Fates Warning at Mod Club

Support: Pyramid Theorem| Infinite Spectrum
June 21, 2017 at Mod Club
Promoter: Intertia Entertainment

It feels only fair that I should preface this piece by saying that, admittedly, it has been a while since I’ve felt the urge to sing a progressive metal record, let alone turn up to a progressive metal show. It’s not not that I’ve never been a fan – I must add before you hurl your rusty javelins in my direction – but rather that I’ve been finding noteworthy, engaging prog records increasingly scarce lately. With that being said, it would be hard not to look back at some of the genre’s classic records without the least bit of fondness, and it would have been a shame to miss out on an opportunity to catch a legendary band such as Fates Warning at Toronto’s Mod Club. After stepping into the venue, it wouldn’t be long before past memories of prog shows started flashing vividly into consciousness : the campy shirt designs, the confused head-bopping to unfamiliar songs, the singers’ nonchalant bathroom breaks backstage and in the middle of songs, everything would eventually come back to me during the course of the evening.

Appropriately, the first opening band of the evening were a group of local protesters, tiptoeing their way into the two square-meter space left available amidst all of the gear on stage. Pyramid Theorem jumped right into business, kicking off with a monster track, a medley of riffs and asymmetrical grooves very much akin to Dream Theatre’s instrumental showdowns. Dizzying, neck-climbing guitar licks came pouring down for the next half hour, jam-packed into lengthy compositions, risky numbers of unabashed musical self-indulgence that would have quickly become tedious were it not for the efficiency of each sections and melody. The band eventually did settle into some slower, ballad-type songs, though it would not be long before pressure would reach critical mass and the urge to prog would become too great, the drummer usually being the first member to relapse through a fantastic albeit excessively showy performance.

All jokes aside, the band did provide a surprisingly enjoyable show, and I wish I could have said as much for the next band. After a tasty entrée of prog, the mere notion of the name Infinite Spectrum ushered in high hopes for a sound that would satisfy my reawakened craving for intricate compositions. Surely enough, the 5 piece from New York did serve a copious amount of sophistication and intricacy, albeit through less memorable tracks. Despite being more song-oriented than the previous band, the heavy metal quintet failed to make much of a lasting impression, the elaborate nature of each track only serving to further down my patience for the impressively delivered yet forgettable vocals melodies.

Having been brought up to speed with a reminder of the marmite-like “love it or hate it” factor that go into progressive rock gigs, the time finally came for the mighty Fates Warning to take to the stage. In oder to change things up after the Awaken the Guardian reunion line-up and setlist, the band prepared a hefty setlist dedicated to their slightly more recent albums, spanning mainly from Parallels and onwards and focusing namely their latest record. Opening with ‘From the Rooftops’, the band would go on to play 3 more songs from the critically acclaimed Theories of Flight, neatly fitted within a tightly woven sequence of action packed tracks. 35 years into their career, then and still appears to be in top form, delivering track after track of high-end, majestic prog metal with the utmost precision. Due respect and admiration being given to the tremendous dexterity on display,

I’ll say that the real stand-out feature of the performance was the underlying passion driving these top-notch musicians. While I do admit having a slight preference for former vocalist John Arch, Ray Alder pulled off a magnificent performance, one that showcased the full range of his powerful voice and dramatic delivery, gripping and resplendent like few other vocalists in the genre. Ray’s bandmates, did not seem to have much attention to spare for a more lively stage presence, though they largely made up for this gripe with an exemplary sound. Interestingly, the band went on to play no less than 3 songs from ‘A Pleasant Shape of Gray’, though unfortunately playing only one song from Perfect Symmetry and No Exit. After closing off with the classic ‘Point of View’, the band returned triumphant to the cheers of excited fans for a two song encore, finishing the set with ‘Through Different Eyes’ and, of course,’Monument’.

As you might’ve guessed already, while I did walk into the venue with my share of scepticism, I did also end up walking away having been pleasantly reminded of what a quality prog gig feels like. Though there were moments where the overly demonstrative musicianship ended up losing my interest, the undeniable talent on display ultimately converged back towards faithful, lively renditions of grandiose rock pieces. To those of you who, like me, have been shunning the likes of progressive heavy metal, I shall address my closing statement : take it upon yourself to dive back in, beyond the smug prog memes that have been plaguing your Facebook timeline, beyond your aversion for the genres’ insufferable fanbase, and give prog another chance.

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