Released by: Metal Blade Records
Release Date: 10 May 2019
John Arch: Vocals
Jim Matheos: Guitars
Sean Malone, Joey Vera & Steve DiGorgio: Bass
Thomas Lang, Bobby Jarzombek, Joe DiBiase, and Mark Zonder: Drums
Wrath of the Universe
Straight and Narrow
Pitch Black Prism
Never in Your Hands
Anyone with even half an ear towards Progressive Metal should readily know the names John Arch and Jim Matheos. If not from their groundbreaking work in the early days of Fates Warning, then from their 2011 release Sympathetic Resonance which saw the two collaborate again on one of the best Prog Metal albums to hit the shelves. The whole will they/won’t they in regards to a follow-up is finally answered in the affirmative as the two have outdone themselves yet again with the stunning album Winter Ethereal. And as with the knowledge of their names, the definite compatibility of the two musically, if not answered during their Fates Warning years and the first Arch/Matheos release, is set in stone with this new album.
For starters I just have to put this out there: John Arch’s voice is insane. He’s always had one of the most distinct and unique voices ever, but the fact he sounds as good… no, he sounds even better than he did when he was younger is amazing. He has such a dynamic range and the most incredible control of what he can do with his voice. Just listen to the opening track “Vermilion Moons” and tune out the song and listen to what he does melodically with his instrument. Now bring back the music and you’ve got the Prog Metal riffmeister Jim Matheos who seems never at a loss for creating thought-provoking musical passages that not only bewilder the mind with the skill, but simply stick with the listener well beyond the end of the song, plus some of the most haunting solos ever. Add a cavalcade of some of the best musicians on the planet (some former and current members of FW, plus Steve DiGorgio, Sean Malone, and Thomas Lang) and you have the makings of an album that surpasses the first one by miles. While Sympathetic Resonance is a Prog masterpiece, Winter Ethereal is a multi-layered Prog extravaganza that explores various soundscapes while staying Prog. There are far more opportunities for emotion to come out on this album with nuanced dynamics throughout. Tracks like “Solitary Man,” “Pitch Black Prism,” “Tethered,” and “Wanderlust” are merely highlights of a full hour plus long of some of the strongest Metal to hit your ears in ages.
Easily a more accessible album than some of their past work; so it should appeal to those who aren’t a bunch of nerds, though we nerds are certainly going crazy over the brilliance of Winter Ethereal. From the moment I heard a new album was coming to the first spin, I have had this at the top of my most anticipated albums of the year and it did not disappoint. I’m calling it now: unless something creeps up on me that I’m not expecting this one is likely to hold my top spot at the end of the year.
Written by: Chris Martin