If you’re a fan of Fates Warning, and you should be if you aren’t, you’ll recognize the duo of Arch/Matheos John Arch was FATE’s lead singer on their first three records and Jim Matheos is the band’s virtuoso guitarist and founding member. “Winter Ethereal” is the band’s sophomore effort dropping this Spring, May, 2019.
“Sympathetic Resonance” was their first collaboration released in 2011, which, unlike “Winter Ethereal,” featured only past and present FATES WARNING members. This time around, it’s a similar situation with current and former Fates members Bobby Jarzombek, Joey Vera, Mark Zonder, and Joe Dibiase but also featuring Steve Di Giorgio (Death, Testament), Sean Malone (Cynic) and drummer Thomas Lang as well.
There’s going to be comparisons to Fates Warning with this record which is fair considering the musicians involved. “Winter Ethereal” is best described as heavy, guitar driven rock merged with the sound and lyrical sensibility of modern day progressive metal.
Track six, “Straight and Narrow,” has strong hints of “Awaken the Gaurdian” but navigates subtlety into Dream Theater’s “Octavarium” territory. Track 1, “Vermillion Moons” and Track 8 “Never in your Hands” evokes early Queensryche and “No Exit” era Fates Warning but before we go any further, we need to acknowledge the fact that John Arch and Jim Matheos had a huge hand developing the genre of prog metal as we know it today. The trademark vocal approach, song structure and overall sound and style ultimately leads back to Arch and Matheos. If this record sounds like anyone, it’s them.
What makes “Winter Ethereal” unique are songs that shift between rock, metal and prog giving this album a fluid sense of ebb and flow, throughout. Arch and Matheos share a powerful chemistry reminiscent of Geoff Tate and Chris DeGarmo (Queensryche), not just in their creative partnership, but their innate ability to step up and take lead when required, when the song demands it, to better engage the listener. Sometimes it’s Matheos’ guitar that drives and navigates a song section, other times it’s Arch’s, sharp as a tack, voice. To do this effectively is an art not a science. Tate and DeGarmo had it. Arch and Matheos HAVE it.
If you can separate what Jim Matheos is doing with John Arch and what Jim Matheos is doing musically with Fates Warning, you’ll appreciate this record. Both bands are similar yet different. “Winter Ethereal” is a good jumping off point for future Arch/Matheos output. The chemistry is here, the creative aspect is present, and the future seems wide open to expect bigger and better things from this group. One of the best records of 2019 so far. Buy it.