Anyone who has read my feckless ramblings on the message board knows that I have a problem with clean vocalists in metal. Some of that talk is hyperbole, but most of it is not. Clean vocals are a very tough thing to pull off: too much “technique” and you sound utterly phony, forced, and trite; not enough and you sound flat and washed out. It’s a hard balance, and most singers who try don’t get it. John Arch has a clean style, and he has a decent technique, but he also relies on it a little too much. As ex-vocalist for Fates Warning, you may be familiar with that style already – sometimes very honest, sometimes very overdone, and unfortunately more nasally than powerful, but always on key. It sounds best when the music is full bore; it doesn’t satisfy when things get too mellow. Obviously, though, it’s the voice of a veteran singer with confidence. A supergroup of sorts, this two song CD features Arch and some serious power/prog metal vets – Jim Matheos (guitar, Fates Warning), Joey Vera (bass, Armored Saint/Fates Warning/Engine/Seven Witches), and Mike Portnoy (drums, Dream Theater and a million others), and they make some serious power/prog metal. Very focused and tasteful performances mark the musical side of this project, although the songwriting is a little heavy on the melodrama. They do underplay it, though, and it’s a good thing – any more self flattery and the songs would drag. The first cut, “Relentless”, keeps the pace moving and the mood dark, lending itself to Mr. Arch’s tenor and dramatic style well enough. It’s the edgier of the two songs and just seems better thought out. Tempo changes, heavy and lighter parts, and good interplay between the musicians makes this a fairly good listen. The second track is more melodramatic, and not as successful. It has the feel of an anthemic power ballad sometimes, but also tends to drift into melancholia and lose itself. Fifteen minutes is a long time to keep a track going, however good it might be, and this track isn’t all that great to begin with. The opening keys just scream . . . well, crappy sounding keyboards, really – cheesy and unnecessary. Once the actual tune kicks in, things nearly get on track. It’s a light, acoustic opening and it keeps you with it up until the very, VERY 80’s riffing starts. After that, the song wanders around from idea to idea without any real feeling of completeness or direction. Again, the song is very well played, understated and competent, but is just unable to retain attention. Bottom line: This is for fans of John Arch and people who fondly recall, say, Queensryche’s less exciting moments. I can’t see myself listening to this more than about once a year, if that.