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Arch / Matheos - Winter Ethereal CD (album) cover


Arch / Matheos

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siLLy puPPy
PSIKE, JRF/Canterbury, P Metal, Eclectic
4 stars WINTER is coming. Oh, wait! It has already come! Emerging seemingly from nowhere in 2011, the early Fates Warning pioneers of prog metal, vocalist John ARCH and guitarist Jim MATHEOS took the world by storm after releasing the stunning collaborative effort in the form of "Sympathetic Resonance" under the moniker ARCH / MATHEOS which in many ways found resolution to the long lost continuation of what Fates Warning would have sounded like had they continued well into the 21st century with ARCH's vocal prowess still in command. With a classic prog metal sound that was clearly crafted for the modern world, the duo constructed six stunning tracks that took the early prog metal attributes of operatic vocals, heavy zigzagging guitar riffs and compositional complexities and married it all with the darker down-tuned realities of the 21st century.

While the project was never to be intended to be a permanent one, the obvious chemistry that was presented begged prog metalheads far and wide to ponder the possibilities of whether there could be the remotest possibility of a second edition to what would provide the next chapter in this project of such technical wizardry coupled with emotional outpourings. Due to other commitments, particularly on the side of MATHEOS who to this day remains a vital member in Fates Warning's modern prog metal excellence, no pressures were in play but lo and behold eight long years later and the duo has found themselves releasing the long awaited second coming with WINTER ETHEREAL which finds the dynamic duo in cahoots once again with bassist Joey Vera (Fates Warning, Chroma Key), drummer Bobby Jarzombek (Fates Warning, Spastic Ink) and guitarist Frank Aresti.

And this time around even more musicians came to the party which includes ex-Cynic bassist Sean Malone and two additional drummers, Matt Lynch (Trioscapes) and Thomas Lang (John Wetton, Stork, Paul Gilbert, Eric Gillette) as well as Steve Di Giorgio (Death, Testament, Charred Walls Of The Damned) and bassists Joe Dibiase and Mark Zonder. The guitar distortion is turned up to 11 and the musicians were chomping at the bit to unleash a new slab of highly technical metal that takes the ARCH / MATHEOS to the next level. While the Fates Warning comparisons are inevitable, once again this project finds a way to make the music its own despite the clear throwback to the long lost days when progressive metal existed as a mere collaboration between 70s prog rock and 80s classic heavy metal. And best of all, despite the decades that have elapsed, it's utterly amazing how well Mr. ARCH's glass shattering vox box has held up. Is this man [%*!#]ing immortal or what?

WINTER ETHEREAL cranks out nine hard driving prog metal tracks rooted in the previous century but clearly designed for 21st century consumption. A bit longer than the previous one and clocking in at about 108 minutes, this album bursts into the scene with the crushing "Vermillion Moons" which delivers the expected labyrinthine guitar riffs while taking a few breathers with some slower passages. Clearly on display and man of the hour vocalist ARCH shows off his high capacity pipes in an ever daring feat of vocal majesty which never fails throughout the album's lengthy parade through the progressively imbued compositions that seem to tackle the usual prog metal melodramatic lyrical esoterica in the fullest sonic regalia. Despite the plethora of musicians on board this time, the album comes off as a tightly woven musical experience with all eyes on the prize, that meaning the overall feel of consistency in this high quality musical sector of the prog metal universe.

Perhaps my only complaint of this dynamic powerhouse of unbridled prog metal passion is that despite the army of newbies in its midst, it doesn't deviate significantly from the majesty of "Sympathetic Resonance," as the tones, timbres, dynamics and songwriting techniques follow suit in much the same business as usual. Perhaps the creative aspects could've shined a bit more instead of making a second installment of album #1 however if a similar approach is what you've been salivating over then WINTER ETHEREAL will not disappoint one little bit as it tackles all the prog sophistication and ethereal nuances that the first ARCH / MATHEOS experience delivered so well. While overall i don't find this to be the perfect prog metal specimen that came before, it is nevertheless a high quality release that finds these elder statesmen of the genre not losing one bit of their musical mojo, in other words - this is some outstanding modern day prog metal delivering ALL the goods.

Report this review (#2203426)
Posted Friday, May 17, 2019 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars "Winter Ethereal" is the 2nd full-length studio album by US progressive metal act Arch / Matheos. The album was released through Metal Blade Records in May 2019. Arch / Matheos is a project formed by former Fates Warning frontman John Arch and Fates Warning guitarist and main composer Jim Matheos. While Matheos since the early 80s has continuously recorded and toured with Fates Warning (and has released a couple of solos albums and has recorded a couple of OSI albums), Arch had a longer break from the music industry after leaving Fates Warning in 1987. It wasn´t until 2003 that he stuck out his head again, when he released the "A Twist of Fate" EP, which was released under his own name. The EP was created in collaboration with Matheos, and while it didn´t initially mean a comeback to the scene for Arch, the seeds were sown for the Arch / Matheos project.

