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North Sea Echoes – Really Good Terrible Things

North Sea Echoes – Really Good Terrible Things

North Sea Echoes - Really Good Terrible Things

The names Ray Alder and Jim Matheos will be familiar to many metal fans and especially those of Fates Warning. The pair have worked together for 35 years during which their band has released 10 albums. Between them they have produced a prolific body of work, for Jim this includes projects such as O.S.I., Tuesday the Sky and Kings of Mercia. In Ray’s case it is Engine and Redemption not to mention various guest appearances and solo albums.

Now they have a new project entitled North Sea Echoes and their debut album is called “Really Good Terrible Things.” This fresh musical journey is promoted as a new chapter of intimate, moody, and evocative songs. That description will come as no surprise for those who love the work of these metal giants.

For the most part, Ray and Jim are the only musicians on the album, although drummer Gunnar Olsen (Puscifer) appears on a couple of tracks. Jim’s guitarwork is layered to create an almost dreamlike effect and Ray’s vocals are delivered clearly and with sincere feeling.

Some of the early tracks started life as material for a new Tuesday the Sky album. With the birth of this new project, Jim felt they were more suited for Ray to add vocals. The first of these songs written, and the opening track is ‘Open Book.’ I find it reminiscent of material on the Fates Warning album A Pleasant Shade of Gray. The song is serene at the beginning, slowly building to settle into a gentle rhythm accompanied by Ray’s comforting and familiar voice.

The cover artwork was created by Simon Ward who also has done covers for Marillion and Kings of Mercia. The album was produced by Jim who, of course, also composed all the music with Ray writing the lyrics. There is plenty of variety in the material across the album. ‘Flowers in Decay’ has a catchy melody running through it and again an infectious rhythm driving it along. Conversely, ‘Unmoved’ is more laid back and is accompanied by a suitable video to portray the theme of the lyrics. Ray’s words regard the ability of some people with depression to conceal their pain and struggle. This is something many people have experienced at some point in their lives.

As with many albums and songs these days the subject matter often concerns mental health. On this album these tracks tend to be the softest ones, projecting the melancholy associated with such conditions. The particular illness explored in ‘Throwing Stones’ is Cherophobia, which is an irrational aversion to happiness. The drumming on this track is handled by Gunnar Olsen and that fact alone gives the song more power.

Gunnar also appears on ‘Empty’ which consequently ends up as one of the heavier and most powerful songs on the album.

That heavier ingredient stays in for the next song and ‘The Mission’ became one track that stood out for me. This is a number that could well be off a Fates Warning album, especially one of the more recent ones. It is also one of the livelier and catchy tracks albeit quite short, but then none of the tracks are particularly long.

Photo Credit – Jeremy Saffer

Every track is subtly different from each other and any Fates Warning material but there are no real surprises. It is all what you might expect from one of Jim Matheos’s more ambient projects. There is, however, an experimental feel to ‘Where I’m From’ and after the last few livelier tracks, the pace has slowed again. The fact that you can make out every word that Ray sings makes the experience a much fuller one. Happily, that does apply to all the tracks, not just this one.

Some of the songs come close to being ballads, but a strong candidate must be ‘We Move Around the Sun.’ It has an ethereal touch to it and seems in no hurry to spoil that. Even when it starts to gather momentum toward the end, it never really makes it out of first gear. The penultimate track ‘Touch the Sky’ is more upbeat but still with that dreamlike feeling about it. Jim lays down multiple layers of guitar tracks to achieve this and Ray puts in a strong delivery to compliment it.

The album finishes with one of Jim’s favourite songs. He had a concept for ‘No Maps’ inspired by the sound of a freight train on the original demo version. This element did not make it onto the album, but it reminded him of hobos. Based on this Ray wrote about a wanderer who is happiest being alone. He considered this “Kind of romantic to me, in a weird way.” It is a gentle and thought-provoking song that eases the listener to the end of this rather beautiful album.

If you are a fan of Fates Warning and/or Jim and Ray’s side projects, this is an unmissable addition for your collection. It should appeal to many people, and I would be surprised if this is the last of North Sea Echoes. There will surely be a demand for more.


  1. Open Book
  2. Flowers in Decay
  3. Unmoved
  4. Throwing Stones
  5. Empty
  6. The Mission
  7. Where I’m From
  8. We Move Around the Sun
  9. Touch the Sky
  10. No Maps

About the Author


I’m Bob, I hail from Robin Hood country (Nottinghamshire) in the UK. Rock and Metal music has played a big part in my life for many years. From playing guitar in local bands, to attending dozens of Festivals and countless concerts. I have been taking photos at gigs (whenever possible) for a number of years now, and as the camera gear has got better so have the photos. I continue to seek out new Bands and tend to prefer the more technical and heavy stuff these days. I live with my wife Sarah, who fortunately likes the heavy bands as well, and our cats who have to listen to it, whether they like it or not. Apart from gigs and photography (not just concerts) I also enjoy hill walking, films and discovering new beers (and drinking them).

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