Formed in 1982 Fates Warning has been a staple in a now diminishing subgenre of music called progressive metal. Other members of this strata are Dream Theater, early Queensryche, and Nevermore. I’ll say Queensryche up to and including Mindcrime but that’s it!
Fates Warning’s music has been labeled many different genres including Heavy Metal, Power Metal, Prog Metal, and more. This is to be expected given the amazing length of the time the band has been active. It should be noted that in 1988 the band transitioning from Power Metal into a much more progressive unit with the album No Exit and the addition of Ray Alder.
The current band is:
- Joey Vera – Bass (Armored Saint until 1993)
- Ray Alder vocals (Replaced John Arch in 1988)
- Bobby Jarzombek (previously with Halford and Iced Earth)
- Jim Matheos (the only original member to be on all records)
The white noise radio garbled nonsense on this record starts out kind of interesting but gets old fast. And don’t worry you are going to hear a lot of it all over the record. Yay! By SOS you don’t want to hear the character featured in the various songs listening to the radio or the TV or whatever the hell is going on. The background dialogue is high enough in the mix to draw attention but low enough that much of it is unintelligible. So any depth this adds is mushy depth with no clear purpose. NICE!
The Light and Shade of Things has a flavor of ‘89’s Perfect Symmetry and really took me back in time without being an obvious play for nostalgia. In fact, this song has a heft that earlier albums lacked and pushes the limit of prog metal into an “almost” heavy territory. Like many Fates Warning songs past and present the song skirts the edge of math rock, prog, metal, and even classic rock in a couple of areas. The individual markers of each style are there but they are melded so expertly that something new is created. The song is about twice as long as it feels like it should be with a good 4 minutes of meandering around and noises. When this song lands it lands perfectly. Strip away the extra noodling around and you have something really good here. As Emperor Joseph II would say, there are just too many notes. Just cut a few and it will be perfect.
SOS starts out weird like most Fates Warning songs but about a minute in it really gets going. There is almost a hint of Disturbed floating around in there. Actually there might be a bit of Fates Warning floating around in Disturbed but I never really made the connection until now. LEARNING IS FUN! The mid-section jazz space exploration is pretty much standard Fates Warning fair so if you have been drinking or smoking anything you may learn something profound about yourself. I did not! I found this song overly repetitive which is something I never thought I would say about this band. The phrases are so long that they seem la bit chaotic but stretch yourself beyond the usual 4 measure to the 15 measure riff and you’ll see what I mean.
The Ghosts of Home starts out as a lost Skynyrd or Springsteen track. Yes, I just said that, but before you type with your forehead go back and listen to Simple Man, remove all of the soul and sing the lyrics of The Ghosts of Home. See? Then as if by magic, or more accurately by a Frankensteinian kluging together, the song becomes a mathcore journey to the center of a graphing calculator and we once again enter the world of Fates Warning. The lyrics are much more on the nose here avoiding the usual FW metaphor and just spelling out the song in simple terms. This was disorienting and the dichotomy of simplistic lyrics over the songs algorithm was weirdly interesting. I’ll never listen to the song again, but hey it affected me enough to write a paragraph about it which is more than most crap I listen to.
From the Rooftops again take me to Perfect Symmetry. I’ll trade 2 Perfect Symmetrys for a single Night on Brocken please! This song brings us again to the Fates Warning standardized song structure which is. 2 Minute Intro | Weird Single Instrument Riff | Tight Speed | Melodic Chorus | then repeat to Weird Single Instrument Riff x17 times and finish with a Disconnected Outro with 18 guitars. Seriously listen to the album again. Apply this chart to each song and see how well they match up. Please comment below on how well this matches up! The solo on this one is screw it, neck position humbucker and blast off. As with all of the performances on the album it is executed with effortless precision and with very little color.
Fates Warning are all masters of their instruments and given the quality of musicians we are often assaulted with this is enough to earn my applause. But this album made me tired. And I don’t mean that I was lifted into a meditative state where I engaged in personal reflection. I mean I am tired now. For every break away song section, the band anchors it down with what appears to be either filler or unnecessarily bizarre stretches of disconnected parts. I like complicated music more than the next guy so don’t think I’m complaining about that. I think Dream Theater kicks all the ass and Tesseract is a part of my regular play list. But crazy compositions made up of disparate parts mushed together isn’t a complex piece, it’s a mess.
I am giving Theories of Flight a C. The attempts to feign depth would have gotten it a lower score but the songs are executed with such skill and precision even the kluged up messes are well done. If you like Fates Warning post “A Pleasant Shade of Gray” you might like this but I recommend hearing a sample before you buy the record.
I hope you enjoyed our review of Fates Warning’s Theories of Flight. I’m going to go listen to Perfect Symmetry again and then move on with my life. Come back next week when we review Blink-182’s California. Heh we are actually reviewing something else!