Genre: Progressive
Country: U.S.A.
Label: Inside Out
Year: 2016

I could easiy fit into the category of people who keep a “small basket” while waiting for the next recording step of Fates Warning, especially after “Darkness In a Different Light”, which despite its interesting moments, it was in my opinion a weak link between the chains of Fates Warning releases.

I didn’t know what to expect form the successor of “Darkness…”. On one hand I was thinking that probably Alder’s reduced efficiency on vocals – obvious in the previous album – can give a certain direction in the new compositions, in a way that Ray would find it easy. On the other hand, I was hoping for a general recovery of compositions and execution (always keeping “Darkness…” in mind). Between you and me I was rooting for Bobby -Jarzombeck- to save in some magical drumming way the entire thing; I guess I was right.

I should confess that the record’s first sample (“From The Rooftops”) left me with very positive impressions, making me anticipate the final result more and more. Although its hypnotic intro reminded me of “FWX”, quickly the main riff of the track slowed me clearly that things are going to be tougher now. Surely, you cannot judge a record by its first track, however a first taste is always a good indicator of what’s to follow.

To my pleasure, the whole hearing of “Theories Of Flight” revealed the heaviest album Fates Warning have recorded in recent years. It’s an amazing record based upon Jim Matheos’ guitar themes, which go one step up the ladder in dynamics due to Bobby Jarzombeck’s frantic drumming. Should I say, told you so? As for Ray Alder, he sounds fully renewed, refreshed and passionate, so everything is in place in one of the best Prog Metal albums this year.

Since I’ve already mentioned Ray Alder’s vocals, I would like to set as a characteristic example of my point the track “Seven Stars”, which follows up the introductory “From The Rooftops”.

Here we are dealing with a quite catchy composition, a fairly straight piece which really emerges, mainly because of the vocals. Brilliantly melodic in its conception, passionate interpretation and in full performance, the vocal lines of “Seven Stars” is the strongest point of the track, no doubt. The song “SOS” that follows is certainly the most heavy track of the record and dare I add -hearing some specific guitar themes in the track and in the album in general – that Matheos’ writing samples on this album, refer to the masterful “Sympathetic Resonance “of Arch / Matheos.

“The Light And Shade Of Things” comes next; a deeply introverted composition -the first big in duration in the album-, which gradually culminates. Wonderful introduction, wonderful guitar themes in strong points and Alder giving his soul. Up next, the most metallic composition of the album rises up; the magnificent “White Flag”. Listen to the basic riff and ask yourself for how long you can hear Matheos playing something like that? In a similar musical motif “Like Stars Our eyes Have Seen” is moving, endowed with the rather most “sticky” chorus you can hear in this album.

Reaching the end of the album there are two really great moments that await the listener: The 10-minute-and something track called “Like Ghosts Of Home” is an excellent composition, written entirely by Jim Matheos. There is much to discover in this one piece. From the enigmatic introductory theme that gives its position to a great riff that clearly refers to Rush, the orgiastic brilliant basslines of Joey Verra, Bobby’s excellent playing, the space guitar passages -either as ornaments in the verses, either as standalone themes-, the piece offers itself for dozens of hearings and yes, it will always have something to offer you.

The epilogue comes with the title “Theories Of Flight”. A sensational instrumental full of lyrical composition, a small Prog gem that simply cannot be heard enough times. It would not be an exaggeration to say that this is the piece that is the most beautiful, emotional and robust track this record gave us. Sadness, inner tension, music that speaks directly to the soul. Consecutive repeats, because we suffer from obsessional thoughts (and yes, you’ve just read the useless information of this review).

So, these are the eight stops of the new flight of Fates Warning who gave us a wonderful record. Synthetically, “Theories …” is located near the mentality of its predecessor -with fortunately a much more interesting material-, but there are also elements that raise the bar even more. There is an Alder shining with his presence and a band that shows that can actually write excellent songs even when the sound gets heavier. Maybe the experiment failed in “Darkness …” but here you will certainly listen to some of the best pieces written by the Fates in recent years. I left my bitter feeling for the end, since Frank Aresti plays poorly in the record, but okay we cannot have it all.

5/6