ARCH / MATHEOS — Winter Ethereal (review)

ARCH / MATHEOS — Winter Ethereal album cover Album · 2019 · Progressive Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
5/5 ·
UMUR
"Winter Ethereal" is the 2nd full-length studio album by US progressive metal act Arch / Matheos. The album was released through Metal Blade Records in May 2019. Arch / Matheos is a project formed by former Fates Warning frontman John Arch and Fates Warning guitarist and main composer Jim Matheos. While Matheos since the early 80s has continuously recorded and toured with Fates Warning (and has released a couple of solos albums and has recorded a couple of OSI albums), Arch had a longer break from the music industry after leaving Fates Warning in 1987. It wasn´t until 2003 that he stuck out his head again, when he released the "A Twist of Fate" EP, which was released under his own name. The EP was created in collaboration with Matheos, and while it didn´t initially mean a comeback to the scene for Arch, the seeds were sown for the Arch / Matheos project.

The project´s debut album "Sympathetic Resonance" was released in 2011 and featured bassist Joey Vera (Fates Warning, Engine, Armored Saint), drummer Bobby Jarzombek (Fates Warning, Halford, Iced Earth) and lead guitarist Frank Aresti (Fates Warning) in addition to Arch on lead vocals and Matheos on guitars. While the three mentioned session musicians are also featured on "Winter Ethereal", the album features quite a few other session bassists and drummers, including former Fates Warning drummer Mark Zonder, former Fates Warning bassist Joe DiBiase, and the omnipresent bassist Steve DiGiorgio (Sadus, Death, Testament, Iced Earth...etc.). With musical capacities like that it´s no surprise that the musicianship on "Winter Ethereal" is exceptionally strong.

The stars of the show are of course Arch and Matheos though. Matheos as always have written some tasteful and quite intricate progressive metal songs and his riffs and sense for rhythm are dynamic, and can be both heavy and loud but also subtle and more sophisticated. Arch is a skilled vocalist with a strong voice and a wide range (although he predominantly sings in a very high register). His long break from the scene has probably meant that there hasn´t been the wear on his voice other singers his age typically experience. He sounds almost exactly as he did in the 80s. His high pitched vocal style, voice, and ornamented vocal lines are probably an aquired taste, but personally my jaw drops every time he opens his mouth and sings. To my ears he is an incredible vocalist with a distinct sounding voice and vocal style. A top tier progressive metal vocalist.

"Winter Ethereal" features 9 tracks and a total playing time of 67:59, so it´s a fairly long album, but it doesn´t really feel that long, as the material are both well written and relatively varied. Highlights include album opener "Vermilion Moons", the power ballad type track "Tethered" (well...power ballad is probably stretching the definitions of that term, but there are some similar features), the short and powerful "Straight and Narrow", and the 13 minutes long closing epic "Kindred Spirits". This is a high quality album through and through though, and there´s not a single sub par track in sight.

"Winter Ethereal" features a powerful and detailed sound production, which suits the material perfectly and upon conclusion it´s a high quality sophomore release by Arch / Matheos and a more than worthy successor to "Sympathetic Resonance (2011)". It´s not often you come across progressive metal releases of this quality, featuring an origial sound and musical style too, and add to that high level musicianship on all posts, this is simply layers upon layers of quality features, which work in perfect balance and symbiosis. A 5 star (100%) rating is deserved.
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siLLy puPPy wrote:
23 days ago
I loved this a lot but it was too similar to the debut. I wish they would've changed things up a bit.

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