A-Z
A-Z


3.3
great

Review

by Trey STAFF
August 20th, 2022 | 52 replies


Release Date: 08/12/2022 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Fates Warning’s Ray Alder and Mark Zonder team up with exceptional results.

So, Fates Warning apparently called it quits. There wasn’t some giant fallout or anything. Like everything else Fates Warning-related, it was a calculated decision – there was simply nothing left to say. As far as I can tell, there wasn’t even a press release about it (I discovered the news through the Fates Warning retrospective Destination Onward). Regardless, it didn’t take long for the members to move on. Guitarist Jim Matheos and Bassist Joey Vera recorded an album under Kings of Mercia, and vocalist Ray Alder re-teamed with ex-Fates Warning drummer Mark Zonder on A-Z. The promo blurb for A-Z’s self-titled album described the album as having, “a melodic, progressive and deep sound, bringing to mind the classic era of Fates Warning albums like Parallels and Pleasant Shade of Grey while recalling the hooks and melodies of Journey.”

While there is some Fates Warning influence in the riffs, A-Z is more steeped in the modern rhythmic prog of bands such as Caligula’s Horse. The first three tracks open the album in fantastic fashion. Opener “Trial of Fire” is probably the most “Fates Warning” of the songs. The opening riff is very similar to “Down to the Wire” from Inside Out. Despite the initial similarity, though, it very quickly comes into its own with an energy and edge “Down to the Wire” was lacking. Also, it is readily apparent that Mark Zonder hasn’t lost a step since those classic Fates Warning releases. The next two tracks blend a modern prog sound with big classic choruses, and really set the standard for the album.

Unfortunately, from that point on, the standard is rarely met. Instead of the big, energetic, direction of the first three songs, most of the album consists of predictable song structures, huge choruses, and a glaring lack of edge. In an interview, Mark Zonder said, ““I was thinking beer commercials, car commercials, and Cobra Kai. I wanted to have a very accessible band that would appeal to the masses and would lead to the ability to tour larger venues and build a second and third record off the success of the first. I did not want to hear things like, ‘I don’t hear a single, it is too proggy, I just don’t get it, let me listen to it a few more times’. I knew from myself and the others that I would recruit, it would have some sophisticated music parts but the big hook was the main priority.” For better or worse, that quote pretty much sums up the album.

Don’t get me wrong, there isn’t a single bad song on A-Z’s debut; they’re just not as exciting as the album’s first three tracks. The band’s steadfast commitment to accessibility simply bogs down the album with an underlying sense of predictability. Songs such as “Rise Again” with its dreamy swagger and rhythmic undercurrent features a chorus that will stick in your head, but then there’s also “Stranded” and “Sometimes” that occupy the same atmospheric ballad-ish space. Even more lively tracks such as “Run Away” and “At the Water’s Edge” end up suffering simply because their placement later in the album makes them feel less exciting than they would be on their own. The only track (after the first three) to really stand on its own within the framework of the entire album is “Borrowed Time”. It features what is easily the bands heaviest riff, their most urgent vocal delivery, innovative percussion, and a few surprise tangents – but even it suffers from a jarring switch to a big chorus.

A-Z never hid the fact that huge choruses and accessibility were going to be the main facets of their debut album; with the progressive tendencies included only where appropriate. That steadfast dedication may lead them to a larger audience, but it’s also the album’s most glaring weakness. Each song features enough highlights to hold its own, but the big choruses and moderately conventional structures begin to kill the momentum as the runtime increases -- fortunately, the individual performances and quality of specific tracks is enough to overcome a little predictability. Depending on where you stand, A-Z’s focus on accessibility could either be seen as a hindrance or a perk. However, even if you believe the accessibility to be a limitation, there is still plenty on A-Z’s debut album to make it enjoyable to anyone already missing Mark Zonder’s style and Ray Alder’s vocals.



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user ratings (20)
3.3
great

Comments:Add a Comment 
Willie
Moderator
August 20th 2022


20105 Comments

Album Rating: 3.3

Unsurprisingly, the main element holding the songs together and glossing over the minor flaws is the impressive percussion of Mark Zonder.



Check out a song.



The Far Side of the Horizon: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7F01puxt3k8

Sowing
Moderator
August 21st 2022


42628 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I didn't know Fates Warning called it quits either. I was never a huge follower of their discog but I respected them as artists. I enjoyed the song you linked ("The Far Side of the Horizon") so I might check this out. It falls under the sort of prog that I tend to vibe with (plenty of melody/catchiness, not overly cheesy).

