Genre: Rock: Progressive Rock
Release Date: 2011
ARZ is the moniker for the two man progressive rock: guitarist/singer Steve Adams and drummer Merrill Hale. The two Portland, OR area musicians met and cemented their relationship while they were members of the local Yes tribute act, All Good People (AGP). ARZ had previously been Adams’s one man instrumental tour de force (playing all guitars, bass and programmed drums) and releasing four solo CD’s, two from 2005 Serai and The Magi, and The Last Kingdom and Solomon’s Key from 2007. These recordings present the guitarist’s wide ranging influences from classical to hard rock and metal, with an emphasis on unison riffing and balanced songwriting and arrangements.
Upon the demise of AGP, Adams established a kindred relationship with Hale based on the two’s passion for classic progressive rock and creating their own vocal based originals. Adams had been looking to revisit his ARZ project with the right chemistry to craft pieces focused on complex arrangements, but with a more direct approach. The result can be heard specifically on Solomon’s Key (ARZ’ 4th album) that features Hale’s hand and footwork on the title track and on “Burning Bush”. The percussionist fits the bill as Adam’s right hand man and prime collaborator coming from the Barriemore Barlow (Jethro Tull)/Danny Carey (Tool) school of the cerebral and progressive drumming style. The duo’s focus is on par with stripped down acts such as the Benevento Russo Duo who rely exclusively on electronics and musician interplay to get their point across to audience.
On their new album Turn of the Tide, new pieces such as “Hope and Glory” revive the passion of vintage Emerson, Lake and Palmer, while other tracks such as “Light the Sky” and “Birth of a Hero” present Adam’s as a competent singer drawing from influences such as Rush and Jethro Tull. Hale says that the new album showcases the duo’s dexterity and complementary composition styles.
“When we first started writing Turn of the Tide back in 2009, we wanted to write songs that we could perform live as a duo. We used MIDI extensively for this, including pre-programming MIDI sequences to be triggered in real time using an electronic drum pad. We finished our demo recordings in 2009. But some of the early feedback we got from our fans and critics was that the music could be better served with a real bass guitar. We decided at that point that instead of focusing on being able to play the songs live, we would focus on producing a high quality recording. The finished versions of our songs have fuller instrumentation than our original demos. Since Steve and my influences are so similar (ELP, Rush, and Yes) we tend to write in a very compatible style, and I think that our sound really gels in Turn of the Tide.”
For Steve Adams, Turn of the Tide represents the final manifestation of his creative dreams. “Since my childhood I was caught between pursuing writing (short stories, poetry) and music as a potential career. Music became more natural to me as time went on; however, all of what I had read engaged me in wanting to write music that reflected my literary experience. Sometimes the reverse would occur; on hearing Respighi’s “The Pines of Rome” for the first time (early childhood) I would act out the music with my brother – some outlandish scenario about Statues coming alive – silly stuff but obviously the passion was there. I always wanted to create music that adequately addressed my literary obsessions. I see them more as two branches from the same source.”