One of progressive metal’s earliest instigators, Fates Warning, returns to Toronto tonight. Being the vanguards of metal’s most skilled genre that ignited the enviable careers of Dream Theater, Opeth and Queensryche, it’s exceedingly criminal that Fates Warning remain so underrated. Recently, these Americans recruited a wave of younger supporters as the retro heavy/power metal trend that has swept the global metal world tapped into Fates Warning’s heavy/power beginnings but a large majority of these newer followers incredulously consider their most influential prog works second class. Oh well. This North American tour seeks to promote album number twelve, last year’s Theories of Flight.
This is New York City’s Infinite Spectrum’s first time in Toronto, a band formed in 2007 with two albums and a deal on respected prog label Sensory Records. From first listen of their prog metal, most fans of the genre will be able to tell that the songs tonight originate from a concept album with narrative-driving vocals bedecked by the rest of the rock opera instrumentation that marches the songs towards clearly defined apexes. Featuring a six string bass and a seven string guitar, these Americans are committed to their prog, marrying mid-era Dream Theater to Ayreon with delicious results, in spite of the dull sound the venue lumbers them with.
Drawing heavily from their HP Lovecraft sophomore album Haunter of the Dark, they strike flawless equilibrium between the heavy and melodic, the technical and memorable, consequentially forging accessible theatrical metal with highly skilled components. Time signature changes keep the audience guessing and a punctuating rhythm section provided by bassist Alex Repetti and drummer Greg Schwab ensure every song hits hard. Will Severin employs professional well-developed vocal lines and are supplemented by luscious harmonizing backing vocals. The venue is not busy but those present clearly enjoy what Infinite Spectrum are delivering. Infinite Spectrum are proof that prog metal’s underbelly can still defy the term ‘regressive metal’, reserved for generic acts brazenly shaping their career around amateur Dream Theater off cuts.
Kicking off their show with the opener from Theories of Flight, “From the Rooftops”, Fates Warning solicit thunderous applause from the Mod Club Theatre. Unlike Infinite Spectrum, the sound is crystal clear for these progressive metal veterans. Ray Alder’s silk-strewn voice is identical to its recorded version, Bobby Jarzombek’s technical off-beat drumming is addictive to watch and guitarist Jim Matheos expertly shifts his tone from the heavy to the delicate to the serpentine and beyond. Alder comes across as a likeable man, one you would buy a beer for, and engages with particularly enthusiastic audience members individually. He also remarks throughout the night how quiet the Canadian crowd are, comparing them to Sweden – not a bad thing!
The set is representative of the entire prog metal portion of their discography, from the melodic earlier days to the later heavy releases. Songs played from Theories of Flight include “Seven Songs”, “SOS” and the ten minute behemoth “The Light and Shade of Things”. Impressively, a sizeable portion of the fans near the front sing along to these new tracks more than any other, testament that Fates Warning still produce high quality efforts and are certainly not a nostalgia act like so many metal bands of a similar age. Older selections such as “Life in Still Water”, “A Pleasant Shade of Grey, Part III” and “The Ivory Gate of Dreams: VII. Acquiescence” feature enough unpredictable time signature changes and polyrhythms to get all the proggers salivating. It truly is a treat to witness such talented musicians on stage performing down-right beautiful songs in the flesh. The only downside to the show is that Alder strays away from the challenging highest part of his vocal range but this is entirely forgivable.
A fantastic rendition of the Queensryche-esque “Point of View” sees Fates Warning abruptly leave the stage but the audience remain, hoping for an encore. Their wishes are met as the headliners return for a two-part extension, beginning with fan favourite “Through Different Eyes” and concluding with a flawless execution of “Monument” from the Inside Out album. This completes a formidable set worthy of these Americans’ enduring legacy. Sure the majority of metalheads do not give them the attention they deserve but this will not deter the band from releasing intelligent and talented albums any time soon and that’s all that really matters.