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For many underground metal fans early Fates Warning with John Arch is like a bench mark in both musicianhip, vocals, and songwriting. When John Arch was given his walking papers from Fates Warning and never showed up in any other bands or released any new music, it was heartbreaking. A man with such talent, not only in his amazing vocals but in the way he crafted his uplifting melodies and lyrics.
It's now been 17 years since the release of the last Arch-era Fates Warning album, Awaken the Guardian, and this is John Arch's first release since then. With so many years passing by one has to wonder if John Arch still has it in him, he freely admits he hasn't sung a note since at least his audition for Dream Theater. But somehow Arch dusts off his pipes and gives it a go that brings the listener under his enchanting vocal spell, bringing one along for the ride.
Musically it's really not too surprising given the personnel Arch enlisted for the album, Mike Portnoy (Dream Theater) and old writing partner Jim Matheos (Fates Warning). This sounds like a mix of predominantly new Fates Warning (with the odd hint to the old) and Dream Theater. Relentless and Cheyenne with their keyboard swirls, slightly progressive stop/start guitar riffs definitely drip of "newer" prog metal.
What brings the album back and gives it more a definite identity is that all encompassing vocal of John Arch who soars and weaves his magic over and over again, from the openings vocals of both songs (Cheyenne almost bringing a tear to my eye, being as beautiful as it is) to the climax and endings where John really shows how he's matured, bringing forth smoother and a little less disjointed melodies (compared to the early days of course). John still knows how to write a vocal melody that's very different and that's his trademark, that's what makes you recognize him from the very instant those vocals start. He's not usual and he definitely does not create the easiest melodies for one to sing.
John Arch has returned to the metal world, for how long we don't know yet but by god I hope he can stick around a little longer.