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(68:03; Metal Blade Records)
They’re back! In 2011, guitarist Jim Matheos and vocalist John Arch created quite a storm when they released ‘Resonance’, but they were at pains to state that Arch wasn’t again fronting Fates Warning (which he and Matheos formed back in 1982), and that it may or may not be a one-off. Fast forward to 2017, and they started writing together again, specifically for this release. While between them they cover off the vocals and guitars, this time they decided to bring in a few different musicians to add their particular touches to the finished version, so in came both present and former Fates Warning drummers and bassists Joey Vera, Bobby Jarzombek, Joe Dibiase and Mark Zonder, alongside the likes of Steve Di Giorgio (Death, Testament, Charred Walls Of The Damned), Cynic's Sean Malone, and renowned drummer Thomas Lang. I was fascinated by the album title itself, as originally, I read it as “Eternal” but when I realised it was “Ethereal” it felt very different indeed. While not a concept album, Arch asserts that "anyone who takes the time to read the lyrics will probably connect with a recurring theme touching on the mysterious weight or flight of human emotion that leaves us with more questions than answers. "In the context of the title, rather than referring to the season, Winter was chosen for having "certain connotations sometimes associated with it, such as isolation, a withering to rebirth", and with Ethereal meaning "not of this world, or otherworldly", there came a "meaningful marriage between the two words that best summed up the theme of the album". The album itself is progressive metal, strongly based around the two main pillars of vocals and guitars, with everyone else challenged to keep up. Fates Warning have been at the top of the game for a long time, and Matheos continues to drive them forward, so it is no surprise to hear his licks and shreds dominating proceedings. But what many people don’t realise is that John Arch is not a full-time musician, in fact he left Fates Warning after the third album as he couldn’t leave his job due to financial commitments, and has recorded only sparingly since, although he did re-join Fates Warning for the shows which led to the 2017 live album ‘Awaken The Guardian’. His range and power is huge, and that he has recorded so little is a huge loss to metal fans. Here he is in his element, taking the music of Matheos and adding his lyrics and melodic vocals over the top, which shows that neither of them are thinking of slowing down any time soon. For any fan of the genre this is essential, majestic throughout.
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