Music Reviews Progressive Metal

Arch/Matheos – Sympathetic Resonance

John Arch’s contribution to Fates Warning and to early American Progressive Metal is unquestionable. A Twist of Fate was a two track EP that reunited Arch with Fates Warning and OSI powerhouse Jim Matheos in 2003. The EP was a wonderful release at the time, merging Matheos’ growth and maturity in guitar work and songwriting with Arch’s high falsetto with introspective and personal lyrics. This year, Matheos had majority of the next Fates Warning album ready to go, but with Ray Alder unable to commit (possibly due to Redemption’s forthcoming release, This Mortal Coil), Matheos turned to Arch and the current Fates Warning lineup, renamed the project Arch/Matheos, and recorded and released the material found on Sympathetic Resonance.

“Neurotically Wired” takes no time to present the sound that Arch/Matheos attempts to project. It is the Fates Warning sound that we’ve come to love with a freshness to the composition that gives even the most casual fan a chance to explore the the new material with an open mind. The aptly titled “Midnight Serenade” is a lovely song that harkens back to X, but also has the most similarities to an OSI song. Both the lyrics and the music match the title, having a serenade-like construction. It is also the catchiest tune on the album.

“Stained Glass Sky” begins with a bombastic three minute instrumental that could have easily stood on its own. Instead, the section is attached to this epic song, clocking in at close to fourteen minutes. The album retains much of the classic Matheos signature guitar style that developed in contemporary Fates Warning and OSI releases. Yet, there are moments on the album where there are slight returns of the early Fates Warning sound. Even better, when the two collide, as they do in “On The Fence”, it takes the concept and entity of Arch/Matheos to a whole new level.

“Any Given Sunday (Strangers Life Me)” has a pounding rhythm that is constant for much of the song until a softer interlude, again, returns to early Fates Warning roots, and finally coming back around with a melody that layers the electric melody over an acoustic rhythm. “Incense and Myrrh” concludes the album on a softer note, acting more like a ballad straight out of a post-No Exit Fates Warning album. Like the other songs, it winks at the past while exploring the possibilities of the current line up.

As with most Progressive music, the singing may be the most difficult part to absorb. For those familiar to Arch’s high, stylized falsetto will find that he has been able to keep his unique and distinguished voice after four decades. Furthermore, why did Arch never find his way into another band, other than his early 1990 audition for Dream Theater? Regardless, Arch’s talents reach beyond his vocal skills. Arch’s lyrics return to some of the fantastical and mythological themes and symbols used in early Fates Warning albums. Here, Arch brings his wisdeom that comes with age, and incorporates it with his signature thematic style.

Lest we forget, the amicable contributions from bassist Joey Vera and drummer Bobby Jarzombek which round out and support the signature style that makes places Sympathetic Resonance as an off-shoot of the Fates Warning enterprise.

Similar to how Black Sabbath and Dio’s contemporary outings were dubbed Heaven & Hell to distinguish between the two Black Sabbath vocalist led eras has similarity to this reuniting of Arch and the current Fates Warning lineup. As much as I would have rather had a new Fates Warning album (X was released six years ago), this is a welcomed release and collaboration between two central progressive metal figures. Sympathetic Resonance may be the album progressive metal fans have been waiting for for nearly twenty-five years. The title matches the contextual condition of this release and production, or as Wikipedia defines it: “a harmonic phenomenon wherein a formerly passive string or vibratory body responds to external vibrations to which it has a harmonic likeness.”