September 28, 2022

AZ – AZ Review – Your online magazine for hard rock and heavy metal

Published by: Metal Blade Records

Release date: Available now!!!

Genre: Rock/Metal


Line up:

Ray Alder – lead and backing vocals
Philip Bynoe – bass guitar
Vivien Lalu – Keyboards
Joop Wolters – Guitars
Mark Zonder – Drums

List of tracks:

01. Ordeal by Fire
02. Across the Horizon
03. The Gunner
04. Get Up
05. Window panes
06. Run Away
07. Failed
08. By the water
09. Borrowed Time
10. Sometimes
11. The Broken Silence (Bonus Track)

I love music, otherwise why would I waste 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 a while, you know I tend to shy away from doing a lot negative reviews. Maybe that makes me feel like an idiot or a coward, but there’s enough negativity out there already, I prefer to keep things positive. I will offer constructive criticism, but I try to find a way to phrase it positively. Of course, saying that might lead you to believe I’m about to sling criticism. Far from there!

AZ are a brand new band (no project) with 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. You’d expect a line-up like this to be an awesome Prog Metal buffet, and while there are a few Prog moments on their s/t debut, for the most part, it’s a simple Hard Rock album but handled in a massively unique way. The first thing I noticed, and as a lifelong Ray Alder fan, is that the usually melancholy Alder is uplifting and upbeat for the most part on this album. The best part of this? He is perfect!! I always knew he could sing anything, and he proves it again. Of course, it also helps that the music is upbeat for the most part. Zonder has always been one of the tightest and most talented drummers on the scene, so it’s no surprise his skills are on point, and since he and Bynoe have worked with Warlord before, they have a built-in chemistry that is clear on the album. Wolters, a name I didn’t know until now (he’s a Dutch multi-instrumentalist who mostly worked solo 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 sweet. Lalu adds perfect keyboard accents to songs which accentuate the music again perfectly.

I couldn’t stop listening to this album. Even when it’s not playing, it stays in my head. I hope this group will continue. You’ve got a group of ultra-talented musicians who have come together who are beyond capable of making some of the most mind-blowing complex music, but who have tapped into something here that’s melodic, catchy, but hits hard, and is still brilliant at demonstrating musical skills without being a bunch of dudes who just jerk off to their instruments. If you are looking for a new sound, AZ s/t might be what you are looking for. I give it 10 out of 10

Written by: Chris Martin

Rating: 10/10

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