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Catching up with John Arch, 7/5/2013

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My love for Fates Warning’s early work runs deep.  Much of that is because of the magical vocals of John Arch.  I recently caught up with John and he graciously agreed to answer some questions.  Enjoy!

It’s been just over a year now from your shows at KIT 2012 and Hartford.  Time has flown by and I must say that I’m still a bit in awe from the Hartford show.  It was the best show I’ve ever seen.  But enough out of me…

Can you describe your experiences from those 2 shows? Any after-effects?

JA:  Well Sean, everything leading up to the shows caused a few sleepless nights.  Although I had a JA picreasonable time to prepare, it was still a daunting task for me.  Besides having the Type A personality and not performing for the better par of two decades, I was most concerned about my voice holding up to the rigors of music I found difficult to sing 20 years ago.  I guess there was no point stressing because contracts were signed, and there was no turning back.  It was a better part of seven months of singing directly into a concrete wall so everything would sound as dead as possible, and that really helped with my pitch, vibrato and endurance.  There were some good nights and some not so good nights, but as the dates quickly approached there came the realization that though I never feel fully prepared, I had to accept that whatever I bring to the table will have to be the best I can do.  I found myself in Germany thinking, holy shit, how did I end up here?!  We had little time as there was only two and a half days to rehearse as a band for the first time together ever.  I hate to use the word surreal, but that is the best way to describe the feeling when we hit the stage.  I guess I was so amped up that an hour and a half felt like fifteen minutes, and before I realized it was time for an encore.  How we made it though with very few if any major blips that I noticed, I’ll never know.  I guess everyone did their homework and came prepared.  I know there are professional musicians like the guys that shared the stage that night with me that do this often, but for me it was a personal high point. 

You ask about after effects, Sean.  After the Webster show there were many pictures taken with myself and the fans, and in everyone of them I had a huge smile for the sense of relief that we had brought back to life the music of the past 28 + years, and everyone at the shows really enjoyed it.  After a slight decompression and some sleep, what I walked away with from this experience is that the most rewarding part was the fans.  The more energy I threw at them, they gave it back ten fold.  It was that energy, the heads banging, and the fists in the air that motivated us.

While we could sit and talk Fates Warning all day (or at least I could), how was it writing and recording both the solo album (2003) and the Arch/Matheos (2011) records?

JA:  Well Sean, as for myself, A Twist and Sympathetic Resonance respectfully had the same protocol.

I think there was a bit more apprehension with the solo effort because of the two decades between my last recording and ATOF.  I think both Jim and I were both curious as to see if there was any creative energy left for a collaboration of musical ideas.  I think once all the formalities are put aside, the work begins with a hyper focused vigilance which leaves one banging their head against the wall for the next line.  It must be like writing a novel or something where the first word or idea that is the hardest.  After such a long hiatus, creating something from nothing becomes a curious concept, but once the ideas start to flow you enter a zone where life’s problems are less intrusive and the mission to see the light at the end of the tunnel becomes paramount.  That is the part I enjoy the most. The solo effort was cut short because Jim had prior commitments, which was unfortunate because the ideas were still coming.

Here we are years later, but not two more decades at least. Sympathetic Resonance was finally an effort for a full album.  I think because of A Twist of Fate, the studio seemed a bit more familiar to me. Jim and I resurrected our collaborative nature, and maybe it might happen again.  I think when some time goes by, and you have true life experiences to draw from, It makes for more honest unpretentious lyrics.

I was actually enjoying the self indulgent theme the lyrical concept was heading.  I had a well of personal experience to draw from and Jim’s compositions were driving this energy out of me which was kind of therapeutic.  We had a good head start because Jim had quite a bit written and things came together at a good clip.  I think because Jim and I have very similar work ethic, and neither one of us is ever satisfied,

It is a comfortable working environment for me.  All said and done, it was a rewarding experience.  I was able to silence some of the demons I deal with and find the courage to put myself out there.  The true sense of relief comes when it falls on different ears and positive things come from it.

