Queensryche in their earlier incarnations were an absolute force to be reckoned with. One may go as far as to categorize them as one of progressive metal’s wonders of the world. However, as any fan who has been caught in the loop of the ongoing Queensryche saga can tell you, throughout the last decade the band has failed to produce any new material that comes close to the uniqueness and power showcased in their first handful of records.
Most recently allegations erupted from all sides within the Queensryche camp, and eventually this resulted in the band separating into two different lineups, both releasing new albums and currently out on tour. One featuring original lead vocalist Geoff Tate and a lineup of all star musicians, the other featuring the rest of the most recent lineup, but with recently appointed singer Todd La Torre.
Remaining truthfully straightforward, I had strong expectations for this album. After I took the opportunity to catch the band on their 2013 ‘Return To History’ World Tour, my faith in Queensryche had been restored. There were some major “what-if’s” surrounding recently appointed lead vocalist Todd La Torre, and rightfully so, because he had some big shoes to fill. There has never been a Queensryche album or lineup that didn’t have Geoff Tate manning the main microphone, and he played a significant role in providing that authentic classic sound; when from a musical standpoint the group’s most recent outings were incredibly lacking in almost every other category.
But Todd’s uncanny range and ability to tear through the band’s classic material was simply awe inspiring, and once again the lead vocals are a factor that makes Queensryche a spectacle. Not only that, but the rest of the band was absolutely on fire, their passion for performing music renewed and a youthful energy surging all-throughout. But how would this carry out in the band’s songwriting?
With their new self-titled studio album, Queensryche deliver a proud collection of 11 rampaging tracks, that finally sounds like Queensryche. No more “That kind of sounds like late 90’s Judas Priest,” no more “That kind of sounds like alternative metal.” I’m talking about that classic heavy metal sound, that same sound that made ‘Rage For Order’ and ‘Empire’ so iconic.
This Queensryche isn’t focused on trying to make cheap stabs towards their former band mates. They instead direct their energy and unrivaled talent to the actual music, and the end product finishes above and beyond what I could have ever anticipated. And as I stated before, my expectations for this album were high. You couldn’t hope to chose a better track to open the album than the minute-long instrumental “X2,” which dominantly builds your anticipation with meanousing orchestra work and low leveled vocals before perfectly transitioning into “Where Dreams Go To Die.”
If there’s any song on the new album that shows Queensryche even remotely directing their attention towards former front man Geoff Tate, it’s this one, which has Todd snarling out such lyrics as “You thought you’d get away/ But karma made it’s move/ The bad things that you’ve done will be coming back for you.” I personally don’t believe this lineup is focused on getting back at Geoff, but should this be the case Queensryche make a broader statement with these few lines than any album named ‘F.U.’ ever could.
The songwriting dynamic that comes with this new album is downright incredible, considering the past decade of simply bland-sounding albums to have been released under the Queensryche name. Whether the allegations of Geoff ruling with a tight fist over the rest of the band members’ creative input are true, or simply the addition of Todd La Torre to the lineup resparked a long lost musical passion within Michael Wilton and the rest of the band; either way, this new album is the best material we’ve heard from Queensryche arguably since 1994.
“Redemption” and “Vindication” are a pair of back-to-back headbanging anthems that allow Whip to simply let loose, and unleash some staggering guitar work and blazing solos. After the last racing guitar riff of “Vindication” rings through your ears, we re-enter seemingly long lost musical territory with “Midnight Lullaby/ A World Without.” This song is a complete instant classic, probably best described as a heavier, darker “Silent Lucidity” that showcases some top notch vocal melodies and another rocketing guitar solo.
Just as guitarist Parker Lundgren did with “Where Dreams Go To Die,” bassist Eddie Jackson and percussion master Scott Rockenfield prove how significant they are to Queensryche as far as the songwriting aspect, and team up to write the epic riff racing track “Fallout,” which similarly features a slamming chorus and engaging instrumental work. From start to finish, Queensryche give a refreshing, nostalgic and powerful performance throughout their new self-titled album, which shows the band returning to the classic sound that made them unique and delivering a proud collection of instant favorites.
I’ve listened to this album a number of times, and I found myself already chanting the chorus to “Don’t Look Back” by the second listen. The battle over which side has the right to the “Queensryche” name should end here with this album. Should the courts ultimately rule to leave two names in existence, I don’t think I would be disappointed. But if it’s one or the other, there is no doubt in this fan’s mind who deserves the Queensryche name, and in this case hopefully in November the courts will award Todd La Torre’s lineup the rights to the name of the band of which they so rightfully deserve, and as they have demonstrated with this powerhouse return-to-form.