AMN Reviews: Jim Matheos – Halo Effect (2014; Burning Shed)

large4212Jim Matheos is the leader of the seminal 80’s progressive metal group Fates Warning, and has lent his guitar and writing skills to a number of other efforts, including the notable Arch / Matheos album from 2011 (AMN review here). On Halo Effect, released this February on the Burning Shed label, Matheos dabbles for the first time with multi-tracked experimental guitar. He explains, “There are no keyboards or sound effects on this recording. All the sounds were created by an acoustic guitar (for those interested in such things, a 1973 Alvarez classical with very old strings) which has been digitally processed to varying degrees, sometimes minimally, other times until the original signal is unrecognizable.”

Freed from the formula of metal riffing and soloing, Matheos successfully explores ambient and electronic soundscapes. Perhaps a good referential starting point would be Phaedra-era Tangerine Dream, but with a modern lo-fi twist. On some tracks, Matheos lays down a simple, repetitive rhythm, and lets two or three voices drone or undulate on top of that. Other efforts are more ominous, with a late 90’s Robert Rich darkness to them.  Indeed, many of the sounds on the album do resemble that of a keyboard or synth, and the melodies are often thick, wavering and sprinkled with static.  On just a pair of tracks something reminiscent of guitar picking can be heard, but with appropriate weirdness intertwined therein.

Halo Effect could easily be the soundtrack to a twisted, cerebral science fiction movie, and is not something one would expect from a metal guitarist. But then, Matheos has never been the stereotypical headbanger.  This is a truly singular recording, with a freshness that is often absent from solo albums. The main difficulty to Halo Effect is its lack of availability. You can order a CDr from Burning Shed or download it from that label. It is not offered, so far, by the usual digital resources.

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