To deviate away from the same old music questions for a bit, I’d like to hit you up on a more personal level. You spent time in the Air Force (San Antonio?), how long did you serve and what was your role? Thanks for your service.

JA:  Since I am long winded, I’ll keep this one short. Lackland Air Force Base, San Antonio, Texas for boot camp.  Chanute AFB Illinois for military vehicle mechanic training and I was stationed 103rd tactical fighter unit Windsor Locks Ct.

I know that you’re a bicycle enthusiast as well as a Harley rider. What bikes do you currently own? Do you have any favorite places to ride either cycle?

JA:  Yes Sean, I like two wheeled things.  I got into Mountain biking over 20 years ago and have been hooked ever since.  After the initial “fuck this it’s to hard” phase, I found it was good for me.  Besides the Endorphins, adrenaline and other good chemicals released, it is just plain fun.  I told myself when I first started riding that I wanted to just have fun with no pressure.  It wasn’t long before that concept flew out the window and I got involved with racing.  After 3 or 4 seasons of that I decided it was a big commitment.  In order to stay competitive, there is a lot of training and traveling involved.  These days I enter a few select races like 24 mtb race or the Mount Washington auto road race among others, but I’m having more fun without the competition.  Favorite rides you ask? Moab Utah, Colorado, and the good old fashion rooty, rocky, slimy, steep terrain of New England.  Bikes currently owned are: Santa Cruz Blur LT, Santa Cruz Blur classic, Intense 6.6, Yeti ASR5,  SC Heckler, Cannondale Liquagas,  Lemond Steel, and a Harley Dyna Low Rider.

Besides the cycling, what are you up to these days?

JA:  Just Like any working man that has chosen the path of least resistance, working 50 hour a week, house and yard work, fixing broken shit, like three cars all with duct tape over the flashing engine light, Kid in college, and trying to squeeze in riding time.  Not enough hours in a day, and not enough vacation time.  Just think these are the good times.

I do want to get back into a music discussion a little bit. As you know, especially from those last 2 shows and via the Internet in general, you’re often referred to as a legend. Are you comfortable with that?

JA:  I’m not sure I believe in that term “legends”, and I certainly don’t associate the definition of the word with anything I’ve done.  I don’t mean to get all righteous about it, but there are many people in our presence that are far more deserving of accolades such as the single mother working the grave yard shift to feed her children, our brothers and sisters that are no longer with us that died in senseless Wars.

The folks who volunteer to make this world a better place, the list is endless.  To answer the question…No Sir.

Can you tell me what you’re currently listening to? How about some of your all time faves?

JA:  I’m a fan of many genres of music. Some of my pre-metal day favorites are the early prog of Yes, Uriah Heep, Grand Funk, Queen, Tull, Styx, Zeppelin, Pat Travers, Aerosmith, Kansas, and a ton of others.  No use getting all cerebral digging up obscure bands when the fantastic four will do for my main metal influence: Dio, Ozzy, Priest, Maiden.

These days I listen to anything from Revocation, Lamb of God, to Sevendust, and ASG is one of my new favorites. Usually while working on a project or something I will punch in a prog band into Pandora and see what comes up, that has been a way to hear some bands I probably would not have heard otherwise.

Without naming names, some are better than others.

Lately I have been shying away from the airy synthetic keyboard oriented over processed music with operatic singing style, It’s just not my flavor this year. I find myself regressing to the old school stuff to get my fix.

Are there any plans to do any other recordings (solo, Arch/Matheos, guest spots)? Do you tool around at home with any writing even if not intended to put it out?

JA:  There is nothing on the burner as we speak, mainly because my schedule is full as it is.  I have been approached for projects, but it takes a lot of time and energy for that.  Music for me unfortunately not my life’s work and has been like the ebb and flow of the tide.  It seems when the time is right, and I am open to the idea is when things happen.  I am known to not stray to far from my comfort zone, or step outside the box.  There are reasons behind that, some obvious and some not.  I have been approached by many bands over the years and either the music had not inspired me in the least, or it was over the top whereas I couldn’t imagine vocals over it.  I am satisfied with what I’ve done and how I’ve done it.  Life is full of surprises and we will see.

