Arch / Matheos - Winter Ethereal

Arch / Matheos Winter Ethereal cover
Arch / Matheos
Winter Ethereal
Metal Blade Records
I can pretty vividly remember most than fifteen years ago, how I was pretty enthusiastic to find out, that John Arch (the original voice of Fates Warning) had surfaced and collaborated once again with Fates mainman Jim Matheos, for an EP of only two songs, both clocking over ten minutes, that were reminiscent of the band’s original style, but maybe toned down a bit and a sounding a little more lyrical. The project was resurrected almost a decade later for a full length album “Sympathetic Resonance” with different members (all Fates alumni) and a slightly more straightforward style.
A few select live performances were given, but overall, this project never became a focal point, as Fates Warning seemed to resume business after some momentarily turbulence and a few shifts in their ranks. Some further eight years later, the continuation of that project/band is available.
It’s interesting to see how Arch has managed to maintain his quite unique and peculiar tones, pretty much intact… elsewhere it’s pretty much what you’d expect if you’ve heard “Sympathetic Resonance”. Prog Metal that at times sounds very close to early Fates Warning, but with up to date production values, but at other times a more modernist approach as evidenced by some later day Fates album as they transitioned between styles, but with Arch instead of Alder.
Opener “Vermillion Moons” is quite interesting, as in its over nine minutes accommodates both aggressive but also melodi, somber atmospheres, with some really great solos and Arch’s voice flowing effortlessly without sounding dissonant.
“Wanderlust” is largely based on Arch’s delivery for all its instrumental substructure to make sense, despite having some pretty neat riffs. It did remind me slightly of “Cheyenne” from the EP, but a whole less adventurous.
“Solitary Man” changes the pace a bit, with Arch being less dominant in the song that seems to give a lot more focus on complex drumming patterns going on. It’s not bad, just different.
“Wrath of the Universe” is a heavier & angrier song in tone that’s reminiscent of the epic moments from ATG at times, until it goes too prog and sort of remains in a limbo between eras and styles.
“Tethered” is a timid mellow tune, I guess the equivalent of a ballad (sort of – because it’s not); it’s just not as heavy and hard hitting as everything else here, so it allows you to contemplate and enjoy it’s shifting melodies.
“Straight and Narrow” was the first single to come out and it’s a lot louder and more metallic, with Arch almost playing catch up for most of the track. While it hardly differs for most of what’s on offer on the album and it’s by far the shortest song here, despite a part of the chorus that I find pleasant – it’s the song that does the least for me.
“Pitch Black Prism” is not too dissimilar, but has almost double the time to unravel and some tasteful soloing. It’s not the greatest, but I can find more things to sink my teeth in, even if the chorus here is a bit more subtle... and closer to semi contemporary Fates (while MZ was still a member).
I like most of the guitar parts in “Never in Your Hands” and I can appreciate them separately, but I somehow, can’t really appreciate the song’s meandering progression as a whole.
“Kindred Spirits” closes the album and in its sombre, warmer & quieter tones… at least until it goes on to become full on prog metal; it allows the listener to lower his/her defenses. Even when it becomes heavier, the vocal melodies remain lyrical and beautiful, a thing that you can’t always take for granted on the album and is a godsend as this is the longest song of the album clocking at a whooping thirteen minutes.
In all honesty, I like a certain couple of tracks better than anything on “Resonance”, but I think I find that album to be a bit more balanced, at least for my particular tastes. So, I can’t really decide on if it’s better or worse; I’ll just say it’s different, but the same. If you like the overall style and the previous works of the gentlemen involved, you’re unlikely to have a bad time with this. I wouldn’t have minded a few of the songs being more concise and focused, but I guess the particularities of the sound come with the territory/genre. I guess I can appreciate A/M, but I appreciate them more in small or infrequent doses.