Arch/Matheos, Sympathetic Resonance (Metal Blade Records, 2011)
In the 80s, singer John Arch and guitarist Jim Matheos were the creative nucleus of the progressive metal band Fates Warning. Arch left the group in the late 80s, and with the exception of a two-song EP called A Twist of Fate he has spent most of the last 25 years away from the spotlight. Matheos has continued to lead Fates Warning in the meantime. Despite whatever differences led to the initial split, Arch and Mateos have kept the lines of communication open, and Mateos has made plenty of effort to get Arch back into the studio. The effort finally succeeded with the recording of Sympathetic Resonance, a collaborative effort credited to Arch/Matheos. Most of the current lineup of Fates Warning back them up.
For people familiar with Fates Warning or A Twist of Fate, the musical style on Sympathetic Resonance isn't really new. It does give the target audience what they want, however. The album consists of six songs spanning fifty-four minutes. That obviously means the songs are long, but they are also carefully developed and pieced together riff by riff. The album is almost symphonic in its frequent return to particular musical and lyrical themes. Having been heard so infrequently in the last twenty-five years, Arch's voice necessarily will get most of the attention. Of course, it's also the primary selling point of the record, as their are few singers who can match his range or the genuine power he gives to the high notes he can hit.
Arch's lyrics on Sympathetic Resonance follow a young person trapped in a (real or self-imposed) asylum. Themes of isolation and disillusionment come up often in heavy metal records, to be sure, but when Arch sings that "the world breeds strangers like me," he does so with more than the usual amount of conviction. Arch's disdain for established religion comes through loud and clear, but there are still frequent allusions to religious imagery and addresses to God. These addresses, even when made in anger or frustration, give me the sense that Arch is not so much a militant atheist as somebody who is willing to ask the kind of very difficult and painful questions about the presence of evil in this world that too often get pushed under the rug.
It's not clear if Arch/Matheos will become a lasting partnership; Matheos still has Fates Warning, after all, and Arch has no problem walking away from music when he's not comfortable. For today, though, fans of Arch's voice and his music have plenty of reason to be pleased with Sympathetic Resonance.
Overall grade: B
reviewed by Scott