Usually when I’m tooling around the house, it is with some sort of tool in my hand fixing something.  Although it would be a good idea to write fleeting thoughts down before I forget them, but honestly I don’t usually walk around with ideas flowing.  The creative thinking for me only happens when my ass is to the fire when I have committed to a project.  It again feels foreign to me until I become engrossed in the music and engage the left side of the brain which apparently takes extended naps otherwise.  Once in the zone, it is undoubtedly where I feel most at peace with the mind being to busy and focused to dwell on negativity.  It is a good place to be, and maybe I’ll find myself there sooner than I think.

Do you know how hard it was to write these questions and not end all of them with “…and you’re awesome?”  Thanks for your time, John, and thanks for your contribution to the music that is so near and dear to me and will be forever.

JA:  Thanks Sean, and peace Bro

Arch/Matheos Concert Review, Hartford, CT 5/5/12

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I am not sure where to start, really.  The events of this weekend really started about 30 years ago and in a blink of an eye it has ended.  I guess I’ll start from the beginning.  This will be one of my longer-winded posts, so be prepared, the background story is, for me, as important as the concert itself.

Well, this isn’t the beginning, but Ill start by saying that Kelz and I went to Hartford, CT this past weekend to see Arch/Matheos and it was incredible.  I could really stop there but there’s so much excitement bottled up in me that I have to expand on this.

Once upon a…oh wait, wrong story.

Kelz and I met around 1982 at church.   Along with Petey, we were the 3 amigos for sure.  Discovering metal together through our teen years was quite bonding.  We even had to do a secret tape trade during sunday school to hide metal from our parents who thought we’d go to hell for listening to this stuff.  In late 84 or early 85 Kelz went to California to see some family and while there picked up a tape by some Connecticut-based band called Fates Warning.  The album was their debut, Night on Brocken.  We were all blown away by it…well, by everything but the cover.  haha.  But this music, this voice was so haunting and beautiful.  The voice of John Arch.  As the next 2 years went on they released Spectre Within and Awake the Guardian, 2 more classics and 2 albums that I don’t think I could live without.  Desert island albums for sure.  Unfortunately we never got to see them with the classic lineups because they never rolled through our part of Virginia.  Quite unfortunate.  Arch left after the Guardian tour and Ray Alder from San Antonio took over and was on their followup release No Exit.  A decent album in its own right, but it’s nothing compared to those first 3.  Fates did come to DC with Sanctuary on the Perfect Symmetry tour but I didn’t make that one.  A few friends did and said it was good, of that I have no doubts.  I like that album a lot.

We all graduated in 1988 and folks went to college or work (me) and went out separate ways, but never lost contact.  Visits to colleges and holidays and stuff, all of us would find a little time to hang out.  Not to mention we did have telephones back in those days too.  haha

Petey moved to Richmond, Kelz ultimately to NC and here I am in Texas now.  There have been some meetups for shows over the years like Wrathchild America in Va Beach, Foetus in DC in 95, Death/Hammerfall at Jaxx in 98, Loudness in Fayetteville, Sabbat at Jaxx and probably a few others.  Music is the tie that binds us.  I can’t count how many times since 84 that the words, “Yeah, I was just listening to Fates the other day…”  That holy trilogy of records never gets old and I listen to all of them regularly.  Lots of great memories while spinning those albums from the high school days and from a band I was in or 2 where we attempted Buried Alive, The Sorceress and Kyrie Eleison.  All decent renditions sans the vocals.

In 2003 John came out of retirement (sort of) and released the EP Twist of Fate with Matheos, Vera and Portnoy.  Not a bad album at all.  Then just a year ago, it was announced that Arch was joining forces with Matheos, Bobby Jarzombek, Frank Arest and Joey Vera for a project called Arch/Matheos.  SCHWING!  Best news ever!

