Ray Alder has been fronting US prog metallers Fates Warning since 1987, as well as a 12 year stint as vocalist for Redemption. So, with all that experience behind him within a band context, it’s something of a surprise that he’s taken this long to spread his wings and deliver a solo album. Apparently, he doesn’t regard the two Engine albums from 1999 and 2002 as solo ventures, so this is the very first Ray Alder solo album released under his own name. And ‘What the Water Wants’ is a very decent one indeed. Great, in fact!
So, how did ‘What the Water Wants’ come to be? After a chance meeting with the Lords of Black’s bassist on the metro in Madrid, he was introduced to the band’s guitarist, Tony Hernando, a massive Fates Warning fan. They evidently found some sort of mutual creative chemistry, and three songs were born from that particular collaboration. Then Fates Warning’s touring guitarist, Mike Abdow stepped in to write the other seven. Both guitarists recorded their parts, and bass for each of the songs they’d written, in their own studios, and drummer Craig Anderson, from hardcore merchants Ignite, recorded all the drums… again, remotely.
The results? Considering the remote nature of the recordings, and the two different songwriters, it’s actually a pretty cohesive sounding set of tunes, and the album has a nice flow throughout (maybe that’s what the water wants?!) It could be construed as proggy, depending on what your understanding of that perennially polysemic and sometimes paradoxical term means… but, at heart, the album’s comprised of some quality compositions that don’t succumb to any obvious genre affiliation. Genre elements are, of course present, with a rock and metal prominence on certain tracks - ‘Shine’, ‘Wait’ and ‘What the Water Wanted’ are, perhaps, as heavy as it gets… but even these are not blueprint rock or metal numbers. As I said, it’s all about the songwriting, with genre seemingly secondary. Genre idioms have been brought in for certain affect, rather than paradigmatic predominance.
Of the instrumentations - all fantastic, with guitars, bass and drums combining to bring each of the compositions to life through nicely blended layers. But this is being released as a Ray Alder solo album, so it’s apposite that the man’s expressive vocals and wonderful sense of melody are what bring a truly distinct character to each of the songs. His voice might have changed over time (that’s natural for just about every singer), and, on ‘What the Water Wants’, he sings to his strengths with a performance that’s oozing so much passion and raw emotion, be it over passages where he’s showing restraint or belting out his ever-interesting lyrics. And Alder’s produced the album himself, with great sounding results, aided by a very nice mix by Simone Mularone, where everything can be heard with unspoiled clarity, yet blended to perfection.
Alder’s first true solo venture is a winner; an album that’s all about mood-driven, quality songwriting, rather than genre regurgitation. Let’s hope he doesn’t leave it too long before getting to work on his sophomore solo record. Based on this beauty, more of the same, please, Ray!
WHAT THE WATER WANTS
Review by Mark Holmes
18th October 2019
2) Crown of Thorns
3) Some Days
5) Under Dark Skies
6) A Beautiful Lie
7) The Road
9) What Water Wanted
10) The Killing Floor
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
"...the man’s expressive vocals and wonderful sense of melody are what bring a truly distinct character to each of the songs."