Don’t you hate it when bands first engage the metal scene riding a tsunami of awesome only to topple and drown in a sea of mediocrity a few years down the line? Metallica fans need not apply.
Sure, that may be a harsh question but when it comes to the once mighty ‘Ryche, it is one that has come to define their career. With their eponymous debut EP and first three albums, Queensrÿche took the metal community by storm with their operatic vocalist emblazoning dark tales and socio-political commentary to the backdrop of twin lead guitar leads and a heavy-handed rhythm section, affording them credit more so as an American counterpart to the European metal scene than a cohort of the domestic entities developing thrash and glam metal at the time. The band hit its commercial peak with Empire in 1990, which saw the members abandon the musical and topical complexities of albums like Operation: Mindcrime in favor of a simpler, more radio-friendly style, not unlike what bands like Metallica and Megadeth would come to do a year later. Since then, the band has drifted further and further from their roots, occasionally to some success (e.g. Promised Land and Operation: Mindcrime II were well-received) but mostly to the chagrin of the fans (e.g. everything else).
Though there is no clear cut “cause” of their decline, many would lay the finger on former singer Geoff Tate, who was released from the band in 2012 after a tumultuous relationship with the rest of the band resulted in the parting of ways. For those unaware of the situation, both parties (Tate on one side, original members Michael Wilton, Scott Rockenfield and Eddie Jackson on the other) have since been engaged in a legal battle over rights to the name Queensrÿche. The most recent convention of the case resulted in both parties being granted the right to use the name until the following court date in November 2013.
With the metaphorical checkered flag waving first for the Tate-fronted Queensÿrche (henceforth referred to as Tate-Ryche) back in April with the release of Frequency Unknown, the other incarnation of Queensrÿche (henceforth retaining the name Queensrÿche to avoid further confusion) had significant incentive to step up its game. On the other hand, with Tate’s label Cleopatra Records openly inviting people to critique Tate-Ryche’s offering in a contest, perhaps they didn’t have to try too hard. Despite it not necessarily being a quality album, I personally enjoyed Frequency Unknown and it bolstered my expectations of this analogous release.
In tapping singer Todd LaTorre during his brief stint with Crimson Glory, Queensrÿche has found a voice similar to that of Tate but far from being a clone, making the transition between singers easier and allowing for a breath of fresh air for those too accustomed to the increasingly lazy and passionless vocal performances found on most Queensrÿche albums since Hear in the Now Frontier. Though perhaps not as skilled as Tate once was, LaTorre formidably accompanies the band as they scale back the clock at least two and a half decades to the epic harmonies and driving power of their 80s material. The brief intro X2, Where Dreams Go To Die, Spore and In This Light, kick off the album in a straight-forward fashion, exemplifying the basic elements of the band’s current sound. Queensrÿche are often labeled as a progressive metal band and though the choruses of Redemption sound like early Dream Theater, they largely tend toward bombastic “arena” metal a la Edguy, sans the lyrical cheekiness, especially on Vindication and Open Road. The album builds up to its two strongest tracks, Don’t Look Back and Fallout, which boast some of the best hooks the band has written since Operation: Mindcrime before closing out reminiscent of Anybody Listening? with the aforementioned Open Road.
While Queensrÿche does indeed live up to some expectations held for the remaining three-fifths of a band once so captivating, it fails to go far beyond that. If you asked for a one-word summation of this album, my response would be “reservation.” The eleven tracks clock in at just over 35 minutes and any yearning satisfied at the start of the album is immediately rekindled at its precocious end. Though I can not necessarily fault the band itself for this1 or my assumptions that the album was rushed to combat Tate-Ryche’s, it is still a significant drawback. Coupled with that fact, the songs themselves are lacking overall. While expectedly not as compelling as former guitarist Chris DeGarmo’s contributions, the material, as a whole, sounds restrained, as if they are purposely holding back. The choruses are big but not very exciting, the music is heavy but not particularly varied and the band sounds cohesive but not particularly bold.
Among the things Queensrÿche has going for them is their contract with Century Media Records, one of the most popular heavy metal labels and in my experience, great marketers of special editions and bundled material. I passed on the label’s preorder but purchased a copy of the deluxe edition from Best Buy (since it was the only version they had in stock). In my previous review2, I expressed a dislike of special editions and whatnot but when bands and labels do it well, I must applaud. I would suggest grabbing this one3 if you’re willing to spend the extra two or three dollars as it features three excellent live tracks (Queen of the Reich, En Force and Prophecy) with Todd LaTorre on vocals as well as pins, a patch, and a sticker inside a thick box.
m/ Dan Mac m/
A Lighter Shade of Black 005
If you like the music, support the band and buy their stuff.
Review Copy Info: A copy of this album was purchased by RealGamerNewz for the purpose of this review.
Editor’s Note: RealGamerNewZ has moved web servers, some older posts can no longer be commented on and have been preserved without their images. Thank you for your understanding in this matter. This article was written by Daniel MacDonald on 20130928 and was last modified on 20130928 .