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Arch / Matheos: Sympathetic Resonance

What happens when two progressive metal legends join forces and bring aboard some of the best musicians within the genre? Sympathetic Resonance happens. The first album by the collaboration between John Arch and Jim Matheos which goes under the moniker Arch / Matheos, Sympathetic Resonance also features Frank Aresti, Joey Veira and Bobby Jarzombek - all musicians on the album are or have been involved in progressive metal legends Fates Warning, which in itself is a bit of a quality stamp. But Arch / Matheos is not just a Fates Warning side project, it is a band in its own right.

As anyone familiar with Fates Warning can expect, the musicianship and the songwriting is impeccable, and I would argue that this release is superior to Fates Warning's last couple of albums. This does not belittle those Fates Warning releases - they are good - it is just that Sympathetic Resonance is, for my money, exceptional. All tunes are very well put together, and they are progressive in the sense that there are loads of Jim Matheos' signature odd metered parts and the structures are generally quite complex with mind-boggling riffage and technically impressive drumming. Still, despite the progressive nature of the music, the tunes are never too technical to follow, and, overall, the album is very accessible.

The compositions are very focused, and the album very coherent - yet it is very dynamic with many types of riffs and passages intermingling and many things going on. You will find soft clean or acoustic passages juxtaposed with heavier ones, and there are a couple of instances of clean guitars overlaid on distorted guitars. Needless to say, Matheos' riffing is precise and he still masters the ability to write riffs which are both heavy and engaging and at the same time follow odd time signatures.

The musicianship and the songwriting are way up there - as can be expected with the musicians involved - but John Arch's vocals deserve special mention. He is simply a phenomenal vocalist. His voice is extremely powerful and unique, and the album would not have been the same without his soaring vocals and complex lines. Ever since his time as lead singer of Fates Warning, he has been renowned for his talents as a singer, but on Sympathetic Resonance, he sounds better than ever before. I really hope that this release marks a more permanent return to the progressive metal scene.

For my money, Sympathetic Resonance is a strong contender for the progressive album of the year title. Any fan of progressive metal should check it out.

Track list:
1. Neurotically Wired
2. Midnight Serenade
3. Stained Glass Sky
4. On the Fence
5. Any Given Day (Strangers Like Me)
6. Incense and Myrrh

Added: October 17th 2011
Reviewer: Kim Jensen
Related Link: Arch / Matheos official website
Hits: 4758
Language: english

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» SoT Staff Roundtable Reviews:

Arch / Matheos: Sympathetic Resonance
Posted by Jeff B, SoT Staff Writer on 2011-10-17 18:56:30
My Score:

Sympathetic Resonance from Arch / Matheos is an album that will undoubtedly be every Fates Warning fan's wet dream. The lineup consists of all current or former Fates Warning band members, the vocals are performed by none other than the legendary John Arch (this is his first performance behind the mic since 2003), and the songwriting is just as technical, progressive, and memorable - if not even more so - than what we'd expect from a classic Fates Warning album. The musicianship is some of the best you're bound to hear in your lifetime, and John Arch delivers an absolutely stunning performance on Sympathetic Resonance. Even though this album may be overshadowed by some of the bigger prog metal releases in latter 2011, please do not let this masterpiece slip under your radar. This is one of the genre's most impressive albums over the past decade, and an absolutely essential purchase for those who enjoy their prog metal on the heavier and more technical side.

Even though the obvious stylistic comparison to make here would be Fates Warning, there are some noticeable differences that assure that Jon Arch and Jim Matheos are not focused on creating a clone of their other band (or, in Arch's case, his former band). The music here is extremely heavy (not in an extreme sense, but more in terms of the sheer heaviness of the riffs), complex, and technical progressive metal, somewhat in the same vein of Perfect Symmetry-era Fates Warning. The power metal-influenced sound of Jon Arch-era Fates Warning is seldom found here, and the lengthy and complex compositions also don't bear a whole lot of resemblance to the Ray Alder period of the band either. The complete lack of keyboards also shows that Arch / Matheos are entirely dedicated to creating progressive metal as it was originally intended in the late eighties - complex and technical indeed, but first and foremost, metal!

As far as I'm concerned, Sympathetic Resonance's biggest similarity to Fates Warning is in terms of quality. The sheer standard of the compositions and musicianship here is impeccable, and in that sense, I'm frequently reminded of Fates Warning's multiple top-notch masterpieces. Make no mistakes - Sympathetic Resonance is some of the finest progressive metal music in existence played by some of the most impressive musicians in the scene. I don't think it gets much better than that! Songs like "Neurotically Wired" (this one is especially excellent), "Stained Glass Sky", and "On the Fence" are all bound to be regarded as prog metal classics in ten or twenty years, but I'd hope that the entire album is recognized as one of the most impressive efforts from this decade.

The songwriting is excellent across the board, but it's the convincing execution, powerful delivery, and outstanding production that ultimately make Sympathetic Resonance an utter masterpiece. John Arch delivers one of the most impressive vocal performances of his career here (which is saying quite a lot), and his ability to hit high falsettos and still sound pitch-perfect and melodic is admirable. For a man in his fifties, the performance on Sympathetic Resonance is almost unheard of - surely the perfect testament to his abilities as one of prog metal's finest vocalists. Of course, the guitar playing from Jim Matheos is always polished and distinct; he's one of the most unique (yet somehow underrated) guitarists in all of metal. Bobby Jarbozmek's jazzy and technically insane drum patterns always keep the listener on their toes, and the expressive bass playing from Joey Vera sets a strong foundation for all of the compositions. Frank Aresti (of Fates Warning) also contributes a few additional lead guitar parts. A lineup to be remembered for ages to come? You bet!

