NORTH SEA ECHOES (Ray Alder of Fates Warning) – Really Good Terrible Things (2024)


Ray Alder and Jim Matheos’ musical legacy is vast and lauded, both as collaborators and individuals. Alder has been the vocalist and main co-writer for prog metal heroes Fates Warning for the past 35 years. With them he has recorded 10 albums between 1988 (No Exit) and 2020 (Long Day Good Night). Further rounding out his discography are seven albums with Redemption, two solo albums, and the band A-Z with Mark Zonder, which debuted in 2022.
Prolific and pioneering guitarist/producer Matheos is a co-founder of Fates Warning, the lineup debuting with 1984’s Night on Bröcken on Metal Blade. In addition to 13 albums with Fates, Matheos’ myriad other work includes several solo albums, four albums alongside former Dream Theater keyboardist Kevin Moore, under the name OSI, and new band, Kings of Mercia, a lineup that’s been termed “a hybrid; it’s heavy, but not metal.”
Alder and Matheos now join forces for something different; their side band NORTH SEA ECHOES, presenting debut album “Really Good Terrible Things” released by Metal blade Records.
Here the duo embarks upon a fresh musical journey, a new chapter of intimate, moody, and evocative songs highlighted by songs such as “Open Book,” “Empty,” “Throwing Stones.”

“Throughout Really Good Terrible Things, Matheos and Alder serve up the kind of seductive melancholy Fates Warning fans will recognize,” says Jeff Wagner, author of the Fates Warning book Destination Onward. “Yet there’s a thoroughly different approach here: vocals are delivered with a sort of nostalgic sadness, and the guitar work is layered in such a way as to feel dreamlike. These are rich sonic landscapes, visiting places haunting, beautiful, spectral and secret. The Matheos/Alder partnership is taken to some new and wonderful places here,” Wagner concludes.

This project is a lot different than Fates Warning because so many of the songs start off with this quiet and sometimes somber delivery. It grows and changes, gets heavier or faster over the course of different songs but that measured delivery is the foundation that most of the songs are built upon. And it seems to also be built around more of an acoustic sound as well.
On opener “Open Book”, after that quiet opening with just a small bit of music playing companion to Ray Alder’s voice, there’s an undercurrent of a more driven focus to the music. While it doesn’t quite break loose, the song has a gripping intensity that keeps hold of you throughout.

For a song that stays mainly at a slow deliberate pace, “Unmoved” manages to convey a sense of urgency with the song’s lyrics and Alder’s vocal performance. And I have to say that I quite loved the guitar playing from Matheos on this track a lot.
“Throwing Stones” gets much more of a heavy sound as the track progresses. Drummer Gunner Olsen (PUSCIFER) plays a big role in that resulting heaviness.
Olsen also features heavily on the song “Empty”. In fact, as the song switches tempo back and forth, it was his drumming that really made this track stand out a lot to me. It makes for an interesting point-counterpoint with the more slow burn sections of the song. That kind of alternating tempos also fuels the song “Where I’m From”.

While the majority of the album kicks off in a slower fashion, the song “The Mission” is a faster uptempo number right from the start. It might be the song closest to sounding like it would be at home on a FATES WARNING album.
The music and lyrics for ‘Really Good Terrible Things’ seem to form their own separate landscapes but when they are combined, no matter how somber or melancholy the tone, are near perfect. While “Flowers in Decay” sounds kind of depressing when you think about it, the song has a great musical vibe throughout.
The last two tracks on the album are “Touch the Sky” and “No Maps”. We like the way Matheos and Alder took “Touch the Sky” from this slow and moody number and gave it an upswing in the music at the same time.
As for the album closing “No Maps”, ot has a powerful yet simultaneous atmospheric musical feel which is obviously the bailiwick of Matheos but then Alder’s vocalizes the song lyrics and it was just incredible.

“Really Good Terrible Things” is an album that challenges expectations and ends up not only surpassing them but turns out to be one hell of an entertaining release at the same time. It’s a really good piece of music.
NORTH SEA ECHOES shows the breadth and versatility of the acclaimed pair, along with a freshness that belies their long musical partnership and chemistry.
Highly Recommended


01 – Open Book
02 – Flowers in Decay
03 – Unmoved
04 – Throwing Stones
05 – Empty
06 – The Mission
07 – Where I’m From
08 – We Move Around the Sun
09 – Touch the Sky
10 – No Maps

Ray Alder (Fates Warning) vocals, keyboards
Jim Matheos (Fates Warning) guitars, bass, programming
Gunnar Olsen (Puscifer) drums



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