Fates Warning

Theories of Flight

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AllMusic Review by Timothy Monger

Following a near-decade-long gap, progressive metal innovators Fates Warning made a bold return to form with 2013's Darkness in a Different Light, a muscular set that married the precision of their late-'90s highlights with the hard-won emotional range that only comes from time and experience. Having restored their groove, they follow it up with 2016's Theories of Flight, an introspective but surprisingly heavy album from the same core lineup of founder Jim Matheos (guitar), longtime member Ray Alder (vocals), Joey Vera (bass), and late-period drummer Bobby Jarzombek. Slow-burning multi-part opener "From the Rooftops" establishes the pensive tone that pervades much of the album before erupting into spiny riffs of fury over which Alder develops commanding new melodies. Amid the gusty riffs of "SOS," they plant a rousing chorus reminiscent of their early power metal days before transitioning back out via a clever synth-aided break. In fact, the interplay between their more progressive and classically melodic tendencies plays out in each of the eight tracks, showcasing the dynamic tension that is one of their hallmarks. The album's thematic centerpiece, the ten-minute opus "The Ghosts of Home" is a sprawling hybrid of soaring melodicism and inventive technical might that showcases a number of Fates Warning's greatest assets. According to Matheos, it was also the album's working title before they borrowed Theories of Flight from visual artist Graceann Warn, whose work of the same name adorns the cover. Twelve albums and over three decades into their career, Fates Warning continue to prove themselves on this remarkably strong outing.

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