Review Summary: An elegant offering by Fates Warning’s band leader that deviates from his more customary Metal indulgences in exchange for eclectic acoustic based Classical and Folk Rock music. Truly exhibiting his songwriting versatilityFeels like Autumn
Something that’s dawned on me with the passage of time is the level of care with which Jim Matheos handles his music projects. Regardless of whether it’s a solo or band endeavour, there always seems to be an air of maturity & sophistication present in the music as well as the production vision as a whole. 1999’s Away With Words
is no exception.
This album is sandwiched in between Fates Warning’s gloomiest albums; A Pleasant Shade of Gray
, and is a significant departure in a musical sense, but close enough to be their cousin in terms of overall mood. Jim heavily explores his acoustic inclinations similar to the way he did on his debut solo album First Impressions
, with this feeling very much like its literal & spiritual successor. Away With Words
is a fully fleshed out music listening experience, and has undeniably been treated that way. There are ebbs & flows over the course of the album’s duration, with Jim traversing through genres ranging from purely Classical to Folk Rock, and even Bluegrass. Sometimes the music’s disposition is bright & upbeat as displayed on songs like “Tongue Tied,” whilst elsewhere it feels ominous & dramatic as shown on songs like “The Language of Silence” & “The Last Light of August.” Certain songs may contain only one instrument supporting Jim’s acoustic guitar, while other songs are a full four-member band piece, with noticeable mood swings & sizzling crescendos. The guest musicians help to ensure that the album doesn’t suffer from feeling too minimalistic & linear as a whole. String instruments, the bass guitar, and drums (provided by the venerable Mark Zonder) are all employed to varying degrees to serve the music, and every musician delivers. No one overplays or demonstrates musical pyrotechnics, and thankfully so, since every member fulfills their purpose which is to add textures & variety to the compositions.
This having been released in 1999 means Jim had ample engineering & production experience under his belt by the release of this album, and it shows on here. All the instruments sound crisp and the mix is a complementary layer; it’s spacious and respects every instrument ubiquitously. The absence of electric guitars in any capacity unquestionably provides more room in the mixing real estate for the remaining instruments, however this has also held the album back in my opinion. There isn’t a requirement for heavily distorted guitar tones, but the presence of some clean & melodic lead sections would have definitely elevated this album. Another minor gripe of mine is that the album can feel somewhat cold in general from a production standpoint, especially when the bass guitar isn’t present.
Away With Words
may require some patience and being in the right mood in order to truly be appreciated, but once it’s given a proper investment of time the experience this album has to offer can really be enjoyed. This continues to prove that Jim is one of Metal’s, if not Western Music as a whole, most prolific & hardworking musicians that continues to stay relevant no matter what genre or decade it may be.
1. A Way With Words
2. The Last Light of August
4. The Language Of Silence
"A Way With Words":