After the fantastic album had been out in a while, they announced that they were playing the Keep It True (KIT) festival in Germany and then announced that there would be a show in Hartford, CT.  WHAAAA?  As soon as I heard that I automatically bought 2 tickets for the Webster Theater.  Hard to believe they were only $18 each.  I told Kelz that the spare was for him should he decide to partake in the event.  Kelz has a wife and kids and I would’ve understood if he said he couldn’t make the show, but he said he’d do it.  So there it was, plans were in the works to see a band that we have waited since 1984 to see.    Twenty-eight flippin’ years!

Videos from KIT surfaced pretty quickly and got us pretty excited as John and the band sounded great.  Hard to believe that we were finally going to see a band we idolized since 1984.  Now bear in mind that our favorite band is Iron Maiden…both of us.  We saw the Seventh Son Tour together and Daniel and I went to Raleigh to see Chris and see Bruce’s Accident of Birth tour and got to meet Bruce and Adrian Smith, 2 guys that are over the top important to us musically.  But Fates Warning was/is different somehow.  I don’t know if I can truly explain it.  I’m not sure if I can even try to.  Maybe because they were a bit more underground.  I really don’t know.

So here we are to present day, this weekend even.  Our flights were scheduled to arrive in Hartford at around the same time.  As soon as we landed I had a text message from him telling me where he was waiting.  I found him, we exchanged some greetings and mama jokes and went to get the rental car.  From the rental place we went straight to our hotel.  What a shithole!  Hartford is kind of dumpy but our hotel was shitty.  But whatever, we were there and would make the best of it all.  Once settled in we decided to forage for food in Hartford.  Found a “Mexican” restaurant in the downtown area with all honkys working the front of house.  That a;ways makes me suspicious of Mexican food, but the food was good as were the margaritas.  The conversation with Kelz over dinner were mostly about our game plan for Saturday, metal nerd talk, past events that we had attended together and just the ridiculousness of our lives.  That’s not to say ridiculous as in bad, but in knowing each other for about 30 years, did we ever think we’d be in Hartford, CT to see John Arch and Fates.  It was still unbelievable.  After dinner we hit Walmart as my duffel bag was falling apart.  “Chris (Kelz), I take my duffel bags seriously.”  Liquor stores closed at 9 so we had 5 minutes to find one and get whatever drinks we wanted.  Four 22oz bottles of Newcastle were the selection.  We drank 2 of them, talked about stuff until late and just fell asleep, worn out from the trip.

I brought my copy of Headbangers by Mark Hale to hopefully get signed by the band and happen to have an extra copy that I brought for Kelz as a gift.  After waking up Saturday, it was more metal talk, more mama jokes and the search for breakfast.  We found a cool little diner in Weathersfield.  It hit the spot.  We were both still tired from the trip and decided to go back to the hotel and relax.  I had told the front desk that we didn’t need any housekeeping but they ended up waking us up to come in and clean.  Bummer as I had just fallen asleep when Sanjay had unlocked the door to come in.  Since we were awake it was decided to go ahead and get our gear together and make a plan for going to venue.  Some friends I have known online for years were also in town and we didn’t get to meet until later in the day at the venue.

So we’re all showered up and I said that we should go find the venue and scope the area out for parking and such.  When we found the place we decided to just go ahead and park.  As we got out of our car, we heard then doing soundcheck.  GUARDIAN.  My knees got weak.  We heard them mess with a few parts of that and do the intro to Sorceress.  As we were standing there we met Tom Phillips from the long standing band While Heaven Wept and struck up conversation with him for quite a while.  About 10 minutes after soundcheck, John Arch comes out of the venue and we just say hello as he is walking by.  He turns and comes over and just talks with us for a few minutes, said he wasn’t feeling well and had likely caught something after traveling from Germany’s KIT.  It was quite humbling that the man who owns my favorite voice in metal was standing next to us, just hanging out.  Turned out that he and Tom knew each other and they struck up some convo then John  left to go take care of his throat.  Holy moly.  Right after that we thought we’d walk up the block to check out a chinese place for food.  Once in front of the place we decided not to eat there.  The Yelp reviews were all 1s.  PASS.  We ended up just hitting up the quickie mart across the street from the venue for drinks and snacks, which essentially became our dinner.  The parking lot was filling up quickly and some of other friends had gathered around and it was great to meet them after 10+ plus years of online correspondence in various metal forums and such.

