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A-Z - A-Z

by Kevin Lewis at 20 September 2022, 11:47 AM

A – Z is a multinational band with an all-star ensemble. On the ends of the alphabet are Ray Alder and Mark Zonder, hence the name. their self-titled debut album was released on August 12, 2022, via Metal Blade Records. Firmly locked into the Progressive Metal genre, much like Ray and Mark’s other band, FATES WARNING, you can hear the influence on this project. There is a lot of Hard Rock and Melodic Rock present as well.

The record opens with a song on the heavier side of the album, “Trial by Fire.” The vocals are signature Ray Alder, and the drums could not be more Mark Zonder. The guitars do sound much like what you would expect from FATES WARNING through the verses, but the chorus shifts away from that. This is a good song but sounds pretty “stock standard” for those two specific musicians.

The Far Side of The Horizon” starts with a tambourine and a Proggy drum intro. The guitar riff is pretty tasty with a cool chugging rhythm. The vocal delivery Is classic Ray Alder. His voice is very recognizable, both in tone and cadence. “Machine Gunner” is a more upbeat song, both in tempo and tuning. There is some really cool bass work in this one and the keyboard/guitar solo trade off is pretty legendary.

Rise Again” and “Run Away” both are more mid-tempo rockers, straying away from the heavier tones on much of the record. “Stranded” goes to more of a power ballad style. All of these songs have heavy sections with powerful, belted vocals, but the core of the song is softer, even if the lyrical content is not all that happy.

At The Waters Edge” has a short Electronica type intro, but quickly goes into the Melodic Rock track. The guitar leads and fills are more ethereal, diverging from a fairly heavy riff. “Sometimes” is another lighter song with an ambient tone from the start that gets heavier in some sections, but never really goes over the metal edge.

Window Panes” and “Borrowed Time” are two of the heavier songs on the record. The riffs are really solid, and the bass/drum combination is pretty stunning. The Progressive Metal attitude shines through on the rhythms of these tracks, especially at the bridges. The last song, “The Silence Broken” is a bonus track that shifts back to a more Hard Rock atmosphere.

A – Z is a solid band. They do sound a lot like FATES WARNING in some respects, but there is enough difference for the two to stand on their own merits. There is no doubt who is singing. Ray is a voice I recognize and have for the last 30 years.

This is a band that can support his vocal stylings well and fit with his personality as well as his voice. Joop and Vivien are solid guitarists, working together well, fusing into a cohesive unit that can make sure there is plenty of killer sound issuing from their instruments. Mark and Philip are an amazing team. They play together at times, but there are also points where they are each doing something different, working through the song to accent or highlight different aspects of the guitar work or vocals.

This is a solid album with good songwriting and precise instrumentation. It is an album fans of Progressive Hard Rock/Metal will be able to appreciate. It is not too far gone from some of the other projects some of the members have teamed up for. It is good to hear some familiar people working with different musicians just to hear how the basics can fit into multiple units to create good music.

Songwriting:  8
Musicianship:  9
Memorability:  8
Production:  8

4 Star Rating

1. Trial by Fire
2. The Far Side of The Horizon
3. The Machine Gunner
4. Rise Again
5. Windowpanes
6. Run Away
7. Stranded
8. At the Water’s Edge
9. Borrowed Time
10. Sometimes
11. The Silence Broken (Bonus Track)
Ray Alder – Vocals
Philip Bynoe – Bass
Mark Zonder – Drums
Joop Wolters – Guitar
Vivien Lalu – Guitar
Record Label: Metal Blade Records


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