Arch / Matheos
Sometimes you really can have your cake and eat it too, if that cake is progressive, with numbers and stuff. Vocalist Ray Alder is currently committed to two bands: Fates Warning and Redemption. For reasons of time management the good man could not appear on the new albums of both acts, and in the end he seems to have picked Redemption. You can read about the result of that collaboration, “This Mortal Coil”, here in a few weeks. So guitarist for Fates Warning, Jim Matheos, had to recruit another singer and who did he call but his old pal John Arch, absent from the metal scene for quite some time now. So, all members of Fates Warning, except Alder, got together and formed Arch / Matheos (after fighting a long time for who would get first billing). To make a long story short: there will be two great American progressive metal albums out this year, without resorting to desperate measures like cloning Ray Alder or cutting him in half.
But enough about dismemberment, let’s talk about “Sympathetic Resonance”. For all you people who are still wrapping your heads around Fates Warning’s “The Spectre Within” and/or “Awaken The Guardian” (with question marks instead of pupils in your eyes) this won’t be any more easily accessible or digestible. Those who embraced those albums as the intricate progressive masterpieces they are, will probably explode of excite- and enjoyment and should provisionally get some extra pairs of pants. Personally, I have a fondness for early Fates Warning, so I had an edge coming into Arch / Matheos and I liked it instantly. An opening track titled “Neurotically Wired” already sounds rather complicated, and it really is. Dense, and layered, with only a handful of melodies that will strike you as “normal”. John Arch defies such basic human things as “standard rhythm” and “reproducible melody” and instead wails ever on end in word combinations you never thought were possible. But that is the fascinating charm of his vocal performance, even though I can understand how it would put some people off.
Luckily it is the second-most difficult song on the album, and the follow-up “Midnight Serenade” boasts a strong and memorable chorus, with Arch’s voice as the perfect medium for the delicate and fragile melodies. There is a slight Dream Theater-vibe in this and the next track, “Stained Glass Sky”, noticeable in the groovy riffs and more aggressive vocal work. No moment is wasted in this 13-minute long endeavor, with a quiet bridge and chorus providing the necessary balance to the fury around. “On The Fence” is maybe the most hermetic affair on here, and it pales a little compared to the monuments that surround it. Because next up is another highlight, the wonderfully engaging “Any Given Day (Strangers Like Me)”, with its entrancing rhythm and almost ecstatic chorus. “Incense And Myrrh”, a semi-ballad, ends things on a peaceful note.
While this is not as eerie, magical or mystical as classic Fates Warning, it’s equally stupefying, confounding, and captivating, as if it were “Awaken The Guardian” updated for the 21st century or the last season of “Lost”. Consecutive listens will probably reveal more than mere words can express, but there is no doubt this is a welcome and wonderful return of one of progressive metal’s dream teams. And with a new Dream Theater out and a new Redemption shortly, the times for US prog could not be more fortunate.
Arno Callens' Rating: 4.0 out of 5