Original link – http://knac.com/article.asp?ArticleID=20653
By Peter Atkinso
Prog-metal veterans FATES WARNING broke a nine-year silence in resounding fashion with 2013’s Darkness In A Different Light. While it still boasted the sleek melodies, challenging arrangements and instrumental finesse the band had long been noted for, it was also decidedly heavier and bolder than anything FATES had done in quite some time – and rather emphatically re-established its presence.
The band wasted little time in following Darkness up, and with Theories Of Flight retain much of what made it such a forceful comeback while exploring other territory along the way. At the outset, it seems like FATES may be fixing to backslide to mellower, jazzier times, as the opening track “From The Rooftops” leads off with shimmering, Twin Peaks soundtrack-like serenity. But that is soon revealed to be but a tease as the riffs and drums begin to shudder and frontman Ray Alder vocals grow more urgent and emphatic. From there, it rumbles along rather mightily, approaching speed metal velocity at times.
“Seven Stars”, “White Flag” and “SOS” get right down to business, with deceptively simple arrangements that are big on anthemics and infectious hooks. “SOS” – for “Sink or Swim” – is still somewhat involved and dynamic, but “Stars” is remarkably compact and direct, with its rousing chorus making it especially catchy while the cutting, crunching riffs and wicked solo tradeoffs on“White Flag” give it an almost JUDAS PRIEST-like air.
“Like Stars Our Eyes Have Seen” and the title track take things in more progressive directions, though they follow dramatically divergent paths. “Stars” is frisky and jammy, complex and multi-hued, with its fetching chorus contrasting the turbulent rhythms of bassist Joey Vera and drummer Bobby Jarzombek. “Theories Of Flight”, on the other hand, closes the album on a haunting note.
A sparse, mostly instrumental track, the music plays under what seems like a therapy session recording, as a woman queries a subject about having constantly moved around when they were younger. “I was wondering if you feel like you have a different sense of what a home is like, because you were always going from one place to the next,” she asks.
It’s a curious but compelling finale, and serves as a companion piece to one of the album’s two true epics, “The Ghosts Of Home”. At 10:32, and adorned with samples, it’s Flight‘s longest and most elaborate track, while at same time perhaps its most personal and melancholy.
It too deals with flux and trying to find a sense of place, with Alder poignantly conveying founding guitarist Jim Matheos‘ tale of “childhood dislocation” when he was a “stranger in a strange land” from moving eight times in his first nine years of school. It might have made sense to flip “Home” and “Theories”, since it seemingly answers the persistent questions posed in “Theories”, but they work well in tandem regardless.
The album’s other 10-plus minute opus is “The Light And Shade Of Things”. Echoing “From The Rooftops”, it begins almost as a bluesy ballad before transforming into something much more epically metallic on the strength of Matheos’ thick guitar thrum. It might not be as evocative as “Home”, but it still connects thanks to Alder’s resonant vocals and effectively mixes its ingredients – including some big harmonies – without wearing out its welcome.
After 30-plus years and now a dozen albums, FATES WARNING is doing some of its finest work. The long break between 2004’s FWX and Darkness seems to have really recharged the band’s batteries – as has the addition of Jarzombek, who is a far more assertive drummer than the departed Mark Zonder. FATES‘ progressive flair remains, but the punchier, more inviting edge emblematic of the “comeback” really makes it stick. And that is especially so here as the band delivers perhaps its most engaging and memorable album yet.
4.5 Out Of 5.0