Original link – http://www.metalinjection.net/reviews/fates-warning-theories-of-flight
By RILEY ROWE
I think it’s safe to say that Fates Warning has had a relatively smooth stroll down the progressive path since the mid 80’s. And before I get too many fans jumping down my throat, I acknowledge that power metal also had a large role in their music, but I would predominantly label them as a prog rock group since day one. While rising in popularity beside groups such as Dream Theater and Queensrÿche, founding member Jim Matheos has consistently established an identity that set the group apart from such technical wankery that the majority of said genre was known for.
On their twelfth release, the group fully embraces this notion of distancing themselves from their rivals. Theories of Flight excels at showcasing their juxtaposition of both prog and power all while embracing a more modern edge. And by this, I’m not inferring the band has sold-out in any way. Where most progressive bands from the 80’s are resting on their laurels in recent releases, I see Fates Warning adapting to the contemporary prog trends.
Examples of this comes right off the bat on the Riverside-esque atmospheres created in “From the Rooftops.” The first couple minutes consist of an airy build-up leading to a bass-driven groove and some hard guitar shredding. In a similar fashion, “SOS” is quite upbeat and holds a Porcupine Tree Fear of a Blank Planet-era riff throughout. This emphasis on tension, riffs, and concise melody choruses seems to me that the group has accepted the tropes of what is popular in present-day prog and therefore adopted them into their own musical repertoire.
As the group’s transition to the contemporary styles of prog rock/metal is impressive, there still is a solid chunk of the album that shows evidence of the band’s early material remaining. “Seven Stars” harkens back to their power metal flair while “The Ghosts of Home” channels Rush. The latter song also featured some of the LP’s strongest clean vocals reminding me of Chris Cornell‘s tone and range. I honestly do prefer the direction of the tracks mentioned in the previous paragraph, but Fates Warning‘s classic sound meshes into this material for some very attention-grabbing compositions. Both “White Flag” and “Like Stars Our Eyes Have Seen” were the stand-out tracks during the first couple listens as the vocal melody just held a truly appealing and memorable quality.
Previously mentioning Riverside and Porcupine Tree is truly essential to the band’s transformation and identity. Queensrÿche and Dream Theater may have been proper comparisons back in the 80’s and 90’s, but the approach Fates Warning takes nowadays is along the lines of an alternative/hard rock side of progressive. The technical proficiency is still abundant, but their seems to be a clear focus on atmosphere, riffs, and a musical evolution. Although the stylistic experimentation from something like A Pleasant Shade of Gray is unfortunately not completely present, traces of sound manipulation and other unconventionalities linger.
The band’s tough side has surely matured since the early releases as shown on Darkness in a Different Light and even further more on this record. For the sake of posting on a metal site as well as personal preference, I’d agree in that this shift is a certain positive one. For the most part though, Fates Warning finds difficulty in committing to either going full heavy or holding on to their classic prog roots. With some songs developing harder punches and other going the mellow route, the result is a mixed bag. All in all, Theories of Flight is a fine specimen displaying the group’s current strengths and their ability to adapt to the changing realm of progressive rock.