The doors opened for the side venue around 5PM and we waited to go in right around 7 when Magus Beast (formerly Agressor from NYC) was taking the stage.  Once inside we caught the last half song from Kali Mah from CT.  We were given a CD then found the main stage where Magus Beast was already on the stage.  They were finishing a song and when into Metal Church.  Good version.  Unfortunately right after that, they were told to get off of the stage.  The band was supposed to get 30 minutes for their set and apparently only got 15.  Not sure why they got cut but they were pissed.  Understandable.  We never really got to hear them play a full original song except for hearing Death Before Dishonor from their 1997ish Agressor Say Your Prayers album.  The singer still had the pipes.  We spoke to the singer for a few minutes after and he was cool, but obviously pissed.  They decided to just go back to NYC and not see the rest of the show.

Right after that I saw Steve Zimmerman (former Fates Warning Drummer on the first 4 albums) in the hallway and Igrabbed Kelz.  Steve was very nice and a bit on the quiet side.  He signed our stuff and did a few pictures with us.  Steve’s band, Enemy Within was going to be playing a little later.

Steve Zimmerman, Kelz, Dean’s rabbit ears in the background.

Victor Arduini (former Fates guitarist on the first 2 albums) was about to hit the stage with his band Freedoms Reign.  Victor showed that he still had the chops.  The venue didn’t seem to be filling up but I had heard that it


was sold out.  FR got a 30 minute set and the venue was keeping everyone on a tight schedule.  Arch/Matheos was scheduled for 9:30-11.  After a quick set change, Zimmerman’s band, Enemy Within, came on and went through their set.  It was great to finally see Steve play, even though he was behind a huge kit and we couldn’t see more than his head.  He’s got an interesting style for sure.  It was before their set that Kelz and I moved closer to the front of the stage.  Enemy Within finished their set and there was 45 minutes until Arch was to hit the stage.

I believe that was the longest 45 minutes of my life.  The anticipation.  Twenty-eight years of waiting for this one moment, what’s 45 more minutes?  A lifetime, it seemed!  Tick tock.  Kelz and I would just look at each other every few minutes…”36 minutes”.  “29 minutes”.  “15 minutes”.  “9 minutes” zOMG.  “4 minutes”…then there it was, 9:29PM in Hartford, CT at the Webster Theater and they hit the stage with a song from the new album called Neurotically Wired.  I was in awe.

There they were.  John Arch, Jim Matheos, Joey Vera, Frank Aresti and Bobby Jarzombek.  Just feet away from us doing their thing.  It all seemed unreal.  It still does, really.  John seemed a wee bit tense but loosened up quickly.  He made sure to get the crowd involved.  His voice sounded stellar.  They then went into Midnight Serenade next and the band was just ‘on’.  The next song was The Sorceress and the crowd went wild.  Everyone sang along and John’s vocals were just great, especially for how bad he felt.  He knocked it out of the park.  He was hitting the notes he knew he could hit and sang around others in a way that didn’t matter.  Stained Glass Sky came next.  A beautiful and eloquent song and they played it perfectly.  John made a joke to the effect of “Who write 15 minutes songs?  What the hell?” and pointed at Matheos.  It was pretty funny.

And then came Damnation.  From the album that started it all for us.  The acoustic intro and John starting with “Thousands of years before the dawn of history…”  It hit me hard.  I was 14 again…I was 23 again…I was 34 again…I was 42 (now-duh).  A wave of emotion crept over me and I got choked up with tears in my eyes.  A quick glance at Kelz and he saw it.  He knew exactly how I felt.  They went into The Apparition and it was just another wave of emotion.  The whole night was.  Any Given Day (Strangers Like Me) was next.  John spoke between songs and you could tell that he was enjoying himself up there.  Other than KIT, this was his first US performance in 25 years.  Amazing.  The closed the main set with Guardian.  A crowd-pleaser for sure.  It was gorgeous.  I adore that song.

