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Half a masterpiece - 74%

LuigiCalzone, March 17th, 2023

2018 and 2019 was the time when I got into Fates Warning. As I am writing this in 2023 they are still my favourite band. Their discography is so consistently great and their early traditional metal inspired material, especially 'Awaken the Guardian' and 'No Exit', is the absolute best thing music has to offer. Being especially a fan of John Arch's unique vocals it was no surprise that I went totally nuts when the news of an upcoming Arch / Matheos record occured. After all 'Sympatheitc Resonance' from 2011 also was a good album, although there definitely was enough room for improvement. And as a fanboy of course I was secretly hoping for a masterpiece.

At least it can be said that a cooperation between Jim Matheos and John Arch is a guarantee for quality. The early Fates Warning records are great, the Arch / Matheos debut is also decent and even the 'A Twist of Fate' EP offers cool moments. I expected something great from these guys, and man was I disappointed when the first single "Straight and Narrow" was released. There is nothing interesting or outstanding about the song structure and the melodies. This song is exactly what the title implies: Straight and narrow, although it should better be called "Straight and Shallow". The band stated that this was on purpose, but honestly that doesn't make the concept more interesting in any way. I expect sophistication and emotion from these guys, and not something this boring and uninspired. However, my hopes were reawakened when the second single "Wanderlust" came out. Not only does the beautiful organic production of this record, contrary to the lifeless sound of 'Sympathetic Resonance', offer a satisfying listen, this song also is totally epic and even shares similarities with early Fates Warning highlights. So catchy, so beautiful, so emotional. "Wanderlust" alone is better than the entire 'Sympathetic Resonance' album. When the whole album was released I wasn't really sure how to feel. Why is that? Well, half of the album is an absolute masterpiece. It start off in a fantastic manner with the incredible opener "Vermillion Moons". This song is not only the best on the album, but probably also the best Fates Warning related song since "Still Remains" from 'Disconnected'. Not only does it offer plenty of moments that will produce goosebumps, the songwriting is also creative and the riffs, especially the outstanding verse riff, will make you inevitably bang your head. Directly after "Vermillion Moons" follows the aforementioned "Wanderlust". What an epic beginning of an album! Towards the middle we have a beautiful ballad called "Tethered" and the closing track "Kindred Spirits" is once again an epic longtrack.

These four songs are full of goosebumps and emotion and theoretically could make up an album on their own with a playtime of 34 minutes. But even if the other songs aren't as outstanding as the ones mentioned, you would lose something by leaving out some of them. "Pitch Black Prism" is pretty great as well, having cool melodies and an epic chorus. "Wrath of the Universe" may not be that spectacular for the most part, but the middle section in which John Arch repeatedly sings "Mother" is just out of this world, once again a magical moment. "Solitary Man" has some cool riffs and "Never in Your Hands" gets interesting towards the end, but if these songs weren't on the album, it wouldn't be too much of a shame. The only song that really should have been deleted is "Straight and Narrow". Still "Winter Ethereal" is a significant improvement in every way compared to 'Sympathetic Resonance'. Thumbs up!