John Arch was the original lead singer of Fates Warning and had left the band in the late eighties. Other than a single EP release in 2003, he seemed lost to the metal world. That was until he reteamed with Jim Matheos (founding member and guitarist of Fates Warning) in 2011 to deliver the first Arch/Matheos album, Sympathetic Resonance. The album was well received and left fans wanting more. Well the wait is finally over with the release of Winter Ethereal.
The album was released on May 10 through Metal Blade Records and features nine immersive songs of symphonic power metal, rock and prog. Clocking in at just under seventy minutes, the album weaves through a complete myriad of listening experiences.
“This stems from both of us trying to step out of our comfort zones a bit, sometimes voluntarily, sometimes being pushed,” states Matheos. “Having worked together so many times, it would be easy to fall into the same way of doing things, and I think we were both interested in exploring some new areas.” Arch concurs and adds: “Each song is notably different from the next, and nothing sounds repetitive. It is not a concept album, but somehow after a full listen from start to finish, there does seem to be continuity between the songs that I can’t describe. At over an hour long, I think the fans will agree that it is a full listening experience.”
The album has a bit of everything and at times, with all tracks just seeming to flow so well, seems to be taking many twists and turns. The songs are driven throughout between the soaring vocals of Arch and then reverting at times to the stylistic riffs and leads of Matheos. I think what drew me to it was the feeling of listening to a number of bands from my youth. At times I felt like I was listening to early Queensrÿche, at times Helloween (fronted by Michael Kiske). When you think about it, these two icons (Arch & Matheos) are like fathers of prog metal so it is no wonder that I feel that way.
What I found really interesting was the way that they recorded the album, with mostly everyone tracking in isolation from their own studios (detailed from the mouths of the authors below). To listen to this album I could have never guessed that many of the artists never saw each other as it sounds so tight. The album features Fates Warning past and present members: Bobby Jarzombek, Joey Vera, Mark Zonder and Jo Dibiase. Alongside Steve Di Giorgio (Death, Testament), Sean Malone (Cynic) and renowned drummer Thomas Lang.
“Making the most of contemporary technology, almost all collaborators tracked their parts in their respective home studios, while guitars and vocals were laid down at Matheos’ studio with him handling the production. Working this way was conducive to creativity and a process that was most agreeable to both Arch and Matheos. “For me, having the freedom and drive to work in isolation is one of the things I like best about recording,” says Matheos. “It allows me to experiment, and often fail, without feeling inhibited or constrained. That said, John offered a lot of encouragement, whether remotely or in person, and pushed me into directions I wouldn’t normally go.” Matheos was similarly supportive when it came to Arch laying down his parts. “I really enjoy the studio situation, mainly because it feels like home,” the vocalist states. “It is a low-key relaxing environment, Jim is behind the console, and I’m behind the mic, and no one is pushing anyone. Whatever creative differences we have, we work out with compromise. I appreciate Jim’s patience while I’m tracking vocals because it can be brutal at times. It’s also cool because I get a front row seat watching Jim track his guitars, sometimes late into the night ’til we both run out of gas. We are longtime friends, and a couple shots and laughs at the end of a long day make for some good memories.””
The chemistry in this offering is there for all to see, and it really does justify the wait of eight years for such a solid album. I have listened to the album a couple of times now and have not found my interest wavering at all. Every track has enough hooks to keep me completely engrossed.
If you are a fan of power metal or progressive metal, this is one for you. Go grab a copy now.