In a year where veteran bands have disappointed (Dream Theater, Megadeth, etc.), I had begun to wonder if these bands were going to start fading away into the sunset a bit more now. It’s always unfortunate to see some of your favourites from the past attempting to stay the course with completely lackluster results. You still admire them for what they’ve accomplished, but you’re constantly hoping for more.
Considered pioneers of the progressive metal genre, Fates Warning have been enjoying a bit of a renaissance period in recent years. First, there was 2011’s stunning effort, Sympathetic Resonance, under the Arch/Matheos moniker (with former Fates Warning vocalist, John Arch). Secondly, 2013’s Darkness In A Different Light was a strong return for the main band (with Ray Alder on vocals), but displayed a bit of the rust left over from a nine-year gap between albums. I’m pleased to say that not only have they returned with a stronger effort, but they’ve also produced one of the finest albums of their discography – Theories of Flight is a triumph.
Let’s begin with the vocals. Ray Alder absolutely tears it up on this album. You still get those soothing melodies that he performs so well on every release. But it’s as if he has reached within to unleash a beast free from its cage when the heavier moments arrive. It’s quite extraordinary. This is one veteran vocalist that is not willing to just phone it in, and he proves he still has the pipes to provoke goosebumps.
But Alder is just one element on this mammoth album. The rest of the band pulls absolutely no punches. Matheos (guitar), Vera (bass), and Jarzombek (drums) provide the musical backbone with instrumental work that is nothing short of mesmerizing. When they’re giving way to the excellent leads performed by Mike Abdow and Frank Aresti, you can feel the care that has gone into crafting each of these pieces of music. Whether you’re admiring the heavy, more intricate interplay of instruments on SOS, or listening to the music breathe during an extended piece like The Light and Shade of Things, this album is all quality. There is no meandering. There are no lulls. This is a confident band that is all business, and fans should be eternally grateful.
Theories of Flight is an intricate journey into everything Fates Warning does best, while carving a new path into the future. It’s not only what progressive metal is about, but it’s also what a veteran band should strive to achieve. I stated earlier in my review that Fates Warning is considered a pioneer of the progressive metal genre. But now, with efforts like these, they’re leaving other bands in the dust. To have such a concise, explosive album is to set an even higher bar for other artists in the genre.