Winter Ethereal is the second album by Arch/Matheos, a Progressive Metal Band named after its founders John Arch and Jim Matheos. You know the names, don’t you? Arch and Matheos are also founder of Fates Warning, pioneers of the Progressive Metal in the middle of the 80s. You can say that The Spectre Within and Awaken The Guardian set the marks for all upcoming releases in this genre, together with Queensryche but years before Dream Theater and other bands.
Most of Fates Warning‘s trademarks can be found in Arch/Matheos‘ music as well, for example the combination of distorted and clean guitar sounds and the singing style of John Arch with it’s sometimes oriental-sounding lines. When you compare Fates Warning‘s actual line-up to the one of Arch/Matheos, you will find some more similarities. So I think it’s no surprising coincidence that they sound the way they do.
Winter Ethereal is 46 minutes long and gives us 7 tracks in total. The first track “Vermilion Moons” is the longest track with more than 9 minutes of music, Straight and Narrow with its 4:20 minutes is the shortest track. The production of the album is just beautiful. Arch‘s voice is the powerful middle of everything, followed by the drums, bass and guitar. These give Arch the background for his powerful voice, which often seems to fight with the lead lines of Matheos‘ guitar. Everything combined gives us a complex and very big sound. You can always concentrate on one of the elements and you will find something new. But this “Wealth of Sound” is sometimes very challenging.
I listened to the album maybe 10 times or even more, and it is still hard for me to differentiate between the different songs. To my ears they all sound quite homogenous – I don’t want to say similar. The songs don’t seem to have a classic build-up with a verse and a chorus, which makes them difficult to listen to. It is definitely no easy music you can put on while cleanig the dishes or stuff like that, bang your head and sing along. There are a lot of bands and albums which are better to use for this type of listening to music.
To go more into detail, let’s have a look just at the beginnings of the different songs – their first minute or two: “Vermilion Moos” starts with a power chord riff, followed by some clean guitar sounds, afterwards entering Arch‘s voice and then with the first drum roll we have the full and complex arrangement. You can still feel the power chord riff from the beginning, but actually it isn’t there anymore.
“Wanderlust” gives us a quite happy-sounding intro riff already with the drums. Arch sounds quite happy here as well, and not as mystical. It’s getting quiet with a little bass/voice bridge followed by a solo guitar part, and then we get the full arrangement and the mysticism is back.
“Solitary Man” starts with a drum roll and an intro solo followed by a mid-tempo guitar riff, which lets you move your head instantly. That sound during the first 2 minute’s quite familiar, like a “normal” song. But then again the complex arrangements strikes again…
“Wrath of the Universe” sounds threatening right from the beginning. It feels dangerous and in some way out of tune. It’s a quite straight song in the first two minutes, but there is always this threat. Like this one a lot.
“Tethered” starts more softly with clean acoustic chords and some picked single notes, like a heavy ballad. It builds up with the drums, and some keyboard layers.
“Straight and Narrow” starts again with a drum roll and double bass drums. I like the fast guitar riff here.
“Pitch Black Prism” starts with an interesting single note riff and again some kind of threatening feeling, the drum fills sound very complex in this song.
After this look I found the problem I have with the album and it seems to be the voice of John Arch. On the one hand, it’s a powerful, clean voice, but he always uses it in the same way here on this album. So you can’t orientate by the voice,while listening to the songs. Arch‘s voice and the way he is using it is special, one of a kind, but it’s one-sided compared to the complex arrangements and the different style of guitars. I think – if he used more different styles of voices it would be easier to listen to the album, and it would get even more interesting to listen to. So if I want to be really mean I would say Arch seems to be a one-trick pony on this album. Now go and get some stones and stuff to throw it at me…
★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
As usual, we added the two favorite tracks to our Transcended Review Playlist