Fates Warning – Theories of Flight

I don’t think I’ve ever so desperately wanted to like an album in my whole life than this one. I don’t even know why, it’s not like it’s a genre of music I love. Generic prog is something I have a hateboner for in all forms, so this would seem to be the exact thing I would want to hate. Maybe it’s because I didn’t really appreciate Fates Warning’s 80s stuff, so I want to make up for that by giving them credit for what they’re doing now. Maybe it’s just the acclaim Theories of Flight has gotten so far. Regardless, the result is I couldn’t get myself to like this. The album feels like a disingenuous attempt at prog that ends up having more in common with pop rock than any form of progressive metal.

You know, maybe I wanted to like this so bad because From the Rooftops is actually really good. The intro is as stellar a beginning to an album as you can have, the rest of the track being charged with emotion, and a great lead into the album. But then on the 3rd track you have the chorus to SOS. Just what in the name of Jesus Christ’s hairy asshole is that fucking chorus? That sounds like a pop rock song. I would hear that shit on the radio in the mid 2000s as my mom drives me to middle school, what the fuck. And there’s shit like that on the album all the time. Various sections of songs that I can’t tell if the band is trying too hard or absolutely not trying at all. The Light and Shade of Things is fucking great, but White Flag again sounds like they’re pandering to moms and their 14 year old sons from 2007. I don’t understand, sometimes this is an awesome, technical, and wickedly catchy progressive metal album, and the other times it’s like the band sold the fuck out but didn’t want people to catch on to that fact.

Let me be clear, nothing on this album is astonishing. You’ve heard this shit before if you’ve heard 10 prog metal albums from after 2005. But when it’s clicking, it can convey some pretty intense emotions. As mentioned before, The Light sounds like a real diverse prog opus, albeit in a modern sense, and watered down on the pretension. It’s the shorter tracks that sound like complete fucking filler. Theories of Flight is the most filler track you could possibly put on your album, and it’s the closer. I just, I don’t know what possible purpose it serves on the album. It’s not even really a song, it’s just staticy noise and samples with guitar noodling. Why the fuck even put this on here? What does it add to the album that The Ghosts of Home (a 10 minute prog journey that is almost on part with The Light and Shade of Things) doesn’t?

I really feel like this deserves a rating in the 5 range, I really do. But I can’t give it that. Because even though it’s lows are definitely low, when it’s good, it rests somewhere in the high 7 range consistently. And I don’t know, sometimes you just enjoy records even though all analysis points it towards not being great. This record is like that one awkward kid you should absolutely dislike on every level, but for some reason you can’t help feel a mixture of sympathy and shame for. You feel guilty that you don’t like it, so you give it better treatment. Music is weird man.