Review Summary: Ray Alder's first solo album is a chill, classy, showcase of his superb vocal ability. Just don't expect any prog.
I’ve been a fan of Ray Alder’s vocals ever since I first heard them on Parallels
. I’ve followed him as he slowly transitioned from the higher registers to the more manageable mid-range he currently occupies. It was his addition to Redemption that first prompted me to check them out, and it was his voice that carried the modern metal stylings of the two Engine albums. I say this to make it clear that What the Water Wants
is for people like me – fans of Ray Alder’s vocals. I say this so people don’t come into this album expecting the proggy power metal of Redemption or the moody prog of Fates Warning – and it’s definitely not a third try at Engine. Ray Alder’s first solo release is an album full of chill, atmospheric, tracks that barely even flirt with progressive metal in any traditional sense. Instead, the music of What the Water Wants
generally sticks to one interesting idea while providing solid support for the star of the show – the man whose name is on the album cover.
In hindsight, using “What the Water Wanted” as the album’s first single might not have been the best of ideas. The riff-heavy track is definitely an excellent song, but between the energy levels and metal angle, it definitely does not represent the album. Granted, it features two staples of the album – chorus-heavy songs carried by Ray Alder’s excellent vocals, and a streamlined musical approach – but in every other way it is unique. Opening track, “Lost”, would have been a much better lead single, if only to give fans a better idea of what to expect. “Lost” is chill without being lethargic, featuring creative musicianship while never becoming self-indulgent. The main draw, as with every song here, is Ray’s vocals which even carry a bit of grit during the chorus. It’s hard to give much more of a description beyond what I’ve already said. A majority of What the Water Wants
sits somewhere around “mellow and chill” and “moving but chill” with only a few exceptions. Despite that description, though, the album is still pretty damn good thanks to the little cool musical flourishes (such as the cyclical bass line on “Crown of Thorns), and the solid songwriting and vocals courtesy of Ray Alder.
In recent interviews, Ray has expressed a desire to not have his first solo release sound like just another Fates Warning album, and I think he accomplished that. What the Water Wants
is definitely moody, but it approaches that feel from a more atmospheric and chill direction. The music features stellar musicianship without ever having to show off. Instead, each song seems to feature one or two cool ideas that Ray Alder uses to deliver some of the most vocal-centric songs of his career; complete with some of his most immediate hooks and memorable vocal melodies. On first listen, some fans may be surprised by just how mellow a majority of What the Water Wants
is, but they should also find themselves replaying Ray’s vocal melodies in their head and wanting to come back for more.