After a brief break they came back and did Epitaph.  Oh man.  I was in heaven.  Unfortunately they didn’t do the ending part.  I really wanted to hear about the omen birds soaring the desert land!  No bother.  They closed with Exodus and it was great.  The crowd sang along with most of the set which was really cool.  Kelz and I stayed in the same spot for the whole show, holding our copies of that heavy ass book.  haha.

When it was over, there was a moment of silence.  We needed it.  They the gushing about how awesome that was started…from everyone there.  After the show, it was just milling around and talking to people you didn’t know.  Checking out people’s band shirts.  I was wearing SA Slayer, for the record.

As security was pushing people out of the main venue area, we ran into Victor Arduini and I asked if he ad time to sign some stuff.  “All the time in the world”, he said.  He was pretty excited to see the book and sign CD covers.  As he was signing our stuff, he says, “Joe bones!  get over here and sign this stuff.”  It was Joe Dibiase, former Fates bassist for their first 6 or 7 albums.  His head was shaved and I never would have recognized him.  Thanks Victor!  They both graciously signed our stuff.

Everyone was kicked out of the venue at that point and we all just stood in front of the venue talking.  There was a meet and greet but you needed a special pass to get in, which we didn’t have.  Frank Aresti came outside and we spoke to him a bit.  I met him 2 years ago at SxSW and had him sign the book back then.  He did sign my CDs and all of Kelz’ stuff.  He’s a super nice guy.

Shortly after John came out and signed stuff for everyone out there.  He seemed to be in great spirits.  When I got the chance, I had him sign the book and my CDs as did Kelz.  Two quick photos and we left him to the masses.  It was still a bit humbling to stand next to him.

John Arch

Bobby Jarzombek came out next.  He saw my shirt and commented on it.  I told him that I was the guy he asked for my Riot vids that I shot at their San Antonio shows a few years back.  “That’s you?  You’re here from Austin?  Fucking cool.” or something similar.  He signed the Riot page in the book and my Immortal Soul CD cover.

Bobby J

Then here comes another legend.  Brian Slagel.  Yes, the man who created Metal Blade Records and gave so

many of us a lifetime’s worth of music.  I couldn’t believe it.  Shook his hand and we talked about the show and the possibility of more.  He said the same thing that Aresti said about more shows, “It’s up to John.”  I showed Brian the book and asked him to sign it.  Even though he’s not in it, he’s responsible for many of the bands that are in it.   He also signed my River’s Edge CD soundtrack cover and gave us a little insight about it.  I told him that we had met in 1997 when I was at their offices and asked him if I could buy the huge poster on their wall, to which he replied, “Just keep walking.”  haha

The king

Joey Vera came next and talked with everyone.  He was pretty excited that so many of us had traveled from all over the place to see this.  Again, signatures and pics.  He’s a really cool guy.

Joey Vera

Jim Matheos came out last.  He’s quiet, stoic.  He signed everything that everyone put in front of him and silently stood there for pics.  “Thanks for coming so far.”  That was about all the emotion anyone got out of him.

Don’t worry, Jim Matheos. I won’t eat you.

I was hoping to see some of the guys from that area who were in such classic bands like Obsession, Liege Lord and Sacred Oath.  Well, I probably wouldn’t have recognized them anyways.

Everyone’s performance was outstanding.  John sounded amazing and seemed to really enjoy himself.  Jim didn’t move much and rarely changed his facial expression, but his playing was spot on.  I think there was a mistake made somewhere because Jim shot a look over to Frank and Joey and everyone started smiling and laughing a bit.  Frank’s solos were sweet.  He is a great guitarist, no doubt.  Frank’s backing vocals were really good, too.Having never seen Joey Vera play live, I didn’t know what to expect.  I was blown away.  He was solid as could be.  And then there’s Bobby J.  I had seen him previously with Halford (2000) and Riot (2009).  He was as great as expected and I thought it was really cool how he stayed true to Zimmerman’s licks in the older songs.

