Billboard 200 in the late 1980s — have mostly remained strictly proggers’ proggers. Odd, ’cos they long ago mastered heavy metal’s elusive holy trinity: simultaneous power, technical prowess and sheer sing-ability. Though not shy with complex riffery and tempo/signature shifts, the much-changed outfit (currently a quartet, and with only guitarist Jim Matheos a constant since its 1982 inception) has retained the brute heft of its new wave of British heavy metal–influenced beginnings while consistently putting actual songcraft and melody before overly-earnest, for-the-sake-of-it widdly wankery. There’s a marvelous, non-pandering purity to Fates Warning’s 2016 Theories of Flight collection, which delivers meticulous, headphone-friendly introversion and heroic, bombastic metal-urgy in equal measure, all humanized by versatile, longtime vocalist Ray Adler.
While fellow American prog-metal pioneers Queensrÿche and Dream Theater have enjoyed sustained mainstream success, Connecticut’s Fates Warning — though they repeatedly cracked the