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TRACK LIST: 1. Relentless 12:23 (Arch, Matheos) 2. Cheyenne 15:36 (Arch) LINE-UP: John Arch (ex-Fates Warning) - vocals Jim Matheos (of Fates Warning) - guitars; keyboards Joey Vera (of Fates Warning) - basses Mike Portnoy (of Dream Theater) - drums & percussion With: Andy Happel - violin & cello (on 2) Produced by Matheos & Arch. Engineered by P. Magnotti at "The Carriage House".
Prolusion. "A Twist of Fate", the first solo album by the former Fates Warning vocalist John Arch, marks his return to the Prog-Metal scene after a 17-year hiatus. Please don't forget to have a look at the line-up on this album (above): it's a real supergroup, and a guest violinist is certainly a welcome addition to it.
Synopsis. I was not surprised to hear that John is in superb form: his immediately recognizable vocals are still as strong and expressive as they were almost two decades ago. As for his compositional skills, both of the epics presented on "A Twist of Fate" are brilliant and by all means, starting with progressive ones, of course. Those expecting something in the vein of early Fates Warning from this album will find here only the light shades of a style presented on "Awaken the Guardian" and only on the first song: the 12-minute Relentless. In all, this epic features about a dozen different themes, but while a few of them remind me a bit of those typical for the classic Fates Warning Mk-I sound, most of the arrangements and all the particular solos here - those of electric guitar and synthesizers, including a string ensemble, bass, and drums - are outstandingly original. Stylistically, Relentless is about Classic Prog-Metal with elements of Symphonic Art-Rock, which are represented here by a few episodes featuring only vocals, passages of synthesizer, and those of semi-acoustic guitar. Frequent and, often, sudden changes of musical directions, tempos, and moods, the use of complex time signatures, the complete unpredictability of development of arrangements, and a wide variety of the other essential progressive features are typical for both of the songs on album. The music on the 16-minute Cheyenne is highly original and is very diverse in character. It represents an absolutely unique combination of progressive Cathedral Metal and both of the guitar and symphonic kinds of Art-Rock. A role that the parts (passages, solos, and rhythms) of acoustic guitar play here is as significant as those of electric guitar, piano, and all the other instruments involved, including a violin. Unlike those on Relentless, most of the basic arrangements here were performed slowly and mid-tempo, and yet, the number of different themes that Cheyenne consists of is incredibly large. The presence of purely acoustic structures where there are either only passages of acoustic guitar or the interplay between them and those of cello, and also orchestral arrangements, imparts a magical aura to Cheyenne. All in all, this epic is on par with most of the classic sidelong masterworks of the 1970s. Finally, please note that it was Jim Matheos, and not Kevin Moore, for instance, who (masterfully!) played keyboards on this album. As for Jim's guitar work here, I will classify such an obvious thing as secret.
Conclusion. Being in my right mind, with all responsibility, I declare that "A Twist of Mind" is the most mind-twisting (mind-blowing, sorry) Prog-Metal-related album that I've heard for the last two years, at least. Furthermore, this is the work I've been really waiting for! And what is that you're waiting for, dear connoisseurs of the genre? A link to the Metal Blade Records website is below...
VM: July 1, 2003
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