Arch/Matheos – No Exit This Time

Saturday, 30th March 2013

(This content originally appeared on Blistering.com)

“Arch-era Fates Warning.” The name alone says enough to those who worshipped at the altar of albums such as 1984’s Spectre Within and of course, 1986’s brilliant Awaken the Guardian. This was “thinking-man’s metal” before anyone in metal had a real a brain; the combination of wildly arranged songs that somehow made sense, and with a singer whose voice was unique, daring, and convincing. John Arch is the man’s name, who left the metal game all too soon after Guardian. So revered was Arch at the time that an upcoming progressive metal outfit named Dream Theater asked him to audition, only for the singer to turn down DT’s offer. We all know how Dream Theater fared and Fates would soldier on with Ray Alder, achieving even greater success, but those Arch-era albums…they simply are magical.

Going under the banner of Arch/Matheos, the legendary singer has teamed with Fates mastermind Jim Matheos for Sympathetic Resonance, which is due this September via Metal Blade. Based off the two songs Blistering has heard (“Midnight Serande” and “Stained Glass Sky”), Sympathetic promises to be every good as advertised, with Arch rolling out his masterful vocals like it was 1986 (except with more restrain) and Matheos culling from his vast repertoire of heavy, but perky progressive metal riffs. With the all-star lineup of drummer Bobby Jazarmbek (Halford, Riot), bassist Joey Vera (Armored Saint) and Fates lead guitarist Frank Aresti behind them, interest in any all things Fates-related is at an all-time high.

The fast-talking Metheos and beyond-humble Arch phone Blistering to talk about Sympathetic Resonance, the future of Fates Warning, the past of Fates Warning, and much more. Here’s what went down…

Blistering.com: So some of the material for Sympathetic Resonance was intended for the next Fates Warning release, but did you eventually come to realization that John’s voice could fit?

Jim Matheos: Not really. A lot of it was intended for the next Fates record, but Ray couldn’t commit to it at this time, so I gave John a call. I’m always interested to see what he’s up to. I played him a few of the songs and he listened, so I guess they struck a chord. But they weren’t written with him in mind.

John Arch: I guess my first thoughts were that it’s been a while and I remember what Jim’s writing style was, so I was impressed that there’s so much going on. It took me a while to wrap my mind around what was happening, but once I did, it grew, things just started to fall again. I was inspired by his writing. Not to say that it came easy, but it made me want to get involved.

Blistering.com: Jim, you’ve been doing stuff with OSI and Fates has been active, but hasn’t put out a studio album since 2004, so how fresh is the material?

Matheos: A lot of its new. “Neurotically Wired” and “On the Fence” are about two years old. Luckily, we decided we were going to do a full-length record, so the rest of it was written in that time.

Blistering.com: Being that this isn’t a Fates album, was there any process in choosing who would appear on the album? You have some heavy hitters playing on it.

Matheos: It was natural selection; I didn’t give it a lot of thought. I didn’t have a wish-list when putting it together, for these guys have been working with Fates for a number of years. I couldn’t have asked for better players, and Bobby had already played on a lot of these songs since they were written for Fates. I didn’t it would be fair to tell him that after months working on these songs that we were going to change the name of the band and have someone else drum.

Blistering.com: That was my next question. Was there any inclination to call the band Fates Warning?

Matheos: We talked about it and there was some interest from the record from a marketing standpoint. But in the end, Fates is still active with Ray and we plan on doing a record next year, so even if we marketed this record as a one-off Fates Warning record with John Arch, it would cause a lot of confusion. It wasn’t worth the effort in the long run, so we wanted to keep Fates Warning separate. Me and Ray are our own entity, and Arch/Matheos is another band that has its own life.

Blistering.com: John, you did an EP a few years ago with Jim and Mike Portnoy [A Twist of Fate in 2003], so how has your voice held up over the years?

Arch: Between A Twist of Fate and this album, I hadn’t sang at all [laughs]. I’m not sure how it held up; it probably would have held up better if I had done some singing. With this CD, it took quite a bit of work. One at a time, to get my vibrato back and paying attention to my voice again…it took a lot of work. Getting older and not singing every day, then having to sing at that intensity it was hard. In the end, I fought through it and things turned out really well.

Blistering.com: Based on the two songs I heard and the EP, I think it’s safe to say your voice is still in pretty good shape.

Arch: I don’t take anything for granted or just assume that as soon as I step in front of a microphone, things are going to happen. There was a time at the onset of this, my vocals sounded decent but I caught a bad cold and I took a nosedive for a while. Then I started building them up again and getting them into shape. I guess I’m lucky to be able sing like this at this stage. My vocals are a little different than Awaken the Guardian or A Twist of Fate because I use more of a vocal range. I’m not shooting for the stratosphere non-stop. I think it complements the songs better because I’m not singing high constantly.

Blistering.com: Have you kept tabs on the progressive metal scene since you’ve been away?

Arch: I’ve gone to a lot of shows for Queensryche and Dream Theater, and of course, I’ve followed Fates. Those guys are my fans and bands that I enjoy. There’s just so much going on and so much diversity. I’ve been following along, but I’m not as well-versed as other people.

Blistering.com: I’ve only heard “Midnight Serenade” and “Stained Glass Sky” at this point, but for the rest of the record, what are some of the highlights?

Matheos: The two songs you’ve heard are a pretty good representative of the whole record. Not that anything sounds less than that, but it’s a good indication of how the record sounds. It’s along the heavier/progressive side of things that I’ve done recently.

Arch: I’ll add that a lot of the songs have an ongoing theme lyrically, with the exception of “Stained Glass Sky.” In my opinion, the songs are very different from each other, but still in the same vein. They’re still intense, very theatrical and they’re connected by a theme from beginning to end. I think the album is very dynamic. The closer, “Incense and Myrrh” brings it all together, it summarizes everything. I’m curious to see how people will interpret these songs, to see how obvious I’ve been or not.

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