intro gives way to some intricate, fast paced riffing as Ray Alder tears into the lyrics with conviction. This is some of the fastest and most aggressive material that the band has offered since No Exit. The song speaks of time and perspective and evokes images of cityscapes that morph into stars as we reflect on our place in the universe. In typical Fates Warning fashion, the imagery and subject matter of the lyrics are married perfectly with the emotive atmosphere and song structure of JimMatheos’ inspired writing.
Another album highlight is the ten minute epic “The Light and Shade of Things” that takes the listener on an emotional tour de force that touches upon distance and loss. As with “And Yet It Moves” from “Darkness in a Different Light” and “Still Remains” from “Disconnected”, the song feels more like a journey that is taken through peaks and valleys that build to an emotional denouement. Matheos is extremely adept in regard to crafting songs that always leave you looking back in solemn reflection; a combination of catharsis and sadness that lingers with you long after the song ends.
The next track, “White Flag” takes us in a completely different direction and serves to illustrate the contrast that Fates Warning always weaves into the tapestry of their music. This is a heavy, aggressive call to arms that inspires us to never give up and to bury the white flag of surrender. Ray Alder once again displays the versatility of his vocal performance. He perfectly conveys the aggression needed here, and once again serves as a contrast to the quieter, reflective moments that he also captures perfectly in “The Light and Shade of Things”.
“The Ghosts of Home”, which was originally the working title of the album, is perhaps the most experimental and diverse Fates Warning song to date. With lyrics written byMatheos, this song explores how moving eight times within the first nine years of school shaped his personality. This is another ten minute epic and rightfully so as there is a great deal to explore in the subject matter. The song begins with a light, reflective intro that segues into some energetic, almost upbeat riffing layered with a lead that is reminiscent of “Still Remains” from “Disconnected.” Matheos weaves a contrast of excitement and yearning with the wending riffs and melodies that evolve throughout the song. It serves as the center piece for the album and the closing title track serves as an extension of the lyrical theme with some fitting spoken word segments.
“Theories of Flight” is another truly exceptional album from Fates Warning that will resonate very well with long-time fans – hopefully there will be many more to come.