Once I heard John Arch, formerly of Fates Warning, and Jim Matheos, current and founding member of Fates Warning, were recording a full-length album together it easily became my most anticipated album of the year. Arch and Matheos made some great music back in the mid-to-late 80s and I looked forward to hear what they could do now.
This is actually the second time Matheos and Arch got together. Back in 2003 John Arch put out an EP called Twist of Fate which was great, but at only two songs, it was a little too short. I do suggest you go out and listen to that. Twist of Fate is a good precursor to this album.
The rest of the line-up on Sympathetic Resonance is essentially the same as that for current day Fates Warning. There is Joey Very on bass, Bobby Jarczombek on drums and Frank Aresti on additional guitar solos. Of these other musicians only Aresti played with Fates Warning during the time Arch was in the band.
To start, I want to say you need to sit and listen to Sympathetic Resonance a few times to digest it all. Which isn’t a bad thing. When I first put the CD in the car I was not so sure I liked it. I didn’t have much of a problem with the music right off the bat since I’m familiar with Matheos and his music. What took some time to get used to was the way John Arch set up the vocals. He tends to have a very different approach to phrasing and melody than most singers do and it took a few listens to digest that. Once it clicked with me I no longer had a problem. I think a lot has to do with the style of lyrics Arch uses. They don’t lend themselves to a normal singing structure that you hear everyday. Instead of the vocals following along with the music, Arch sets up the melodies to almost wrap around and envelop the music. It’s hard to explain, but that’s the best way I can describe it.
I think the vocal arrangement is most evident in the first song, Neurotically Wired. It’s a longer song, with a great solo by Aresti, but, as I said, It takes a few listens to get the feel for the song. But, once you do, it is a great hard-rocking song with several tempo changes. It’s a good starting song in that it helps you get a feel for the whole album in one song.
The highlight of the album is Stained Glass Sky. It starts off with about a great three minute instrumental intro before leading into the main track. It is one of the more lyrically esoteric songs on the album, which is saying a lot, but with the more intricate music that makes sense. This is something that I understand about the lyrics now after listening to this several times. The music is not straight forward, so why should the lyrics? Sure, I may not understand them all the time, but I’d rather try to figure out what Arch means than hear more songs about typical rock music subjects.
While I think this is a very good album, I do have one nitpick. At some points Matheos uses a bit too much processing and effects on his guitar. It’s not all throughout the album, but it can make the guitar lack depth at times.
I guess I would call this progressive metal, but I’m not sure that label fits well. I know when people hear that term they expect to have long songs with tons of lead breaks and dueling instrumentals. There isn’t much of that here, but it does have the longer compositions and tempo changes you’d expect, so I guess progressive metal is the best way to categorize it.
I know Aresti, Vera and Jarczombek are listed secondarily in the liner notes, but they all bring out their best on this album. I’ve never heard any of Jarczombek’s work before, but he is a great drummer. If he is going to be the full-time drummer when Fates Warning gets back together, I think that is a great choice.
I can safely recommend this to anyone who is a Fates Warning or prog-metal fan. Give it a few listens if needed, but certainly pick up Sympathetic Resonance.