Ivanhoe – Blood And Gold Review

Score8.5/10
GenreProgressive Metal
CountryGermany
Runtime38:33
Release Date20 March 2020
Record LabelMassacre

German prog veterans Ivanhoe have returned with another prog piece that hearkens back to the classic prog of the late 80s/early 90s. Blood and Gold is the band’s eighth full-length release in their thirty-five year career, but it holds true as one of their most essential releases ever. This compact, groove-driven style of prog will especially be a hit for fans of golden-age Queensryche and Fates Warning.

Blood and Gold does a lot of things right. First and foremost, the runtime is short and sweet (and the songs are all around the four-minute range); there’s no fat around the edges, it’s just no-bullshit prog with experimental, time-changey grooves and sick facemelters in a manageable space. As such, it’s perfect for prog fans who don’t have the attention span to be serious prog fans. Next in line are the drums, which are absolutely killer from the very first song, courtesy of the band’s brand new drummer, Bernd Heining. His fills are great and his beats are many, which is the crucial element in keeping the more laid-back tunes interesting (which is like two thirds of the album). It’s also worth mentioning that the mixing is perfect for an album like this. The guitars and drums sound closer to traditional metal than the colossal, crisp onslaught that most modern prog delivers. Don’t get me wrong, I live for clean and disgustingly heavy, but the softer, more lo-fi production quality has its place, too.

Outside of just comparing it to “early 90s prog”, the overall sound of the album is pretty melancholic, putting a greater emphasis on emotional hooks and guitar countermelodies than explosive riffs. There’s a serious level of technicality, though, most evident in the songs ‘Solace’ and ‘Perfect Tragedy’ (both of which are my favourite tracks), where the time changes are many and the rhythm section is on fucking point.

Between strong songwriting, great musicianship, and that classic feel, Blood and Gold is definitely worth checking out. Also, make sure to keep your ears open, because there’re a ton of little details in the album which I didn’t even touch on (like a sax solo in ‘Shadow Play’).

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Arch / Matheos – Winter Ethereal Review

Score9/10
GenreProgressive Metal
CountryUSA
Runtime1:07:59
Release Date10 May 2019
Record LabelMetal Blade

After nearly eight years since their first record under the Arch / Matheos banner, vocalist John Arch and guitarist Jim Matheos have completed Winter Ethereal. Compared to its predecessor, it packs a bigger punch and delivers an altogether more refined sound.

Both Matheos and Arch have been involved in the long-running prog outfit Fates Warning, with the former being their only remaining original member and the latter parting ways with the band in the early 90s. The two are held in high esteem by both old and new prog fans alike, so it’s needless to say just how talented they are. Behind this dynamic duo are other present and former Fates Warning members, such as Bobby Jarzombek and Mark Zonder on drums and bassists Joey Vera and Joe Dibiase, as well as other guest musicians.

With such a beefed up lineup, Winter Ethereal has more than enough fuel to burn furiously (which it does, by the way). The huge riffs and soaring vocals are awesome, but the detail in the drumming is often what elevates the music (like in ‘Wrath of the Universe’ where the drumming is seriously out of hand). Furthermore, the band allowed themselves a long, relaxed writing process for this album and it’s all the better for it. The entire record is sincere, with ‘Tethered”s light, steady emotion being the most apparent example of this, and there are no jumbled ideas that so often drag prog albums to the depths of the musical abyss.

Despite the ease with which this album flows, it explores a ton of different places. The album opens with a relatively dark feel in ‘Vermilion Moons’, but later shoots into the upbeat fury of ‘Straight and Narrow’. There’s no shortage of heavy tunes and every song is very dynamic (which they should be, because they average at eight minutes apiece).

There are only two real issues in Winter Ethereal, and the biggest of the two doesn’t even have anything to do with the music. The first problem is the bass mix. Underneath the huge riffs and sharp vocals, the bass already has its work cut out for it, but this effort is mostly wasted because it’s all but absent in the mix. However, this shortcoming doesn’t hold a candle to the album artwork. It’s atrocious, dreary, and way too simple for an album that overflows with complexity and life.

I’m definitely not finished with this album and, chances are, I won’t be for a while. It has more than enough variety and the musicianship is, to say it modestly, fucking superb. Arch / Matheos have once again produced an exceptional album that manages to stay away from being a Fates Warning 2.0. Clocking in at over an hour, Winter Ethereal will have you satisfied by the time it ends.

Arch / Matheos – Wanderlust (Metal Blade)

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Arch / Matheos Announce New Album For 10 May

Prog legends John Arch and Jim Matheos have been around the metal scene for more than thirty years. Both are co-founders of Fates Warning, but Arch left only a few years after its conception, whereas Matheos remains to this day as the band’s only remaining original member.

Along with other Fates Warning members, the duo joined forces in 2010 to form Arch / Matheos and released their debut record Sympathetic Resonance a year after. Now, they’re back with a new single (below) as well as the announcement of a new record, Winter Ethereal, which is set to be released on 10 May via Metal Blade Records.

Arch / Matheos – Straight and Narrow (Metal Blade)

Winter Ethereal is to be more varied and more immersive than their former work. Matheos comments, “This stems from both of us trying to step out of our comfort zones a bit, sometimes voluntarily, sometimes being pushed. Having worked together so many times, it would be easy to fall into the same way of doing things, and I think we were both interested in exploring some new areas.

Arch adds,Each song is notably different from the next, and nothing sounds repetitive. It is not a concept album, but somehow after a full listen from start to finish, there does seem to be continuity between the songs that I can’t describe. At over an hour long, I think the fans will agree that it is a full listening experience.

The writing for the new record was finished in 2017 and was written specifically for Arch / Matheos, rather than being leftovers from a Fates Warning album. Arch and Matheos also emphasize that the album wasn’t rushed but rather came naturally over time and without any deadline, to ensure the record’s sincerity. “The way we work together is no pressure, no deadline, at least until we get close to recording,says Matheos.We allow ourselves a lot of time and flexibility to see if we even have anything to say. That’s first and foremost. We start by writing, and if things start shaping up and we’re excited and inspired, we keep going until we’re confident that we’ll be able to do a whole record.”

To add to the uniqueness of the new album, the duo has enlisted numerous guest musicians rather than only their former rhythm section. The lineup of Winter Ethereal includes Joey Vera, Bobby Jarzombek, Joe Dibiase, and Mark Zonder (all current or former bassists and drummers for Fates Warning) as well as other esteemed musicians like Steve Di Giorgio (Death, Testament, Charred Walls Of The Damned), Sean Malone (Cynic), and legendary drummer Thomas Lang.

Having an eight year gap in between and a slow creation process, the band ensures that their new album will be more sincere, fluid, and emotionally driven than Sympathetic Resonance.

Preorder Winter Ethereal
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