Jim Matheos — Away with Words
(Metal Blade 3984-14275-2, 1999, CD)
by Sean McFee, Published 2000-10-01
This is, to the best of my knowledge, the first solo outing for Matheos, who is the guitarist and chief songwriter for progressive metal act Fates Warning. The style of that band is completely eschewed here in favor of a more contemplative, reflective work. Matheos sticks mainly to acoustic guitar, with much of the flavor coming from the violin work of Charlie Bisharat. Also helping out are Matheos' band-mate Mark Zonder on drums, as well as Michael Manring on bass. The music is completely instrumental, rarely aggressive, and sometimes beautiful. The back of the album recommends filing under "New Age/Jazz," which strikes me as a wholly inappropriate classification. I've heard little New Age with the intricate but subtle 6+4 pattern of "Mumbo Jumbo," for example. "Tongue Tied," on the other hand, sounds like good ol' hoe-down music, and one must fight the urge to punctuate the breaks with a hearty "Yee-ha!" Those who are attracted to quality instrumental work but who dislike the metal style would do well to check this out. It's definitely something best appreciated with repeated listening (in fact, on first listen I was relatively unmoved), as the hidden gems become more apparent. Jim Matheos deserves more respect in the progressive rock world, and this album might help get him some.
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