Review Summary: Blending the best parts of Parallels and Darkness in a Different Light, Theories of Flight sets a new standard for the modern Fates Warning sound.
If there is one characteristic that fits every classic album, regardless of genre, it is the effortlessness of it all. Listening to a classic album feels like watching something just fall into place. These are the albums that bands reflect on years later while admitting they had no idea how important they were going to become. At least a few of Fates Warning’s albums could fall into that classic realm. Whether it’s the more traditional Awaken the Guardian
or the cold precision of Perfect Symmetry
or even the mainstream breakthrough of Parallels
, there’s no doubt Fates Warning has had its share of classic releases. The problem is that ever since A Pleasant Shade of Gray
, the band has been in transition. This has benefitted fans because it has led to a multitude of varied releases, but none of them have felt like classics. Theories of Flight
feels like a classic.
Theories of Flight
takes the infectiously captivating Parallels
formula and fuses it with the riffy progressive metal of Darkness in a Different Light
, and the results are truly impressive. The album opens with ‘From the Rooftops’ and establishes a firm direction; one that is equal parts metal, progressive, and catchy. Unfortunately, ‘From the Rooftops’ has led some to believe that there might be an Arch/Matheos influence present, but there is not. This assumption is based on some chaotic riffing (by Fates Warning standards) on the opening track, but overall the Arch/Matheos influence just isn’t there. I say this not as a complaint, but to make sure people don’t go in with preconceived notions that dampen the impact of this excellent release. That also isn’t meant to imply there aren’t plenty of heavy progressive moments on the album, because there are; it’s only that they’re not so blatantly derived from Jim Matheos’ side project.
While there are definitely riffy moments on the album, Theories of Flight
is much more than that one quality thanks to some of the most solid songwriting of the band’s career. Without exception, the songs on this album feature some of the catchiest choruses this side of Parallels
. There are a few shorter songs such as ‘Seven Stars’ that sound like they could have literally come from a metalized version of Parallels
, and those tracks are going to get stuck in your head immediately. There are also songs like ‘Like Stars Our Eyes Have Seen’ that are much more steeped in the metal aspect that was first introduced in FWX
and expanded upon during Darkness in a Different Light
. These songs, too, still manage to introduce a multitude of memorable facets, from guitar riffs and melodies, to minor refrains, to powerful vocal melodies. What might be surprising, though, is that even the two extended tracks are catchy as hell while efficiently filling every bit of their 10-minute runtimes with indispensable moments. In fact, ‘The Light and Shade of Things’ is probably the song that ends up stuck in my head the most often.
The traditional progressive metal genre is in dire need of another classic album. While staples of the genre continue their downward trend, Fates Warning has been consistently excellent… but not quite classic. That stands to change with the release of Theories of Flight
. Of course, it’s probably too early to announce this album deserves to join that elite list, but there’s no denying the argument should definitely begin. When a band somehow manages to take the most solid and memorable moments of their breakthrough release and seamlessly mesh them with a sound they’ve been circling around for years, and do so flawlessly, then it is at least worth proclaiming that they’ve released a milestone within their own career. But is it worth stopping the discussion there; I don’t know? While it’s too early to start calling Theories of Flight
another pinnacle of the progressive metal genre, in 10-years’ time that may very well be what this album has become.