ARCH/MATHEOS – “SYMPATHETIC RESONANCE”
METAL BLADE (2011)
Progressive Metal is a genre that’s responsible for the release of some truly amazing pieces of work, none more impressive and influential than Fates Warning’s 1986 opus “Awaken The Guardian” – an eight track masterpiece that artists like Mike Portnoy proudly names as a personal favourite at any given opportunity. An integral part of the process that brought this album to life was vocalist John Arch with a unique timbre and falsetto, who left the Connecticut-based outfit following the abovementioned release. Hopes of a more permanent reunion between Arch and Fates Warning’s axeman Jim Matheos first appeared in 2003, following the release of their collaborating on the EP “A Twist Of Fate”. However, fans of these truly gifted musicians had to wait for another eight years prior to holding a full length album in their hands – an album that bares the fitting title “Sympathetic Resonance”. Was this six track album worth such a long wait?
For a man that holds “Awaken The Guardian” in such high esteem as I do, it is perplexing to admit I was actually apprehensive that “Sympathetic Resonance” might be what most fans would have possibly wanted or expected of the duet: namely, an “Awaken The Guardian, Part II”. John Arch may not have been involved in any musical projects these last twenty four years, but Jim Matheos has evolved quite a lot as an artist during that same period of time, moving in new musical areas and forms of expression quite different from what John Arch would probably be used to. What makes “Sympathetic Resonance” the strongest candidate for the title of “Album of the Year” is the inspirational way that these two great artists managed to bring together their two musical worlds in six breathtaking pieces of music, each with its own unique character and ‘temperament’ and each displaying high levels of technical skill and emotion.
Not many artists have the guts to open an album with an eleven minute composition, however “Neurotically Wired”, with its numerous interwoven themes and melodies is such a cleverly crafted song that, at the end of listening to it, you will feel it is quite ‘accessible’. Jim Matheos is ever reliant on his signature low chorded guitar riffs, Frank Aresti indulges in laconic but truly breathtaking leads, the rhythm section of Joey Vera and Bobby Jarzombek are in great form and in astonishing communication throughout; most importantly, however, is that every time John Arch decides to use his high pitch vocals it feels that it was only yesterday that he finished recording “Awaken The Guardian” – influences of which can be found in strategic positions throughout the track. The first song that truly impressed is “Midnight Serenade” – a five and a half minute opus which sounds like a more recent Fates Warning composition and whose melodic multi-layered refrain is the absolute highlight of the album. “Stained Glass Sky” may also feature a similarly catchy refrain however it is a far more technical ‘beast’ in comparison, incorporating a three and a half minute progressive-orientated intro, displaying an array of different melodic and rhythmical themes and engaging your senses for a staggering thirteen minutes and fifty six seconds!
The second half of the album is just as impressive as the first. For some strange reason it took quite few spins before I started warming to the eight minute “On The Fence”, but now I can safely say that it’s one of my favourite tracks of the album. Following a beautiful acoustic guitar intro, the listener is introduced to a heavy and mesmerising riffed main theme which cleverly supports Arch’s powerful vocals, leading the proceedings until the fifth minute, when a “Disconnected” era Fates Warning rhythmical theme elevates the song’s status to that of absolute masterpiece. If you are one of those people who loves to hear Bobby Jarzombek torture his drum kit then “Any Given Day (Strangers Like Me)” is certainly the song for you. Though featuring numerous rhythmical and thematical changes, this ten and a half minute prog ‘monster’ becomes ever so accessible as a result of John Arch’s lead vocal melodies which, once again, are of the highest quality. The last composition of the album, “Incense and Myrrh” is the perfect example of how well Jim Matheos and John Arch gel as musicians. John’s emotive vocals are once again the focal point here and are perfectly supported by Jim’s acoustic guitar themes, while the trio Aresti/Vera/Jarzombek only really ‘interfere’ in specific parts of the song such as its emotionally charged refrain.
This September has been an amazing month for fans of Progressive Metal as some of the biggest names of the scene, namely Pain Of Salvation, Dream Theater, Opeth and Mastodon are releasing their new albums. Though I am a fan of all those bands and I have already purchased all their recent albums it is without any shadow of a doubt that “Sympathetic Resonance” is by far the best Progressive Metal album for 2011. Actually, let me rephrase that: “Sympathetic Resonance” is not only the best album of 2011, regardless of genre, but also one of the best Metal albums ever recorded! It is very rare that one piece of work can evoke such strong passions while being technically outstanding and remain effortlessly accessible throughout! If you crave for good honest music then “Sympathetic Resonance” deserves a prominent place in your record collection. Trust me – you are in for a real treat!
Rating: ***** (5.0/5.0)
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