The project´s debut album "Sympathetic Resonance" was released in 2011 and featured bassist Joey Vera (Fates Warning, Engine, Armored Saint), drummer Bobby Jarzombek (Fates Warning, Halford, Iced Earth) and lead guitarist Frank Aresti (Fates Warning) in addition to Arch on lead vocals and Matheos on guitars. While the three mentioned session musicians are also featured on "Winter Ethereal", the album features quite a few other session bassists and drummers, including former Fates Warning drummer Mark Zonder, former Fates Warning bassist Joe DiBiase, and the omnipresent bassist Steve DiGiorgio (Sadus, Death, Testament, Iced Earth...etc.). With musical capacities like that it´s no surprise that the musicianship on "Winter Ethereal" is exceptionally strong.

The stars of the show are of course Arch and Matheos though. Matheos as always have written some tasteful and quite intricate progressive metal songs and his riffs and sense for rhythm are dynamic, and can be both heavy and loud but also subtle and more sophisticated. Arch is a skilled vocalist with a strong voice and a wide range (although he predominantly sings in a very high register). His long break from the scene has probably meant that there hasn´t been the wear on his voice other singers his age typically experience. He sounds almost exactly as he did in the 80s. His high pitched vocal style, voice, and ornamented vocal lines are probably an aquired taste, but personally my jaw drops every time he opens his mouth and sings. To my ears he is an incredible vocalist with a distinct sounding voice and vocal style. A top tier progressive metal vocalist.

"Winter Ethereal" features 9 tracks and a total playing time of 67:59, so it´s a fairly long album, but it doesn´t really feel that long, as the material are both well written and relatively varied. Highlights include album opener "Vermilion Moons", the power ballad type track "Tethered" (well...power ballad is probably stretching the definitions of that term, but there are some similar features), the short and powerful "Straight and Narrow", and the 13 minutes long closing epic "Kindred Spirits". This is a high quality album through and through though, and there´s not a single sub par track in sight.

"Winter Ethereal" features a powerful and detailed sound production, which suits the material perfectly and upon conclusion it´s a high quality sophomore release by Arch / Matheos and a more than worthy successor to "Sympathetic Resonance (2011)". It´s not often you come across progressive metal releases of this quality, featuring an origial sound and musical style too, and add to that high level musicianship on all posts, this is simply layers upon layers of quality features, which work in perfect balance and symbiosis. A 5 star (100%) rating is deserved.

(Originally posted on Metal Music Archives)

Report this review (#2245967)
Posted Saturday, August 24, 2019 | Review Permalink
kev rowland
Honorary Reviewer
4 stars They're back! In 2011, guitarist Jim Matheos and vocalist John Arch created quite a storm when they released 'Resonance', but they were at pains to state that Arch wasn't again fronting Fates Warning (which he and Matheos formed back in 1982), and that it may or may not be a one-off. Fast forward to 2017, and they started writing together again, specifically for this release. While between them they cover off the vocals and guitars, this time they decided to bring in a few different musicians to add their particular touches to the finished version, so in came both present and former Fates Warning drummers and bassists Joey Vera, Bobby Jarzombek, Joe Dibiase and Mark Zonder, alongside the likes of Steve Di Giorgio (Death, Testament, Charred Walls Of The Damned), Cynic's Sean Malone, and renowned drummer Thomas Lang.

I was fascinated by the album title itself, as originally, I read it as "Eternal" but when I realised it was "Ethereal" it felt very different indeed. While not a concept album, Arch asserts that "anyone who takes the time to read the lyrics will probably connect with a recurring theme touching on the mysterious weight or flight of human emotion that leaves us with more questions than answers. "In the context of the title, rather than referring to the season, Winter was chosen for having "certain connotations sometimes associated with it, such as isolation, a withering to rebirth", and with Ethereal meaning "not of this world, or otherworldly", there came a "meaningful marriage between the two words that best summed up the theme of the album".

The album itself is progressive metal, strongly based around the two main pillars of vocals and guitars, with everyone else challenged to keep up. Fates Warning have been at the top of the game for a long time, and Matheos continues to drive them forward, so it is no surprise to hear his licks and shreds dominating proceedings. But what many people don't realise is that John Arch is not a full-time musician, in fact he left Fates Warning after the third album as he couldn't leave his job due to financial commitments, and has recorded only sparingly since, although he did re-join Fates Warning for the shows which led to the 2017 live album 'Awaken The Guardian'. His range and power is huge, and that he has recorded so little is a huge loss to metal fans. Here he is in his element, taking the music of Matheos and adding his lyrics and melodic vocals over the top, which shows that neither of them are thinking of slowing down any time soon.

