The last few years have been a really good time to be a Fates Warning fan. Not only the band itself is on the creative upswing, culminating with their best album in years entitled Theories of Flight, but they have also resurrected the legendary John Arch to celebrate live their immortal album Awaken the Guardian. But not only that! Creative force behind Fates Warning guitarist Jim Matheos have paired up with the man himself in one project entitled Arch/Matheos, the name is perhaps dull but the music is completely opposite. Their debut album from 2011 entitled Sympathetic Resonance has shown this duo’s fantastic vision in spades, and the best thing about it is that, even though the music can be labelled as progressive metal, repentance of Fates Warning’s work is not in the cards. Arch/Matheos decided to search the new paths in already explored subgenre, creating one album that is rightfully viewed as hidden classic among those in the know. Eight years have passed and we finally have their second album entitled Winter Ethereal in front of us. And once again, the saga of ever restless duet continues: in band’s own words the repeat of debut’s successful formula was absolutely out of the question, so in search for different scope Jim and John decided to work with wider array of musicians such as Joey Vera, Bobby Jarzombek, Mark Zonder, Frank Aresti, Joe DiBiase, Steve DiGiorgio, Sean Malone, George Hideous, Thomas Lang, Matt Lynch and Baard Kolstad. This names’ drop looks like more who’s who in prog metal, so it absolutely clear even before the listening that Winter Ethereal is dizzyingly technical and masterly played. But that does not mean anything if the songs on display are not worth, and is it the case with Winter Ethereal? Absolutely not, I can tell that right away! It should be said from the beginning that Winter Ethereal does not sound like its predecessor, but yet in the same time it is still kept firm in the realm of the music they know very well how to do. To explain Winter Ethereal in the best way, I would say that this album is flowing like a river. It is simply that one can hear that these guys are enjoying themselves immensely, love to explore the music and to be around each other. Their quest in musical world is everlasting, and they are pushing the envelope because it is the only way they know how to live. And when you add that they are seasoned players you get one album like Winter Ethereal. At the top it is filled with catchy hooks but not simple pop song structures – as you explore deeper you will hear tons of little twists and turns that will further suck you into its world, never to let go. I need to especially address the performance of John Arch since he is someone we are not hearing from very often, and I am happy to say that the man still sounds as vital exciting as in his heyday. He still churns out his authentic performance when it sounds like he is spitting out the words in highest melodic tones without boundaries, and simply shows why he is considered one of the best when it comes to prog metal. All in all, Winter Ethereal will perhaps be even the cream of the crop for forward thinking metal in this year and in every case, we are talking about one masterful album. Recommended!
- Metal Blade Records CD
Slobodan Trifunovic (9)