When I sat down to write my review of the upcoming new Queensryche album (the 1st without former vocalist Geoff Tate) I started to write about the long drawn out drama between the Queensryche and Team Tate camps and the battle over who gets the rights to the Queensryche name. But then I realized that unless you’ve been living under a rock, you already know that the band fired lead Tate last year replacing him with former Crimson Glory vocalist Todd La Torre. I won’t bore you with tales of spitting, alleged knife pulling, rant contests, and cell phone tossing. Instead, I wanted to focus on the band and their new album, which drops on June 25th on Century Media.
Not to be confused with Geoff Tate’s rushed, cut and paste, and sonically embarrassing release under the name Queensryche titled Frequency Unknown (or F.U.), the self-titled album featuring the recording debut of La Torre is a new beginning in the legacy of Queensryche. The band has made statements in the press that this album would be a return to the signature sound of classic Queensryche. According to a recent quote from former vocalist Tate, when asked to describe the signature Ryche sound, his reply was “I don’t know what the signature sound of Queensryche is.” Well, being a fan of the band from the E.P. through Promised Land, I can describe the signature sound of the band as harmony guitar leads and melodies of Michael Wilton and Parker Lundgren (and of course former guitarist Chris DeGarmo), the thick bass tones of Eddie Jackson, the tribal and the progressive drum patterns of Scott Rockenfield, and melodic and soaring vocals. All these elements have been severely lacking in Queensryche’s releases from ho hum Q2K through the disastrous Dedicated to Chaos, all under the musical direction of tyrant Tate, producers Kelly Gray, Jason Slater, and Tate’s wife/manager Susan. Seriously, when was the last time a new hard rock or metal band stated that their biggest influence was Operation Mindcrime II or American Soldier?? Exactly!
So the new album is a rebirth of sorts. All of the classic elements that made Queensryche one of my favorite bands have returned. While Tate loyalists will say that La Torre is a Tate clone, this couldn’t be further from the truth. While Todd does cite Tate as an influence (he grew up listening to the band) I hear vocal similarities to Bruce Dickinson of Iron Maiden and Ray Alder of Fates Warning/Redemption as well. So the big question, is this new album the “return to form” that most Queensryche fans have been clamoring for throughout the past 15 years or so? The answer is a resounding YES! Does that mean that the album is a throwback to The Warning or Rage for Order? No, but there are elements from those albums as well as Empire and Promised Land.
The album kicks of with the short intro track X2, an ominous and dark instrumental that builds in intensity, setting the tone for what is to come. Where Dreams Go To Die is a mid tempo progressive rocker with intense and powerful vocals from La Torre, a heavy guitar riff, and tribal drumming. This song screams Queensryche to me. The remarkable thing is that newest member Parker Lundgren wrote a song that sounds more like Queensryche than anything they’ve written since Right Side of the Mind from Q2K. The harmony guitar solo from Wilton/Lundgren put a huge smile on my face reminding me of elements from Rage for Order and Operation: Mindcrime. Spore is another heavy mid tempo rocker with thundering bass and a great crunchy guitar riff. Once again, La Torre is spectacular here. Even though he had the pipes to spare, he never over sings or uses high notes just for the sake of showing off. My current favorite on the album is In This Light, a melancholy rock song with emotional mid range vocals from La Torre that are reminiscent of Ray Alder. The harmony guitar solo is amazing and chill inducing. It is just an amazing song from start to finish. The song that most fans have heard already is Redemption, a bass heavy metal tune with powerful vocals and a soaring chorus with great vocal harmonies. Vindication is the one song on the album where the tempo speeds up a little more. Scott Rockenfield’s drum work shows why he is one of the best progressive drummers in rock and metal. La Torre uses his upper register quite effectively here with a few well-placed screams. The next intro track Titled Midnight Lullaby is forgettable as it’s just a baby crying over eerie sound effects. The song following it A World Without has a dark, cinematic quality that would have fit right in on the Promised Land album. Listen closely for a cameo from Suite Sister Mary herself Pamela Moore. La Torre gives a heartfelt and emotional vocal performance showing his own style. Don’t Look Back is a fast paced melodic metal song that could also be used as the current bands motto. La Torre hits some truly amazing high notes here that haven’t been heard on a Queensryche release since OMC. Fallout keeps things rocking with a driving beat and melodic harmony guitar work. The dynamic lead and harmony vocals are used perfectly here. The last track is the somber yet poignant, hope filled ballad titled Open Road a reflective and emotion filled song with symphonic elements and passionate melodic lead vocals from La Torre and some amazing lead guitar work as well. It’s a perfect way to close the album. Jimbo Barton’s production work is stellar as each song harkens back to the bands glory days without ever sounding like dated material. The critiques I would have would be the running time is a little short at 35 minutes. I would have preferred one more balls out fast paced heavy metal rocker to give the album an additional point, but I can’t really fault the band for this. After all, the band is still getting used to writing heavy material without the despotic Tate voting their material down. What they have done is crafted the best Queensryche album since Promised Land. Perhaps a better title for the album would have been Signature Sound in bold letters, so I could send it to Geoff Tate and his minions. The Queensryche sound is more than just the vocalist singing the songs, a group of “all-stars”, or individual writing credits. The Queensryche sound is the individual musicianship and chemistry of Scott Rockenfield, Michael Wilton, Eddie Jackson, Parker Lundgren, and the new voice of he band, Todd La Torre. My faith in Queensryche has, at long last, been restored.