ARZ is the name of the two-man progressive rock group from Portland, Oregon, and the two men in this band are guitarist/singer Steve Adams and drummer Merrill Hale. Steve and Merrill cemented their relationship after meeting while they were members of a Yes tribute band called All Good People.
ARZ had previously been Adams’s one-man instrumental tour de force (back then, Steve played all the guitars, the bass guitar, and programmed drums in addition to his evocative vocals). Steve released four solo CDs, two from 2005 (Serai and The Magi) and two in 2007 (The Last Kingdom and Solomon’s Key). These recordings present the guitarist’s influences, which range from classical to hard rock and metal, with an emphasis on unison riffing and balanced songwriting and arrangements.
Upon the demise of All Good People, Adams and Hale established a relationship based on their shared passion for classic progressive rock. Adams was looking to continue his ARZ project with additional members who would bring the right chemistry to craft pieces focused on complex arrangements, but with a more direct approach. The result can specifically be heard on Solomon’s Key (ARZ’s fourth album), which features Hale’s percussive talents on title track and on “Burning Bush”. Hale's cerebral and progressive drumming influences include Barriemore Barlow (Jethro Tull) and Danny Carey (Tool), and his literal musicianship and skill in arranging has helped him to be a fine collaborator with Adams.
On their upcoming 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 “To The Better Man” and “Birth of a Hero” present Adams as a very effective 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 my pre-programming of MIDI sequences to be triggered in real time using an electronic drum pads, and Steve's guitar which was rigged up to layer his sounds with synths and bass via MIDI. 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, rather than focusing on being able to play the songs live as a duo, we would focus on producing a high quality recording instead. The finished versions of our songs have fuller instrumentation than our original demos. Since our influences (ELP, Rush, and Yes) are so similar to each other, 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 and 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 experiences. Sometimes the reverse would occur. On hearing Respighi’s “The Pines of Rome” for the first time, I would act out the music with my brother. There were some outlandish scenarios 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.”