Released by: Metal Blade Records
Release Date: Out Now!!!
Ray Alder – Lead and Backing Vocals
Philip Bynoe – Bass Guitar
Vivien Lalu – Keyboards
Joop Wolters – Guitars
Mark Zonder – Drums
01. Trial by Fire
02. The Far Side of the Horizon
03. The Machine Gunner
04. Rise Again
05. Window Panes
06. Run Away
08. At the Waters Edge
09. Borrowed Time
11. The Silence Broken (Bonus Track)
I love music, otherwise, why would I be wasting my time writing about it? Nothing brings me more joy than getting new music, especially from artists I’m a fan of. It makes my “job” easier (ideally, hopefully, unless it sucks.) Of course, if you’ve read my reviews for any length of time, you know I tend to steer clear of doing much in the way of negative reviews. Maybe that makes me come off as a chump, or spineless, but there is already enough negativity out there, I prefer to keep things positive. I will offer constructive criticism, but I try to find a way to couch it positively. Of course, saying that is perhaps leading you to believe I’m about to throw down some criticism. Far from it!
A-Z is a brand-new band (not project) featuring former Fates Warning members Mark Zonder and Ray Alder on Drums and Vocals (respectively,) Philip Bynoe on Bass (former Steve Vai and Warlord,) Joop Wolters on Guitar, and Vivien Lalu on keyboards. One would expect a line-up like this to be a powerhouse Prog Metal buffet of awesomeness, and though there are some moments of Prog on their s/t debut, for the most part, this is a straightforward Hard Rock album but handled in a massively unique way. The first thing I noticed, and as a lifelong fan of Ray Alder, was that the usually melancholic Alder is inspiring and upbeat for the most part on this album. The best part of that? It is perfect!! I always knew he could sing anything, and he proves it yet again. Of course, it helps that the music is upbeat for the most part too. Zonder has always been one of the tightest and most skilled drummers on the scene so it’s no surprise that his skills are on point, and since he and Bynoe have previously worked together with Warlord they have built-in chemistry that is clear on the album. Wolters, a name I am unfamiliar with until now (he’s a Dutch multi-instrumentalist who has done mostly solo work and worked with Lalu on his project,) is a brilliant guitarist! His solos work for the song and his solos are liquid gold and so smooth. Lalu adds perfect keyboard accents to the songs that again accent the music perfectly.
I haven’t been able to stop listening to this album. Even when it’s not playing it has still been in my head. I hope this band continues. You’ve got a group of ultra-talented musicians who have come together, who are beyond capable of making some of the most mindboggling complex music but have tapped into something here that is melodic, catchy, yet hits hard, and is still brilliant in demonstrating musical skill without being a bunch of dudes just wanking on their instruments. If you’re looking for a fresh sound, A-Z s/t just may be what you’re looking for. I give it 10 out of 10
Written by: Chris Martin