After the final goodbyes to the folks we hung out with after the show, Kelz and I went back to our fleabag hotel.  We stopped at McD’s for some nasty grub.  It was the first fast food I had had since mid-March.  It was great and gross at the same time.  When we got back, we ate and just talked about the show and looked at our fotos until we both fell asleep.  I wasn’t sure I’d be able to fall asleep but once the adrenaline wore off, I was out.

Then Sunday…still excited from the show and still in a bit of disbelief that all of this really happened.  We checked out and headed to the airport.  we grabbed a quick meal there and Bobby J ended up coming into the same eatery.  We spoke to him for a few minutes then went on our way.  It was a nice ending to the weekend in Hartford.

It couldn’t have been much of a better weekend in general.  Time with a practically lifelong friend, the most awesome of concerts, new friends and just the all around experience of traveling for a show.  Lots of song quotes, YouTube song wars, “failed missions”, Simpsons and River’s Edge quotes. I think that this will be considered the best show I have ever seen and for obvious reasons.  As I said to Kelz yesterday, pretty much everything else is downhill from here.  I pretty much doubt anything could top this weekend.  I don’t think I want it topped.

Here are some additional pics for your viewing pleasure.  Most of mine sucked.  I’ll post more from others once I have their permissions.

Kali Mah

Agressor/Magus Beast

Freedoms Reign

Enemy Within

The last goodbye.

Arch / Matheos Setlist Webster Theater, Hartford, CT, USA 2012
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Arch/Matheos – Sympathetic Resonance Review

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First and foremost, John Arch is in my top 2 or 3 singers of all time.  Personally I feel that man can do no wrong vocally.  His 3 albums with Fates Warning are easily the best 3 consecutive albums a band could ever dream to put out.  From Night On Brocken to Awaken the Guardian his voice progressed along with Fates’ music.  By the time Awaken came out, I felt the band had set a standard for themselves that would make a follow-up album tough to compare.  Then I read in one of the metal magazines that Arch had left the band.  Seriously?  Then out comes No Exit, a serious let down for me.  It wasn’t that Ray Alder was a bad singer, but that certain something that only Arch could bring to the table wasn’t there.  No Exit is a good album in its own right and I’ll be the first to admit that Perfect Symmetry is a great record, but still, it didn’t have John and after that one I was done with Fates Warning forever.  They got too light and proggy for me.

In 2003 Arch released the 2 song EP A Twist of Fate and it was great to hear his voice again.  At the beginning of this year it was announced that he had signed on with Jim Matheos to do an album.  The band was dubbed Arch/Matheos and also includes journeyman bassist Joey Vera, Bobby Jarzombek and Frank Aresti.  Wait, why not just call it Fates Warning?  I’m sure respect for Ray and probaby some legal issues abound that keep that from happening along with John probably not in the mode for touring.  Fair enough.

But for me, this is a Fates Warning album.  This is the album that could have followed Awaken the Guardian.  I finally bought this from iTunes this past Friday night and have listened to it about 8 times all the way through along with the new Anthrax album.  This one’s better by a county mile, no disrespect to ‘Thrax.

I am loving this album on so many levels and for so many reasons.  John’s voice and lyrical phrasing, the lyrics, Bobby Jarzombek’s drumming, Aresti’s contributions, Matheos’ riffage and song structures.  I only wish the bass was a tad more prominent.

The album consists of 6 songs that all seem to flow together very well, much like they do on Awaken.  Under a stained Glass Sky is my favorite so far, but the whole album just great.  And seriously, Bobby Jarzombek is easily one of the best drummers in metal today along with Van Williams (Pure Sweet Hell/ex-Nevermore).  Bobby doesn’t suck and he is perfect for this project.

