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NORTH SEA ECHOES Really Good Terrible Things

By Jay Roberts, Massachusetts Contributor
Wednesday, February 21, 2024 @ 10:08 AM

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Really Good Terrible Things

Metal Blade Records - 2024

"Silence is all I speak"

When you hear that line in the context of the song "Throwing Stones", it's incredible. But in talking about the debut album Really Good Terrible Things from NORTH SEA ECHOES, silence is close to being the watchword to describe the music.

Okay, not really but this new project from FATES WARNING's guitarist Jim Matheos and singer Ray Alder certainly has a kind of moody, hushed and atmospheric quietness to a large part of the material.

Since it appears that FATES WARNING has been put to bed as far as recording any more albums after the Long Day Good Night release, I can't say I was expecting something new featuring either Alder or Matheos so soon. But with Really Good Terrible Things, the duo has put forth quite an offering.

As I said, this project is a lot different 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. Two songs have received video treatment before the official release date of Really Good Terrible Things. The first song, "Open Book", is also the first song on the track listing. 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.

The other pre-release song is called "Unmoved" and when I first saw the video I was blown away! For a song that stays mainly at a slow deliberate pace, it 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.

I mentioned the song "Throwing Stones" at the start of this review and according to press release material the song is about having a fear of happiness. I'm not sure I got that as I listened to the song before looking at the press release but going back, it does make sense. The song 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. I loved the music on this song and it ended up being a particular favorite of mine on the album. 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, I found them to be damn near perfect. Not to get all wishy-washy but I was moved by songs like "We Move Around The Sun" and the track "Flowers in Decay". While that latter song's title 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". I liked 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", I kept listening to that song and wondered why it hit home with me so much. It's got 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. Then I read the press release which describes this song as one of the favorite of Matheos. He says it is a song about a wanderer who is happiest being alone and suddenly it clicked for me why I found this to be another of my favorite tracks.

I got the album download link to do the review for this release but after listening to it multiple times, you can bet I'm getting myself a physical copy of the album as well. I really don't have anything bad to say about the album. Sure, I'm still holding out hope that there will someday be another FATES WARNING album. However, that has to be a separate thing because NORTH SEA ECHOES has given us one hell of a debut album that not only stands on its own but makes me eager to hear what a second album will sound like too.

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 TERRIFIC thing!

5.0 Out Of 5.0

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