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A-Z: A-Z

Reuniting Fates Warning vocalist Ray Alder with Warlord and former Fates Warning drummer Mark Zonder, A-Z doesn’t stop there when it comes to lining up some top end talent, Philip Bynoe (Warlord, Steve Vai, Nuno Bettencourt) playing bass, Joop Wolters (Steve Walsh, Simon Phillips) guitar and Vivien Lalu (Lalu) keys. Now if that’s not a collection of musicians to grab your attention, then I’m not sure what is. With Alder and Zonder very much the names fronting this act, inspiring their name and the album art, expectations will be rife for this self-titled effort to be an absolute Fates Warning fest, and yet, while this is clearly an album with strong progressive leanings, the results veer more towards melodic hard rock in many places.

That, however, proves to be no bad thing whatsoever, Alder more than capable of turning his voice to whatever comes his way, while the tremendous rhythm section ensures that even the simpler songs have plenty of interest. It’s no surprise that Zonder’s drumming is tight, and on point but it’s the way that he locks in tight with the expressive display from Bynoe that takes what could have been reasonably limp-wrested fare such as “Window Panes” and ensures instead that there’s a base from which some pretty fiery keyboard and guitar work can launch. “Trial By Fire” certainly opens the album in a more melodic vein, the overall feeling being that it could be something Jeff Scott Soto might serve up on one of his excellent heavier solo albums - the verse pulsating with power, while the chorus offers up a plethora of hooks. Add in the ultra-smooth “Rise Again” and the gritty heaviness of “Borrowed Time” and the only problem I can foresee is that A-Z might just fall in a place too heavy for some, yet not forceful enough for others. Personally I like all of the aspects brought together here and as such have no issues in proclaiming A-Z to be sure fire winners.

Track Listing
1. Trial By Fire
2. The Far Side Of The Horizon
3. The Machine Gunner
4. Rise Again
5. Window Panes
6. Run Away
7. Stranded
8. At The Waters Edge
9. Borrowed Time
10. Sometimes
11. The Silence Broken

Added: September 1st 2022
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: A-Z online
Hits: 718
Language: english

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A-Z: A-Z
Posted by Pete Pardo, SoT Staff Writer on 2022-09-03 23:44:22
My Score:

In a day and age where supergroup combinations seem to be a dime a dozen, along comes A-Z, featuring none other than Ray Alder and Mark Zonder of Fates Warning, along with bassist Philip Bynoe , keyboard player Vivien Lalu, and guitarist Joop Wolters, all notable guys in the world of prog & rock. While one would think that having Alder & Zonder together again would make A-Z a virtual Fates Warning fest, that's true in theory but not exactly in execution. Sure, having Ray's always excellent vocals and Zonder's intricate drumming will surely bring to mind albums like Perfect Symmetry and Parallels, but there's a real sense of accessibility here, A-Z lacking Fates' often times brooding arrangements in favor of soaring hooks and just enough heaviness & proggy bits to keep things interesting. "Trial By Fire" is absolutely terrific, hooks galore to go along with chugging riffs, and it doesn't stop there, as the band churns out atmospheric hard rockers like "The Far Side of the Horizon", fast paced hard rock fare in "The Machine Gunner", lush melodic rock as on "Rise Again", and dramatic prog-metal with "At the Waters Edge". Wolters adds plenty of riffs and tasty solos throughout, and Lalu also gets to toss in lots of keyboard textures and blazing runs, all of it held down masterfully by Bynoe and Zonder. Alder though is really the star here, his more restrained, melodic mid-rangevocals are simply amazing, and suit these songs so well. For those who have followed Fates Warning from the beginning, and remember his introduction to the band with all that initial high pitched wailing, his vocals here will be a revelation. Truth be told, he's been singing like this for years, but it's cool to hear a whole collection of songs like this where he can really show this side of himself. Take "Borrowed Time" as a good example of him hitting those high notes, as well as a more emotional, melodic side. Just incredible stuff from the veteran singer.

Of all the all-star collaborations I've heard in recent memory, this is one of the most notable, and leaves me constantly wanting to hit the replay button once the last song finishes. Job well done guys, and let's hope A-Z isn't a one-off project.

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