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Review: Arch/Matheos - Sympathetic Resonance
Sympathetic Resonance

Label: Metal Blade Records
Year released: 2011
Duration: 54:35
Tracks: 6
Genre: Progressive Metal

Rating: 5/5

Review online: November 19, 2011
Reviewed by: Sargon the Terrible
Readers Rating
Sympathetic Resonance

Rated 4.57/5 (91.33%) (30 Votes)

This album has to rank as the surprise of the year for me, as I had heard next to nothing about it, and would not have expected the participants involved to be capable of anything this good. For those not in the know, this is as close to a reunion of the classic Fates Warning lineup as we are ever likely to get, including three key members of the Awaken the Guardian lineup: Jim Matheos, Frank Aresti, and the inimitable John Arch.

Now Matheos has been a constant presence for years, producing several solo albums as well as Fates Warning recordings. The problem is that he has not produced anything really good since 1994, after which he fired Frank Aresti and commenced minimizing his erstwhile bandmate's contributions. Aresti has not recorded anything since that time, and I assumed they would never work together again. John Arch was the voice behind the first three FW albums in the mid 80s, released a short EP of solo work about 8 years ago, and otherwise has been out of the music scene.

Imagine my surprise to not only hear these men working together again, but producing something as quality as this. Now we know that Matheos has a taste for incredibly dense and complex songwriting, so the direction should come as no surprise and it doesn't, but the sheer quality of the songwriting does come as a surprise, as Matheos hasn't been this on his game for almost two decades.

When I say 'progressive', you need to get out of your heads the idea that this is anything resembling the showy, bleepity-bloopity realm of Dream Theater, keyboard-infested wankery. Matheos has a notoriously 'easy' play style that looks and sounds way easier than it really is, and most of the complexity on display here is the incredibly intricate and cerebral arrangements. These long songs twist and turn, coil in upon themselves and then suddenly burst out in new directions with sparks flying. The first time you hear them you won't even understand what the hell you are hearing. This is real prog metal made by a master of the game, fully showing his thirty-plus years of songwriting experience.

What holds this all together - the real standout element - is the voice of John Arch. Not only has he managed to create vocal lines that accompany, compliment, and energize these highly complex songs, but he sounds fucking amazing doing it. The man has scarcely recorded anything for 25 years and he sounds as good as he ever did. The complicated yet catchy vocal lines he conjures up require considerable skill to pull off, and he just does it like it was nothing. The agility of his voice is astounding, and he sounds like they went back in time and recruited a younger version of him to record this - he literally sounds like not a day has passed since 1986. If you've spent as much time listening to his voice as I have it is just spine-chillingly awesome to hear him own this album like he does.

I can't give this less than a perfect score. The ambition, the artistry, the work that went into making this is just too impressive and serious of intent. Even aside from the nostalgia factor this is a flat-out amazing album that gets richer and more rewarding every time I listen to it. Masterful.

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