I’d like to think there’s not a single person reading this review who does not know who Jim Matheos is, or has never heard of the legendary Fates Warning. With that, I’ll skip the minutely detailed history lesson and sum it up, however redundantly, like this: Fates Warning is legendary. Fates Warning is one of the early frontrunners of prog metal going back to the 1984 debut Night On Brocken. Since then, the band has evolved from a Maiden-esque epic metal outfit, to one of the most revered and respected prog metal (or prog rock these days, I suppose) bands in the world. Jim Matheos, band leader and guitarist, is the sole founding member remaining in the current, active line-up of the band.
Drift is essentially Matheos’ fourth foray into instrumental music, although it’s the first to carry a name other than his own. That being Tuesday The Sky. He has never hidden his love for more ambient, atmospheric melodies and has even, at times, woven them into the music of Fates Warning and OSI (his side-project with founding ex-Dream Theater keyboardist Kevin Moore). His love of guitar effects and alternative usages of its sounds has never been more evident than on Drift. I doubt the album could be more aptly titled because “drift” is exactly what one does when listening. Between the glassy fluidity of the guitar tones, the misty atmospherics, and the angelic vocalizing (used sparingly), this is an album designed to carry the listener somewhere new, safe and warm.
One of the most captivating tracks is “Vortex Street”. It has a floating guitar intro through which the voice of Anna-Lynne Williams billows like a fine mist along with the subtle electronic pulse percussion. The second half builds into a more present drum track, courtesy of God Is An Astronaut‘s Lloyd Hanney before Matheos himself delivers a poignant, short solo. “It Comes In Waves” might be closer to what one would expect from a Fates Warning guitarist’s solo album as the louder moments here could have easily come from any of their recent albums. After a few minutes swimming in an ambient, electronic ocean, the mid-section of “Dyatlov Pass” comes in crushing with some of Matheos’ heaviest riffing. “Roger, Gordo” has Kevin Moore’s presence all over it with distorted electronic rhythms and NASA field recordings of an astronaut leading a prayer for a successful mission.
The term mood music comes to mind when searching for fitting descriptors. It’s certainly music that carries a sense of wonder and unveiling over the course of a song. It builds slowly and layers carefully, all the while lulling you with its melodic magic and engulfing presence. For more specific references, think of music like that of Mogwai, or Sigur Ros, or Red Sparowes.
Tuesday the Sky’s album Drift will be released through InsideOut Records. It will be available on June 30, 2017. Pre-order it here.