North Sea Echoes - Really Good Terrible Things

Artist: North Sea Echoes

Album Title: Really Good Terrible Things

Label: Metal Blade Records

Date of Release: 23 February 2024

With it seemingly more and more likely that we’re never going to hear any new, original material from Fates Warning, fans of the much-loved and highly revered progressive metal band will have to look elsewhere if they are to enjoy music by any of the band’s protagonists. At the heart of Fates Warning are/were guitarist and primary songwriter Jim Matheos, and vocalist Ray Alder. And, as luck and happenstance would have it, the two have joined forces for a new musical project under the moniker of North Sea Echoes. It’s not all doom and gloom, then, for those fans who already miss Fates Warning then…or is it?

As someone who lives a few miles from the North Sea coast in East Anglia, I can attest to the fact that it’s not the nicest of seas. It’s generally a dirty brown colour, it’s chock-a-block in places with huge container vessels, wind farms, and I strongly suspect it isn’t the cleanest in terms of pollution. I say the latter whilst carefully hiding the webbing between my toes and faint green glow to my skin, having swum in the waters as a youngster. I jest, of course, and there are some nice parts to it, but it’s fair to say that large swathes of the North Sea are a bit on the underwhelming, nondescript, and inhospitable side.

Enter North Sea Echoes for, as it turns out, this musical venture is well named.

It won’t surprise you to know that I count myself amongst the number who call themselves fans of Fates Warning. However, it’s not because of this that I find myself feeling huge waves of disappointment crashing over me as I listen to ‘Really Good Terrible Things’, the debut full-length from North Sea Echoes. Yes, I’m sad to know that I’ll never hear new songs from them but it’s down to the band to make the decisions that they want, not the fans. If the musicians are happy, then great. If they are producing great music in different ways, or in different ventures, then I’m happy. I don’t necessarily want a Fates 2.0.

Having spun ‘Really Good Terrible Things’ a number of times now, though, I can only conclude that it is neither really good nor terrible. The sad fact, for me and my ears, is that overall, this album is somewhere in the middle, in the territory of ‘meh’, followed by a shrug of the shoulders.

Kudos to Jim Matheos and Ray Alder for creating a record that makes them happy, and for putting together something new. It just isn’t for me.

North Sea Echoes - Really Good Terrible Things
Photo credit: Jeremy Saffer

That said, it’s not a complete dud in my eyes, as there are a few high spots to be heard. In fact, ‘Really Good Terrible Things’ starts in positive fashion with ‘Open Book’. The dampened, picked guitar melody that kicks things off is really delightful and when Ray Alder’s distinctive voice joins the simple and catchy music, I am openly smiling. The chorus is memorable, I like the atmospheric synths that work their magic in the background, and I even rather like the bold electronic effects that come into play as the song develops.

The acoustic guitar-led ‘Unmoved’ has a certain charm to it, not least because of Alder’s emotionally charged performance, opening up his lungs on occasion to let loose those soaring tones of his. I find the pronounced electronic sounds of ‘Empty’ to be reasonably intriguing. They blend with an occasional burst of slightly heavier guitars, albeit nowhere near metal territory, not that this is a bad thing I might add; that’s not what ‘Really Good Terrible Things’ is meant to be. And there’s ‘Where I’m From’ that has a nice enough chorus to it.

The problem for me, however, is much of the rest of the material never seems like it gets out of first gear. It plods along at a sedate pace, experimenting with different sounds admittedly, but the duo seems to forget that there are listeners out there wanting to be engaged and to be entertained. I hear very little within the remainder of the songs that causes me to sit up and take note – the melodies are not potent enough, the tracks not dynamic enough, and I just end up feeling just a little bored listening to the record. And what is it about all those wibbly wobbly notes and sounds that feature within many of the songs? I’m not sure how else to describe them, but when you hear them, you’ll know to what I’m referring. They have begun to irritate me to a point where their introduction ruins any potential for further enjoyment.

Not someone who enjoys writing reviews more on the negative side, I feel it best to end things at this point. I’d try to move you away from this disc and strongly suggest that you’d be better off listening to some other much better music than that presented here by North Sea Echoes. But, perhaps, ‘Really Good Terrible Things’ just isn’t meant for me, and I may have therefore completely missed the point of it. In case this is the reality, I’d suggest you take a listen and judge for yourself. If you like it, great. But I won’t be returning, though.

The Score of Much Metal: 65%



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