It's also worth noting (at least briefly) what an excellent production that Sympathetic Resonance has. The sound is extremely sleek and clean, and entirely void of modern gimmicks and trivial effects. Everything sounds very authentic and "real", and the mix is absolutely spot-on. There are times where it feels like you are sitting in the rehearsal room when listening to this album with a nice pair of headphones.

It may seem like I have endless praises for Sympathetic Resonance, and I guess that really is the case. The lengthy and technical compositions may demand a few initial spins to "sink in", but they eventually reveal themselves as some of the best progressive heavy metal in recent memory. Arch / Matheos have crafted a legendary soon-to-be classic with Sympathetic Resonance, and I can only hope for even more masterpieces from this project in the approaching years. There may be tons of other prog metal albums out there this year, but this one is mandatory listening for any fan of the genre. 5 stars and the "essential masterpiece" stamp are very well earned. Mark up yet another masterpiece with John Arch and Jim Matheos in the lineup!

Arch / Matheos: Sympathetic Resonance
Posted by Murat Batmaz, SoT Staff Writer on 2011-09-13 16:10:56
My Score:

This album sees past and present Fates Warning members coming together to write some of the finest examples of progressive metal with top-notch performance and production.

Spinning on an axis of unique vocals and dark guitar passages, Sympathetic Resonance is the first album to feature John Arch behind the mic since his 2003 EP, A Twist of Fate. Again written by guitarist Jim Matheos and vocalist John Arch, the album contains six tracks, three of which break the ten-minute mark. Though this was originally supposed to be a Fates Warning album, the duo ultimately decided against it, and rightly so. The compositions are dark, complex, and *very* heavy. None of the Alder-era albums is as heavy as this disc (though they are all fantastic in their own right). By heavy, I am strictly referring to the overall atmosphere captured on the album rather than Meshuggah-like guitar riffs or blindingly fast solos. As a matter of fact, solos are kept to a minimum, and only inserted to deepen the already complex pieces. The extended instrumental parts are often embedded as a break in the songs for added tension. That is one reason why the relatively midtempo "Any Given Day (Strangers Like Me)" achieves its full potential. After a mesmerizing opening riff, the band moves into an improvised jazz passage with beautifully accented drum and bass work followed by clean acoustic guitars over which Arch lays down his hypnotizing vocals. By the time the solo kicks in, you already have goose bumps and the lead work only prolongs the experience.

Despite not being musically active for over two decades, it is amazing to see John Arch still being the best singer in this style of singing. There are numerous vocalists who can sing in a very high register, but no one can sing as high AND melodically as Arch. He exploits his talents to the max on this album, from soaring vocal parts to unusually complex harmonies (influencing a plethora of singers like Oyvind Haegeland from Spiral Architect) to soul-wrenching mid registers. His vocal lines are unique, and anyone who tries to imitate him is bound to fail. Not only does he employ his trademark screams, but he also constantly builds tension over the notes, making you pay attention to the lyrics.

The band's approach to composition is to be commended as well. I absolutely love the use of a gradually building rhythmic motif based on a complex pulse over which swirling melodies are played. Drummer Bobby Jarzombek puts in a career-defining performance here: besides his use of polyrhythm and great drum tone, it is his fills that totally define and direct the compositions. His drums come in rolling to the mix on "Neurotically Wired" where he sometimes accents three lines at the same time! His splashing cymbal work lends "On the Fence" a live recording vibe. The band's keen sense of improvisation adheres to the principle of each member listening to each other rather than giving solo performances. They all feed off each other, keeping it a strictly group affair and making creative decisions based on what the bass, drums, and guitars play.

There is no effort to avoid using the juxtaposition of dissonance and ascending notes, which weave in and out of the middle part of "Stained Glass Sky" (whose first verses are taken from Fates Warning's "Exodus" off of their Awaken the Guardian album in order to bridge the two bands) while still retaining their rhythmic intensity. The song deploys intense textural colours, angular melodies, jagged riffing, and stirring atmosphere. Special care is given to polyrhythmic synchronization where every instrument is allowed to shine, and it all resolves itself with the rearrangement of the initial motif.

This is the best debut of 2011, and it is unlikely it will be surpassed. Phil Magnotti is quickly becoming a favourite of mine, as his mix is nothing short of spectacular. I wish the mastering wasn't so loud, though (think OSI's Blood). Explore one of the greatest bands out there.

» Reader Comments:

Arch / Matheos: Sympathetic Resonance
Posted by Jonathan Swank on 2011-09-16 12:33:08
My Score:

Agreed. This is the Fates Warning I always wanted to hear! Mattheos is superb and Arch sounds better than back in the day. I love that this album was done without any keys - the perfect blend of power metal and prog metal. What a great surprise. One of the most refreshing releases this year. Along with with Symphony X - Iconoclast, best power/prog metal release of the year without a doubt. .... Now lets see what Redemption has to offer this year.

Arch / Matheos: Sympathetic Resonance
Posted by Gino B. on 2011-09-13 16:30:30
My Score:

I fully agree with both staff reviews. This is one hell of a prog metal album. I was very disappointed when John Arch left Fates Warning, Awaken the Guardian being my favorite of the band.
As mentioned, John Arch is still in excellent form....he hasn't lost anything. All the elements are there from the technical right down to the wonderful melodies. These guys have it all. Jarzombek is simply amazing throughout.

A wonderful cd !!!!

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