Behind The Album: A-Z (Alder-Zonder)

Keavin Wiggins | 08-11-2022

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A-Z Album cover art
Album cover art

A-Z (Alder-Zonder) released their brand new self-titled album this week, and to celebrate we asked Mark Zonder (Fates Warning/Warlord) to tell us about the record. Here is Mark:

The first song is Trial by Fire. It's a very commercial song with a big hook and really great playing. It's a really strong arena-rock type tune to bring people in. It doesn't alienate anyone and doesn't put the band in any certain light. It's not a prog band, not a jazz band. Just a great rock tune. This was our second video single.

Track two is The Far Side of the Horizon. A really heavy drum beat that incorporates electronics and acoustics. If this band is progressive, this is the progressive song. It has various parts, flows really well, great chorus and shows like a big-time rock band that has a progressive tendency to it.

The third song was our first single and video, The Machine Gunner. It's straight up Van Halen meets Iron Maiden. Three minutes and thirty three seconds that kick you in the face and knock the door down. Great vocals, and great leads from both the keyboard (Vivien Lalu) and guitar (Joop Wolters). Just a really strong song. Absolutely love the bass playing.

Then we have Rise Again. It's a softer song, ballady. It was one of the first songs Viv and I wrote. It starts with an electronic drum pattern that goes throughout the song. It's a unique arrangement that takes a minute to get to the chorus, but it is a home-run chorus. Everybody gets it.

Up next is Window Panes. This one has a heavy, driving rhythm, with an offbeat china. The verses are nice and smooth. We tried to incorporate the grooves, the dynamics, and the smoothness. It's just feeling good with the song; something anyone can tap their foot to. Great lead playing and perfect for coming out of a nice, slow ballad.

Run Away is next and people will think Mark likes the drum intro the best. My favorite part is actually the verse patterns. It's a double hi hat type of thing with a smooth R&B thing happening. Ray falls right into it. Great vocal performance that captures the essence of the song. Great, hooky chorus. Someone should hear it one time and really remember that song. Great toe-tapping song.

The seventh song is Stranded. There is an Island vibe in the beginning and I use an electronic drum kit to create those sounds. Then it kicks into a driving, nice power ballad type of chorus. It comes out dynamically nice and smooth. The very end, I'm not going to say it is Freebird, but all of a sudden you have this nice ballad and the end comes and it really starts rocking out. Sets up with 16-bar accents and kicks into a driving groove where Ray is singing a repetitive line over and over driving the song home. It will be fun to play live and will get people off their seats. This is Ray's favorite song.

Then we have At The Water's Edge. One of the first songs Viv and I wrote and it almost didn't make the record. I came from the school where the choruses are heavy and big and grandiose, but the verses are kind of mellow. Ray comes in where I thought the chorus should start on the heavier part and he is singing the verse. And when the verse drops down Ray is singing this beautiful chorus with the harmonies and melodies. It is great. Catches you totally off guard, Ray did that the whole record.

For Borrowed Time we thought, 'What's missing from this record? We need something heavy and driving to kind of round out the record. I recorded different grooves at 92 beats per minute and we worked up Borrowed Time. Playing at 92 you get a nice, half time groove but when you double time it you create a really up tempo, really feel-good kind of chorus. The song has super dynamics, down and dirty trudging along then it hits the chorus and Ray did an amazing job with the lyrics, melody lines and the harmonies. Really solid song. Viv has a cool sound effect in the beginning he came up with.

The 10th song is Sometimes. It has a Steve Gadd / Jeff Porcaro kind of soft groove. I played with multi rods, just trying to create the motion in the background. Ray did an amazing job with vocals, the bass is incredible, instrumentation is great. It uses different styles. There is a section in the middle that comes out of nowhere and slams pretty good.

The last song is The Silence Broken. It's the feel-good hit of the summer. You can't help but grab it. There aren't a lot of parts, we're not going left and right and getting crazy. It's an arena rock song to get people off their feet. Ray is singing to the people and I know they are going to get it. I can see Ray selling this one in a major way. Another song where the groove incorporates both the electronic and acoustic drums together as nothing on this record was sequenced or programmed.

Hearing is believing. Now that you know the story behind the album, watch the video for the song "Trial By Fire" for yourself below and stream the full album here

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