Gobsmacking. That’s the first word that came to mind and I wasn’t even a minute into Winter Eternal (Metal Blade Records). Arch / Matheos deliver everything people like about heavy metal. The music is imbued with headbanging fury. The guitar riffage is sublime. Winter Eternal is that perfect storm of a heavy metal album. It’s a wicked mixture of classically awesome Iron Maiden, heady powerful Dream Theatre, and has the story-telling prowess of Queensryche. Listening to the album makes you go, “Grrrrrrrrrr!”
The vocals, like WTF??!! I had forgotten how powerful John Arch’s vocals are. Yes, John Arch from Fates Warning. Remember ‘Silent Cries’ from 1988? Yeah, that guy! And his vocals are still perfection in tone and timbre! Smooth. Haunting. Powerful. John Arch is joined by longtime guitar companion Jim Matheos. The combination is, as always, nothing short of spectacular. John and Jim put together a master class of metal music with Winter Eternal. The construction of the songs is complex and jaw-dropping. Each note coalesces over the other. Their pacing is dictated by changing time signatures and note value. The nine-minute opening song, ‘Vermilion Moons’, throws everything you ever learned in music theory and composition into the blender and the result is technical wizardry. The lyrics for all the songs utilize vivid vocabulary choices. You won’t be able to sing along, however, you get maximum storytelling value. The track ‘Wrath of the Universe’ makes the listener feel uneasy. The music has an unrelenting forward momentum that pulls at your insides. Conversely, ‘Straight and Narrow’ has momentum but it’s paired with frenetic intensity. The drumming is crazy good. Just the sheer amount of control, timing, and precision is unimaginable.
There are only so many ways to say that something is amazing. John Arch and Jim Matheos created a perfect album in Winter Eternal. And yes, I mean perfect! From production value to lyrics to technical compositions, listeners will be enraptured by all the moving parts. Winter Eternal is an album that will be played again and again for many years to come.
9 / 10