It’s been a long time in the making but at long last here comes the debut album by A-Z spreading joy and absolute satisfaction not only to the Fates Warning fans but all those who appreciate high-quality prog rock music. In case you are wondering A-Z is Mark Zonder’s brainchild; he was the one who set the wheels in motion back in early 2020 and he was the one who asked his old friend, Ray Alder, to sing on the album. Bassist-extraordinaire Philip Bynoe along with Joop Walters (guitar) and Vivien Lalu (keyboards) complete the illustrious line-up.
Naturally, the names of Zonder and Alder alone create expectations for a pure prog rock album but let me tell you that the self-titled recording effort by A-Z is comprised of a multidimensional bunch of songs. Yes, it goes without saying that there is a clear progressive aesthetic throughout the record due to Mark Zonder’s unique style but all in all the songs are more straightforward and the openly revolve around the melodic hard rock genre. Actually, it wouldn’t be out of place if we’d say that the album sometimes bring in mind the more commercial approach of Rush and Kansas that was so obvious in their 80s offerings. Also, a more careful listener will surely notice a few Fates Warning elements in there (for instance, “Borrowed Time” has something of the “Disconnected” aura while “Window Panes” wouldn’t be out of place in “Inside Out”). Having said that, A-Z manages to leave their own stamp on songs like “Trial By Fire”, “The Machine Gunner” and “Stranded” which is one of the most beautiful songs on the record.
Being a longtime Fates Warning fan myself and a real supporter of Zonder’s and Alder’s career in general, I would not only recommend A-Z due to the sheer power of the names of those artists but for the top quality level of the songs themselves and the flawless musicianship in the studio. Hopefully, this won’t be an one-off thing and we would be treated with more records by A-Z. Trust us when we are saying, this is one of the best albums of 2022.
Highlight: Please, take notice at the overall song arrangement so as to track down various, unique and groundbreaking techniques by Zonder.