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Ray Alder - What the Water Wants CD (album) cover


Ray Alder

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3 stars "What The Water Wants" is the debut full-length studio album by US heavy rock/metal artist Ray Alder. The album was released through InsideOutMusic in October 2019. While this is Alderīs first solo album, he is of course a seasoned and highly respected singer credited with performing vocals on many albums by Fates Warning, Redemption, and Engine.

Itīs always interesting to hear which music style a musician chooses for his solo albums, when you are used to listening to a relatively specific style of music on his main projects. In the case of Fates Warning and Redemption thatīs progressive metal. The material on "What The Water Wants" is generally not as complex or as challenging as the material on Alderīs other projects, and the overall music style is a melodic type of heavy rock/metal with Alderīs strong voice and vocals in front. If I have to compare "What The Water Wants" to anything Alder has been involved in before, it would be "Parallels (1991)" by Fates Warning, but minus Mark Zonderīs busy off-beat drumming and the semi-progressive tendencies of that album.

The material on the 10 track, 46:03 minutes long album (some versions feature "The Road" in an acoustic version as a bonus track) are well written, melodic, and catchy. Itīs a long time since weīve heard Alder sing anything this melodic and memorable. Fates Warning have experimented a lot with their vocal melody lines since the start of the new millenium, and Alderīs qualities and melodic sensivity havenīt always come to their right in that soundscape. On "What The Water Wants" the listener is treated to Alder in all his melodic glory though and to fans of early 90s Fates Warning this is definitely a recommended listen. Alder has assembled a strong lineup of skilled musicians, who perform the songs in the right supportive way, to make sure that Alderīs vocals shine, but also with the right amount of passion and conviction, which means they arenīt "just" a backing band, who donīt contribute anything to the songs.

One of the things I noticed after listening to the album is how tasteful everything is delivered. Thereīs not one unnessesary note or drum fill featured on "What The Water Wants" and the tracks are all pleasant and memorable. Itīs a consistent release both in terms of musical direction and quality. One of the highlights to my ears is "The Road", which is a slow building but ultimately very powerful and beautiful song, but there arenīt any weak tracks on the album. The album is well produced too, featuring a clear and detailed sound production, and upon conclusion itīs a quality first solo release by Ray Alder. A 3.5 star (70%) rating is deserved.

(Originally posted on Metal Music Archives)

Report this review (#2491620)
Posted Saturday, January 9, 2021 | Review Permalink
5 stars It's safe to say that Fates Warning frontman Ray Alder has made a splash with his first solo album, What the Water Wants. A big splash. So grab a towel. Because you're going to get very wet when immersing yourself in these 10 tracks -- whether you're drenched from headbanging, flooded with incredible melodies, or engulfed in emotion when the heartfelt lyrics hit you like a tidal wave. But enough with the water puns. Let's talk about the tunes.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I should note I'm a huge fan of the legendary progressive metal band Fates Warning, but regardless of what genre of music you like it's hard not to dig this disc right from the get-go. The opener, "Lost," is a solid rocker that lays the foundation for what's to come and shows you what these gifted musicians are capable of as a collective. You got your gorgeous vocals from Mr. Alder (including a bit of a gritty tone in the chorus), the exquisite guitarwork of Fates Warning's touring guitarist Mike Abdow, and some very impressive drumming from Craig Anderson of the California-based hardcore band Ignite. From there, the album jumps into the mid-tempo "Crown of Thorns," which has more of Alder's soaring vocals accompanied by a catchy recurring bassline performed by Abdow. Incidentally, Abdow plays both guitar and bass on the seven songs he co-wrote with Alder, while guitar and bass on three tracks were performed by the album's second co-songwriter: Tony Hernando, who is a founding guitarist of the Spanish power metal band Lords of Black.

By the middle of the album, it's obvious the songs have a nice mix of dynamics and tempos, ranging from blistering toe-tappers like "A Beautiful Lie" to haunting ballads like "The Road." Speaking of "A Beautiful Lie," it's one of three tunes co-written by Hernando, and it's likely my favorite of the group. It feels like it could've easily fit on Fates Warning's 1994 album Inside Out. And as for "The Road," it's a delicate tune that for me feels like the album's centerpiece, complete with an electric harp played by New York City-based keyboardist Katie Pachnos. Some listeners have said Alder's record reminds them of Queensrĸche's 1994 album Promised Land (which is my all-time favorite album), and if I had to select one song to best fit on that melancholy masterpiece it's "The Road." By the way, there's also a bonus track version of the Alder album with an acoustic rendition of this piece. Don't miss it.

Other highlights include "Wait," which is another one of Hernando's heavy songs, as well as "What the Water Wanted," which was the first tune shared from the album before its release on Inside Out Music. Both could certainly warrant lots of radio play on mainstream stations. Then there's the closing song, "The Killing Floor." The Abdow/Alder duo really went out with a bang here. This tune might be the best of the bunch between Abdow's scorching solo and Alder's introspective lyrics that tell the listener not to waste time "wandering through emptied rooms where traces of your past linger." But, despite the occasional gloom, Alder manages to end the record on a hopeful note: "Embrace the change; Move on; It's over now; Just go..."

I should also note the disc was mixed and mastered by the very talented Simone Mularoni, who is the guitarist of the Italian progressive metal band DGM. He definitely did a great job, because these songs sound outstanding. And let's not overlook the cover artwork of Cecilia Garrido Stratta, who is Alder's wife. She crafted an abstract graphic of water with splattered red spots (presumably blood). It's understated and simple, yet deep and thought- provoking. And it's the perfect image for such a collection of contemplative tunes. Well done, Cecilia.

All in all, I enjoyed the album so much that it left me with the following questions: How long will we have to wait for another solo album from Alder, and how can Fates Warning start to incorporate the songwriting of Mike Abdow? But, that aside, I'm mostly left with gratitude. Gratitude for a new album of emotionally powerful songs featuring the one and only Alder.

- Michael R. Ebert (

Report this review (#2492238)
Posted Saturday, January 9, 2021 | Review Permalink

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