First of all, let’s get this out of the way up front. It’s weird to not be calling this a new Fates Warning record. If you don’t recognize the names, Jim Matheos is the guitarist and mastermind behind the classic progressive metalheads and John Arch was the original vocalist for the group. Arch left in 1987 after the amazing Awaken the Guardian and Fates Warning recruited Ray Alder to replace him on vocals. Lineup changes have occurred since that point but the current FW band consists of the same guys present here; Bobby Jarzombek on drums, Frank Aresti on guitar and Joey Vera on bass.
Fates Warning started recording this album back in January when they found out that Alder couldn’t do the record and that’s when Matheos went back to John Arch to bring back the original core of the band. I guess technically they aren’t replacing Alder with Arch so thus the new offshoot of Arch/Matheos was born.
After Arch originally left their progressive element got stronger and their releases started coming every 3-4 years instead of every year. Having been around since 82/83-ish they were old men in the metal world and their popularity waned a little bit, however, the quality of their records did not. There’s not a weak album to be found, which to me is remarkable since prog-metal really isn’t my cup of tea for the most part. Fates Warning X in 2004 was intended to be their last record but Matheos got this band (minus Arch) together in 2007 but still hadn’t gotten out a record.
So…enter Sympathetic Reasonance. Again, intended to be sessions for the new FW album, then after John Arch rejoined it turned into a few songs here and there and eventually a full album. While the Matheos sound is unmistakable, there’s no doubt that some of the crazy time signatures on this record as well as the energy these two guys have together shine on this album. Even with just six tracks clocking in at over 55 minutes, there’s not one point where the album wanders aimlessly. The dual guitar attack is precise and flawless and Vera’s bass work is brilliant. But two things really stand out about the record, Arch’s epic falsetto and how monstrously hard Matheos’s riffs are.
It seems almost natural to compare this record with A Dramatic Turn of Events – the new record from Dream Theater, both released on the 13th of September. Dream Theater is supposedly a progressive metal band but every time I listen to them all I hear are boring soft moments and pop music. Arch/Matheos bring heavy riff after heavy riff, brilliantly intelligent music that you can headbang to the entire time all the while bringing excitement into what is often a stale genre of music. All six tracks are fantastic, so great in fact that if Matheos wants to keep working with Arch I don’t know that I’d miss the official Fates Warning at all.