Ray Alder - What the Water Wants

Ray Alder What the Water Wants cover
Ray Alder
What the Water Wants
InsideOut Music
Ray Alder has been with Fates Warning for a while now, but as some extracurricular activities has made Jim Matheos work with former Fates vocalist John Arch for example. Alder has likewise allowed himself to be involved quite a bit with Redemption, as well as drop a couple of not so well received engine albums around the turn of the millennium. 2019 sees the release of his first “solo” album all the while Matheos seems to be involved with the second Arch/Matheos album and Fates on some downtime.
I don’t know if I’d rather see people truly taking some time off, which might not be much of an option anymore as “live performances” are the only realistic avenue through, which a musician can earn a reasonable living these days… but I digress…
Alder keeps himself busy with Mike Abdow, as his wingman, who’s the second guitar player for Fates in their live performances. Tony Hernando from Lords Of Black is also involved along with Craig Anderson from Crescent Shield, who’s stood in for Fates as well, so he’s gathered mostly musical alumni of his main band.
That being said, the result, mainly due to the distinctive vocals, often tends to remind the lyricism that he infused the band with after “No Exit”. Obviously this is not a Fates Warning album, so it would be wrong to treat it as one; it tends to be overall a lot more subdued, but in all reality that’s quite a pleasant change from Matheos busy, overtly technocratic style, no matter how appealing it can be under an entirely different context.
I find the title of the album very poignant and descriptive, as this feels like a sort of emancipation of Alder from forms he has to adhere to, with his voice like water, filling up the shapes of these new compositions.
“Lost” that opens the album, is easily a safe track, with enough rocking elements to draw in the avid Fates fan without much fanfare.
“Crown of Thorns” is more modern sounding, with a very nice bass line that dominates, but doesn’t fully define it. It’s one of the nicest tunes Alder has sung in a long while. Actually both this, as well as “Some Days” reminded me of Conception’s “Flow” with its cool melancholic lyricism. The latter is even more spartan and fragile.
“Shine” is the first of three songs that Hernando offered, and the busier and sharper guitars are an instantly observable difference… this feels a lot like a better mixed “Inside Out” leftover in a way.
“Under Dark Skies” is not bad, but I could not quite connect with it, in the way that I could with other songs.
“A Beautiful Lie” has some more shouty vocals again bringing to mind several moments from “Inside Out”, which it seems to use as a blue print. The second Hernando tune, it also features a nice solo that somehow feels a little artificially inserted in there, but doesn’t quite take the song down with it, despite sounding a little out of place.
“The Road” goes for a whole lot more ambiance and sustained melodies, with some doused ‘verbed vocals that along with a neat solo, scream Floyd.
“Wait” that follows it, enters in quite an aggressive and disruptive way, all the while it features an incredibly soft chorus. It’s the last song that Hernando contributes and again he needs to stick a busy solo in there, which he does and it’s not bad, but it makes for a song with nice parts that don’t entirely gel together, at least not as much as others do. Alder’s elastic performances act as the glue that keeps it all from falling apart here.
The title track is an introspective prog cornucopia that feels quite familiar, but also personal to Alder and cathartic at the same time, without having to resort to extremes… the same cool aspect of some of Fates finest moments, but from a different perspective.
Lastly, “The Killing Floor” is one of the more expressive moments, even slightly bordering on aggression, as most of this album is “softer”… it also gets smoother towards the end…
Certain “versions” contain an acoustic take on “The Road”, that’s not as Floyd as the original, but offers a nice, fragile perspective, twhich fits the song well and is worth seeking out.
Very nice outing and very heartfelt and honest music... worth lending an ear to.