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Arch / Matheos - 'Sympathetic Resonance' (metalblade) 4.5/5

This is a rather interesting one. Arch/Matheos are a brand new prog metal outfit formed around the core of former Fates Warning duo John Arch and Jim Matheos along with ex Armored Saint bassist Joey Vera, former Halford drummer and current Sebastian Bach sidekick Bobby Jarzombek and another former Fates Warning guy, Frank Aresti on the six string.

Now with that kind of talent lined up you would be expecting Sympathetic Resonance to be something worth checking out,  and you would be right. Opening with the eleven minute epic Neurotically Wired, this album is as fine a slice of prog-metal as you'll hear anywhere. When its prog it drips all the power and variety you'd expect to find on any Pallas or Pendragon album, when its metal it has all the balls of classic Armored Saint and when they combine the two you have a sound that Dream Theater would be proud of.

There are six songs on offer here three of which weigh in at way over the 10 minute mark and shortest one is still well over five. Yet at no point do they fail to hold the interest. Midnight Serenade is a fabulous slice of moody broody musical darkness that comes over a bit like Mercyful Fate without the faux operatic vocals. The thirteen minute epic Stained Glass Sky is a real classic in the making, with an expertly performed four minute intro before the vocals cut in and comes over like a beefed up Canterbury era Diamond Head. Any Given Day (Strangers Like Me) sounds not unlike Helloween on an Emerson Lake and Palmer trip, whilst closer Incense and Myrrh ( a light weight at a mere five and a half minutes) features a beautiful acoustic opening section that resolves to a wonderfully slick anthem for our time.

 Over all this is a damn fine record, one of the best prog metal releases of the past few years and is a must buy for proggers and metal heads alike.

 for fans of... Fates Warning, Dream Theater, Pendragon, Demon, Evergrey etc

House Of Lords - 'Big Money' (frontiers records) 2.5/5

OK, for those who don't know, a quick history lesson. Back in the 70's there was an American pomp rock outfit called Angel, rock gods in the US, virtual unknowns in Europe, They split in the early 80's and keys player Greg Guffria put his own outfit together under the name Guffria. Two albums later a certain Gene Simmonds decided to sign them to his own label and got them to change the name to House of Lords and brought in vocalist James Christian. From the late 80's til the early 90's they put out a string of three very high quality soft metal albums, made distinctive by Guffiras sharp and edgy synth work, Christians husky but sweet vocalisations and some first rate song writing. The band split in 1993, but since then there have been several reformations with numerous personnel changes.

Which brings us to the bands latest reincarnation and their latest studio release Big Money. Now right from the off you can tell there is something vital missing on this album. House of Lords was always Greg Guffiras band in all but name, it was his song writing and inspired synth playing that made them stand out from the crowd. And sadly Mr Guffira is not involved in this latest incarnation of the band. His replacement, Jeff Kent does a fair job, and on a couple of tracks, most noticeably the songs  Living In A Dream World and Run For Your Life, he does manage to keep the classic of spirit of House of Lords alive, these are two tracks that retain all the majesty and epic soundscapes that made House of Lords a stand out outfit.

But sadly two good songs do not a good album make. The rest of this opus is to be honest a big disappointment. The rest of the tracks are fairly limp hair metal headbangers meets light weight stadium rock anthems, that sound over all like a collection of Warrent b-sides; forgettable, uninspiring and to be honest not very good. Big Money, One Man Down, Hologram, Once Twice... all the rest is a catalogue of disappointment. However the real let down comes from the power ballad, The Next Time I Hold You, one of the most cliche soft-rock-love-song-by-numbers I've ever had the misfortune of hearing, a song that is so sickly it could possibly induce type 2 diabetes in the listener. And it's made all the worse by the fact it's coming from the band who recorded Remember My Name, one of the greatest rock ballads of all time.

Don't get me wrong, this album is well performed by talented musicians, but House Of Lords set themselves a very very high standard over those early albums and Big Money comes nowhere near to the standard the band themselves set.

For fans only

for fans of... Saga, Styx, Loverboy Warrent