Gather round, fans of Fates Warning! Jim Matheos and former vocalist John Arch have put together a six-cut record of entirely new progressive metal material under the banner of brand new side project Arch/Matheos. "Sympathetic Resonance" lies somewhere between EP and full album, and was rendered from material that Matheos had written with preconceptions of another Fates Warning album. The musician goes on to say that he and Arch began working the songs one at a time, never really intending a full-length debut, but arriving at that destination in time.
"Sympathetic Resonance" bears all the hallmarks that prog metal fans have come to expect: a smooth blend of simple-minded riffing run through the magnifying glass of the progressive metal scribe. Off-kilter drum cadences and unusual time signatures serve to inject some character into pieces that otherwise would be run of the mill overdriven guitar songs. It is the combination of these elements, particularly in cuts like "Stained Glass Sky," that make "Sympathetic Resonance" something more than just scraps from the cutting room floor.
There is an inherit double-edged sword in play here that afflicts much of progressive metal. While "Sympathetic Resonance" is refreshingly free of constraint and the stigma of a band's legacy, it also has moments of expansion that are unnecessary.
Much like some of the best works of Canadian superpower Rush ("2112,") "Sympathetic Resonance" isn't afraid to keep the clock rolling and delve into curious, analytical and cerebral themes. However, dangerously similar to some of Rush's most bloated, protracted blunders ("Cygnus X-1," yikes,) Arch/Matheos uses twelve minutes to present a message that could have been said in six. The additional time is spent mostly in repetition, making sure to squeeze in more exposition on the back side of a technically interesting solo. No cut is more representative of this than the album's edgiest piece, "Any Given Day."
While "Sympathetic Resonance" is clearly not just another off-the-shelf rock album, it's also not as musically varied or exploratory as it could, or dare I say, should have been. Where the two principle musicians set themselves up with the opprotunity to create a whole new identity for their duo, they instead played their hand close to the vest, resulting in a sound that most Fates Warning fans will find eerily familiar.
"Sympathetic Resonance" is by no means a poorly executed album or an exhibition by untalented hacks. Rather, it is Fates Warning-light, and it would have been more impressive to hear the combined talent of Matheos and Arch forge something more unique.