Willie
Moderator
August 21st 2022


20105 Comments

Album Rating: 3.3

Yeah, I really don't think there was an announcement, but the book starts out talking about how the band are done. At the end of the book they talk about the final album's name and the significance since they were done. I'm like what the fuck?



This album could definitely appeal to you. Let me know if you get a chance to check it out.

Sowing
Moderator
August 21st 2022


42628 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I really liked the first track as well. I got pulled away but I'm bookmarking this to return to...

Willie
Moderator
August 21st 2022


20105 Comments

Album Rating: 3.3

Cool. Glad you're going to check it out. I think you'll like it. Fates Warning's guitarist and bassist has an album coming out you'd probably like too.

Source
August 21st 2022


19912 Comments


didn't know they disbanded wow

Willie
Moderator
August 21st 2022


20105 Comments

Album Rating: 3.3

Yep. Ray and Mark Zonder are in this, and Jim Matheos and Joey Vera have an album coming out in September called King of Mercia.

Source
August 21st 2022


19912 Comments


what i'd really like is more arch/matheos

Willie
Moderator
August 21st 2022


20105 Comments

Album Rating: 3.3

I'm sure now that there is no Fates Warning there will definitely be another Arch/Matheos release. Maybe he'll bring back the debut line-up since there won't be any confusion anymore.

Source
August 21st 2022


19912 Comments


i wonder if frank is up to anything these days

Willie
Moderator
August 21st 2022


20105 Comments

Album Rating: 3.3

According to the book, he's out of music. He partially during the dark times between Inside Out and A Pleasant Shade of Grey, but he stayed gone because he got a pretty good job as a guitar rep or something like that. That's why he only guested on albums after that, and barely did any of the band shows.

pizzamachine
August 21st 2022


21534 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Cool/dumb album cover

Purpl3Spartan
August 21st 2022


6007 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

Apple to zebra

Willie
Moderator
August 21st 2022


20105 Comments

Album Rating: 3.3

I'm not the biggest fan of the artwork or the band name. The artwork is whatever, I guess, but still not a fan. The band name, though, should have been thought through a little more. It's going to be hard to search for them online, especially since the album is self titled. I had to search for them by band name and record label or band name and either Ray Alder or Mark Zonder's name to find them.

Sowing
Moderator
August 21st 2022


42628 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

After hearing this, I definitely agree with the review. The whole thing is very solid/consistent, but the first three songs are clearly the best. I also enjoyed Window Panes, At The Water's Edge, and Borrowed Time though -- so if some of the other songs from the back half of the LP grow then this could be something special. It already feels like a 3.5, with future 4 potential. Considering I haven't bothered with too much prog recently, I definitely don't regret checking this out.

Willie
Moderator
August 21st 2022


20105 Comments

Album Rating: 3.3

Yeah, I enjoy all the songs on their own but as an album the excitement levels kind of wane as each track is just a little too safe for me. I could see it growing on you (and me) more after more listens. Glad you enjoyed it. I'll be pushing you to hear the other new ex-Fates Warning release in September ;)

pizzamachine
August 21st 2022


21534 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

They start fired up but the tracks are pretty cool.

Voivod
Staff Reviewer
August 21st 2022


9842 Comments


Album stream:
http://athruz.bandcamp.com/album/a-z

Great review, first paragraph reads so bittersweet.

Fates Warning recede, new bands emerge…

Album art follows the typical pretentious/ridiculous progressive rock/metal tropes.

Being a departure from hardcore prog metal (which I personally gave up long ago, save for a couple of bands), this should be interesting.


LouBreed
August 21st 2022


152 Comments


"It's going to be hard to search for them online, especially since the album is self titled. I had to search for them by band name and record label or band name and either Ray Alder or Mark Zonder's name to find them."

I thought there'd be trouble with searching too, but just feeding "A-Z band" to Google worked for me. Their official website is the first link to be displayed. So no, not particularly hard to find.

Willie
Moderator
August 21st 2022


20105 Comments

Album Rating: 3.3

--Being a departure from hardcore prog metal (which I personally gave up long ago, save for a couple of bands), this should be interesting.--

You'll like Jim Matheos new band, too, if that's the case.



--I thought there'd be trouble with searching too, but just feeding "A-Z band" to Google worked for me. Their official website is the first link to be displayed. So no, not particularly hard to find.--

Well... I never thought of searching for them using 'band'. Ha ha. Oops.



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