This album is beautiful from front to back surely a must for any John Arch-era Fates Warning Fan.  I am calling it the album of the year and it gets a 10/10.  This will stay in steady rotation and I can’t get enough of it already.  While it’s not Awaken the Guardian or Spectre Within, it is a wonderful new Fates Warning album with a phenomenal singer/lyricist.

I hope that a second album could be in the works somewhere down the road.  This is good enough to warrant a follow-up.  A tour?  Please?  Doubtful I know, but a man can dream, yes?

Again…10/10.  Buy it!

Written by The Metal Files

September 26, 2011 at 6:08 pm

My Life With Fates Warning

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I remember the day that my best friend came home from a California vacation in 1984 and he brought back Night On Brocken…I was instantly a fan.

Night on Brocken – 1984
Upon first listen, I did like most and compared John Arch to Bruce Dickinson but that comparison quickly faded away. John’s voice, Matheos’ songwriting and Zimmerman’s drumming style were the perfect combination. Other than the 2 instrumentals on this one, it’s fabulous. Buried Alive, The Calling and Damnation are my utmost faves.

Spectre Within – 1985
Whoa. Talk about improving on a formula that was already awesome. This album is perfect. Front to back. Perfect. I don’t know what else I could say about it.

Awaken the Guardian – 1986
Three in a row? Really? I am torn sometimes as to which I like better; Spectre or Awaken. Arch’s vocal harmonies and the songs Guardian and Giant’s Lore are phenomenal.

No Exit – 1988
Enter Ray Alder…too bad he still hasn’t exited! Upon first listen, I hated this album. Silent Cries was alright and the Ivory Gate of Dreams was good, but Ray’s nasaly whine didn’t do it for me. Zimmerman’s drumming was pretty good. Lyrically they started to tank on this one. WHIMPY. I bought the recent reissue and can stomach it a little better than I did 20 years ago, but it’s still not great.

Perfect Symmetry – 1989 I was really excited about this one coming out mainly because Mark Zonder was playing on it. I’d been a huge fan of his playing since Warlord. He did a good job on this album and the songs, in general, were much better than No Exit. I still didn’t care much for Ray’s singing but the songs Through Different Eyes and The Arena are great. They are certainly turning into a flower metal band at this point.

Parallels – 1991
WHIMPY FLOWER “METAL”. This is where they started to compete with Dream Theater to see who could consistently release the most boring albums ever.
1/10 – I liked The Eleventh Hour

Inside Out – 1994
I still can’t believe I actually gave this a chance. It didn’t deserve it. Whiny whimpy introspective lyrics and boring rock.

Everything after…I just stopped. I couldn’t take it any more.

Written by The Metal Files

December 29, 2008 at 1:57 pm

I will remember knocking on the cold side of your door

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That simple line hits hard. I don’t necessarily use it in context with the song but it’s deep. Fates Warning had a lot of stuff that just made sense, especially on the Awaken The Guardian album. This is my #3 favorite metal album of all time.

I was fortunate enough to get in to Fates on the ground floor when their debut Night On Brocken came out thanks to Kelz picking it up first. Early Metal Blade Records releases gave you about a 94% chance of getting something good. Fates was one of those bands. Their first 3 LPs are great, especially Spectre Within and Awaken The Guardian. The riffs were better, John Arch’s vocal melodies were brilliant, the songwriting was consistent and the lyrics were cool.

This album is brilliant front to back. There’s not a bad song on here. There’s not even a weak track. The albums brings you to emotional highs and lows. Not to many albums can do that to me. The song Guardian (see YouTube vid below) hits everything in one song. Emotion, power, sadness and then pumps you up at the end and leaves you sitting there in a cold sweat.

John Arch is in my top 2 or 3 all time favorite singers ever. His work on this album is untouchable. The way he harmonizes with himself and just some of his odd phrasing blows me away.

I urge you to see/listen to the other songs the YouTube user posted from this album and check the lyrics out here. Actually, just buy the damned thing if you don’t own it already. You will not be disappointed. I promise.

Written by The Metal Files

September 3, 2008 at 3:12 am