Review: Arch / Matheos “Sympathetic Resonance” [Metal Blade Records]

Review: Arch / Matheos “Sympathetic Resonance” [Metal Blade Records]

- in Reviews
Score 63%
John Arch and the rest
63 %
User Rating : 3 (1 votes)

Having John Arch back in business is a great thing, it really is – but what happens if his talents aren’t used properly and the orphan gypsy has to front a mediocre record instead? That’s exactly how I feel about Sympathetic Resonance nowadays, as it lost its appeal to me over the years; perhaps due to the superior Winter Ethereal, which showed Arch/Matheos change for the best, or perhaps because I’m slowly turning into a nitpicker as I grow older.

Apparently parts of Sympathetic Resonance were written as a follow-up to Fates Warning‘s FWX, but due to change in plans, Jim Matheos decided to hit up John Arch and formed a new project instead. Strangely enough Sympathetic Resonance doesn’t really fit in with any of the Ray Alder-fronted albums: gone are the moody electronics and Jim Matheos doesn’t focus as a much on a sense of minimalism but instead sounds more engaged again at least. It does indeed make me wonder what Jim Matheos had in mind here, as Sympathetic Resonance is something completely different when compared to FWX. Compositions such as the referential “Stained Glass Sky” and “Any Given Day” with its power metal-esque chorus sound elaborated and instrumentally extended and see Jim Matheos putting the “metal” back in his signature style of playing – these are definitely good signs for a fan of Fates Warning‘s heavier stuff.

Unfortunately it really isn’t enough. While Jim Matheos continues to push his limits by climbing up octaves and sliding down towards low-end chords, he still struggles to actually put his riffs to optimal use. The moody, yet lengthy “Neurotically Wired” has its emphasis on some decent puzzling riff constructions and a good sense of groove circa its chorus, but in the end appears somewhat empty in terms of riffing and overall feels more like an opportunity to show us that John Arch hasn’t lost it. Indeed, having John Arch by Jim Matheos’ side certainly helps and perhaps he has more in common with his former self circa The Spectre Within than circa Awaken the Guardian here, as his delivery feels more heartfelt and humane than mystic and arcane. Unfortunately, the vocals alone aren’t enough to redeem Sympathetic Resonance from its flaws and if you’ve ever wondered what John Arch sounded like on some awfully bland tunes, look no further.

“Midnight Serenade” and “On the Fence” sound so one dimensional and it does these songs no favor at all: Jim Matheos sounds at his most uninspired here, as his riffs dwell on and on forever and although the former relies on a catchy chorus and the latter seems to take an interesting direction once those moody leads appear, both tunes stay in the bland-progressive metal zone as far as actual riffs are concerned. “Stained Glass Sky” is another long-winded track, but at least opens up like an enormous jam session where the band (minus John Arch of course) rocks out. Jim Matheos and Frank Aresti slide all over their fret boards, whereas Joey Vera’s punchy bass lines provide the depths that Bobby Jarzombek clashes against with his drum kit, yet the track takes an unfortunate turn for the worse once by the time John Arch arrives. The track features some enjoyable references to the Fates Warning of old and I like those cleaner breaks as well as that tranquil segment that’s brought to life by the mesmerizing lead work, but as far as heaviness goes, you won’t hear much more than Jim Matheos and Frank Aresti chugging along with little sense of imagination.

Whereas Sympathetic Resonance sounds more like an album of enjoyable moments here and there, its actual highlight appears near the end of the album – better late than never, I suppose. The progressive behemoth “Any Given Day” works at what it tries to accomplish: the usual guitar chugs are still there, but at least they often alternate with a fair amount of clever spider web-like chords twisting and turning around them and with a catchy to boot, it’s the most memorable tune you’ll find here. At least I’m also fond of that moody climax, where John Arch hopefully soars his heart out while those guitars wail with divine majesty.

Sympathetic Resonance isn’t an awful album, but these guys have proven that they’re capable of more. Early Fates Warning aside, follow-up record Winter Ethereal is quite an improvement of this album, so go spend your time with that one instead.

Release date: September 9th, 2011

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