Review Summary: Fates Warning’s original vocalist comes out of nowhere and records a masterpiece. Too bad it’s only 30 minutes long.
Fates Warning, if you have never heard of them, is one of the prime founders of progressive metal. Their classic album, Awaken the Guardian (released in 1986), has one the hearts of many progressive and metal lovers alike, and the man behind that stunning voice is no other than John Arch. John Arch, however, left the band shortly after to go into the carpentry business, and little is known what he did all throughout the 90s, sans a couple of interviews. Somehow, he learns of Jim’s side project, OSI, and wants to start a project of his own. Then in 2003, he releases this EP called A Twist of Fate.
The people who recorded this EP:
John Arch - Vocals, Guitar
Jim Matheos (Fates Warning) - Guitar, Keyboards
Joey Vera (Fates Warning) - Bass
Mike Portnoy (Dream Theater) - Drums, Percussion
John Arch, first of all, has not recorded anything at all for a whopping 17 years. The album booklet has a story on how this record was recorded, and one of the sections was on his voice. John Arch himself had trouble getting his voice back into shape to record this, and had to practice for a while to get his voice back. To my surprise, the vocals on the EP are exactly the same as they were 17 years ago on Awaken the Guardian. Not almost exactly, EXACTLY the same. If you have never heard him, his vocals are high-pitched, but have a very unique feel to them; they are not tense or stressed, but rather comfortable and clear. Throughout the EP, he displays incredible voice work in every single part of the songs, going from soft and emotional to loud and energetic.
The other members, obviously from big-name bands, also don’t let down and delivers not flashy, technical riffs, but pleasant, soothing performances, including the metal riffs. There are several different guitar tones shown throughout the EP, including clean, jazzy style riffs to all out metal crunch. Jim obviously has shown that he can still work amazing well with John. Guitar solos are scarce, but honestly, I felt this album really didn’t need this, as this was more a display of John’s voice, if anything. The bass work is very nice; it does not shine through sometimes, but usually, you can hear a nice bassline through the guitar riffs ast most points of the EP. And obviously, Portnoy’s drumming is quality, and really fits the music well.
This EP only features 2 songs, Relentless and Cheyenne, but both are very long and makes the EP run time about 30 minutes (28 minutes and 1 second to be exact). Relentless, first of all, is a 12 and half minutes long masterpiece. It is the more metal-based song, but has it’s share of slow moments too. It is also the first song John has co-wrote with Jim for 17 years. The song starts off with a slow, droning acoustic riff, with soft signing following it shortly. Metal riffs slowly sneak its way in as the song goes on, and at about 2 and a half minutes in, the metal riffing finally comes in along with powerful lyrics of an Indian thinking of the past (more on that later). The key changes several times throughout the song, which goes from all out evil-sounding riffs to optimistic, lighter riffing. The keyboard effects are used extremely well, and don’t stand out as much as they do in other bands, which is usually really annoying, and makes the music seem like it’s stuck in the 80s. Closer to the end of the song, there are two guitar solos by Jim, and everything tapers off into a very slow, emotional ending. Relentless is definitely the better of the two songs here.
Cheyenne, on the other hand, is softer and has a more pleasing sound. It’s longer than Relentless, about 15 and a half minutes longs, and there are less heavy moments. Acoustic guitar is used a lot more here, and the way it is used makes the song much more emotional. There are short acoustic solos throughout the song, and even a violin solo about a third of the way in. Mood changes a lot in this song, and it could be easily divided into different sections, but it usually stays with the light acoustic guitar and never gets heavier than the riffs found in Relentless. The distorted guitar is mainly found in the middle 4-5 minutes of the song, while the acoustic guitar in the other sections are backed by atmospheric keyboard sampling. Piano is used a lot at the end of the song, and really compliments John’s voice. Unfortunately, it’s not as exciting as Relentless, and gets boring at times. While it isn’t as good as Relentless, it is still an amazing song, and really shows what John is capable of writing.
I should also mention that this is easily one of the most lyrically strong metal CDs I have ever listened to. The lyrics are what I can describe as powerful, moving, symbolic, and paradoxal (but still make sense!) and this goes for the entire amount of the lyrics in the songs, and there is a lot. The basis of the lyrics are about his Native American descent. (In the EP booklet, John Arch mentions that he has always been fascinated with Native American culture, and wanted to make the songs around that.) Like I mentioned before, there are several paradoxes in the lyrics, but incorporate into the theme of the songs well. Lines such as “I remember the silence was so deafening” and “The higher I climb, the longer I fall” are just some of many examples of the lyric usage here. Phrases such as “A grain of sand the tide has washed ashore, all I am, nothing more” is one of the best examples of the use of symbolics in the lyrics.
Mr. Arch, even though he’s been out of the business this long, shows he can still write songs as well as he used to (in fact, even better). I really wish this was a little longer, but it is an EP, so I really can’t say I was expecting this to be long. It is a mystery if John will release more solo work, but most are hoping he does, since John has shown obvious talent in the music world. This is definitely something fans of Fates Warning and progressive rock music should pick up, since it’s cheap and is easily one of the best EPs ever made to date.