For any fan of the genre this is essential, majestic throughout.

Report this review (#2246736)
Posted Wednesday, August 28, 2019 | Review Permalink
5 stars Winter Ethereal is the second full-length studio album by the progressive metal project of guitarist Jim Matheos and  singer John Arch. Sympathetic Resonance, their debut from 2011 is one of my favourite Progressive Metal albums ever, so I was very excited to hear about a second album after 8 years. The artwork is quite nice, far better, than the front cover of the debut. Jim and John probably wanted to avoid any misunderstanding and internal  tensions, so the current rhythm section of Fates Warning does not appear together in any song of Winter Ethereal, although both bassist Joey Vera, both drummer Bobby Jarzombek play on the album. There are numerous musicians in the rhythm section, maybe former Fates Warning members, bassist Joe DiBiase and drummer Mark Zonder,  plus the drummer of Leprous, Baard Kohlstad, and especially bass players Sean Malone (Formerly with Cynic and Gordian Knot) and Steve Di Giorgio (Formerly with Death) are the most notable. Former Fates Warning guitarist Frank Aresti plays the guitar solo in two songs. The line-up is completed by drummers Thomas Lang and Matt Lynch, plus a certain George Hideous appears in the song called Tethered on bass guitar, who is most possibly Jim Matheos himself... Winter Ethereal has 9 tracks in about 68 minutes, the shortest track is Straight and Narrow  with 4 minutes, the longest is the concluding Kindred Spirits with almost 13 minutes. The remaining songs are between  5 and 9 minutes. Musically Winter Ethereal is a continuation of Smypathetic Resonance, a dynamic powerhouse of unbridled progressive metal passion, rooted in the beginnings of this kind of music without sounding nostalgic and out of date. These are quite intricate progressive heavy metal songs, well written and varied, performed by exceptional musicians and a brilliant singer. The voice of John Arch, and his high pitched vocal style, and his ornamented vocal lines are probably an aquired taste for many, but I am always impressed by his performance. Winter Ethereal sounds a bit heavier and more dense than, the debut, otherwise it is not very different,  but I do not see this as a problem. Musicians approaching their 60s rarely reinvent themselves, and especially rarely in a positive way. Secondly, there is no drop in quality, no sub-par track on Winter Ethereal. If this turns out to be the last album featuring John Arch, this is a worthy way to close his career as singer. I see no reason to rate Winter Ethereal lower than Sympathetic Resonance.
Report this review (#2309244)
Posted Saturday, January 25, 2020 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
3 stars 3.5 stars. The only other person I've seen with this rating is "angrymetalguy" and I respect his opinion on all things metal. But lets back up a bit because I feel that there have been three touchstone albums for John Arch and I have given them all 5 stars. "Awaken The Guardian" when he was with FATES WARNING is one that made me a fan of Mr. Arch and while many seem to have issues with his vocals I absolutely love them. His native chanting like singing on his solo album "Twist Of Fate" is amazing and his dad was Cheyene. Mike Portnoy on drums, Matheos on guitar and Vera on bass another 5 star album and touchstone record number two. Finally "Sympathetic Resonance" the third and last piece of the puzzle. What a comeback record with more of band there with Matheos, Vera and Jarzombek on drums. Frank Aresti the former guitarist for FATES WARNING who thankfully usually shows up for stuff like this adds guitars like on this record "Winter Ethereal". That's where the similarities end as we get five drummers, five bass players on here besides Matheos and Arch.

I thought this was a concept album but it isn't. There is a dark theme running through it and the cover art and pictures inside just aren't my thing. This is a lot longer than "Sympathetic Resonance" clocking in at 68 minutes and I feel it's less melodic, there's less uplifting moments and more vocals as this is fairly lyric heavy. Still those first four tracks are very good.

The opener "Vermilion Moons" is my favourite but that fourth track "Wrath Of The Universe" is right there too. I find "Straight And Narrow" as well as "Never In Your hands" are songs that aren't in the style to suit John's voice. But it's "Tethered" that fifth track that is ballad-like and for me a turn off that sort of sets me reeling for the rest of the album. Those final four tracks just aren't on the level of the first four although the closer "Kindred Spirits" comes close.

I still can't believe I can't get into this album, these are my guys! The musicianship is beyond incredible on this record by the way. I just haven't warmed to it sadly and my conscience won't allow me to go 4 stars here.

Report this review (#2848402)
Posted Friday, October 28, 2022 | Review Permalink

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