"A-Z" (Metal Blade; 2022)

Reviewed by R. Scott Bolton

This self-titled album by A-Z is a bit of a surprise when you see that it's released through the legendary Metal Blade label (home of Cattle Decapitation and others). While the album can certainly qualify as hard rock, calling it heavy metal would be a stretch. But when you find out that this is a new project led by Ray Alder & Mark Zonder from the legendary Fates Warning, it all makes a little more sense.

A-Z, the band and the album, have a melodic hard rock feel that borders on progressive but plays more like the cleanest hard rock album you've heard in some time. The musicianship is outstanding (as you might expect) and the songwriting big and the vocals soaring and well, beautiful. Each track is perfectly performed and produced and surrounds the listener like a blanket.

My favorite tracks were the pumping "The Machine Gunner" with its driving rhythm; the crunchy and catchy "Window Panes;" and the heavy punch of "At the Waters' Edge." And the bonus track, "The Silence Broken," is a rich, engrossing number as well.

Don't get me wrong. "A-Z" does have its progressive elements. In fact, here and there, the music reminded of bands like Toto. But a heavier version of Toto, if you get my meaning.

Bottom line here is that A-Z's self-titled album is a winner, a complex, rich and delightful listening experience that will hold your attention throughout. Does it sound like Fates Warning? No, not really. A-Z is its own animal and that's the way it should be.

A-Z: Ray Alder; Mark Zonder; Philip Bynoe; Vivien Lalu and Joop Wolters.

For more information, check out https://www.facebook.com/AbigailAffairOfficial.

Rating Guide:

A classic. This record will kick your ass.

Killer. Not a classic but it will rock your world.

So-so. You've heard better.

Pretty bad. Might make a nice coaster.

Self explanatory. Just the sight of the cover makes you wanna hurl.

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