....A revolution in disguise,
Mesmerized by shadows.....
Nope. Its not disguised at all. It is on display in plain view, for all to see. The revolution is calling, and the word has been spoken. The word is not Mindcrime; However it IS Vindication and Redemption. And, the words it would seem are all of us! Queensryche is BACK! Scott Rockenfield, Michael Wilton, Eddie Jackson, along with guitarist Parker Lundgren and new singer, Todd LaTorre.
I was blown away by the 3 new tracks that Queensryche released. Redemption, Where Dreams Go To Die, and Fallout were easily the best songs that the band has put out in a VERY long time. I kept reading reviews by people who had heard the whole album, but I was still skeptical. Can you blame me? The last Queensryche album that I liked was Promised Land. Sure, I was skeptical, but that didn't stop me from pre ordering the new album, and I was counting the days until my copy of the answer to my prayers to the Metal Gods would be delivered to my door.
Well, I didn't get my copy today. This morning, I was eating my breakfast and looking over the news and Facebook as I usually do, and I saw that Queensryche had put a stream of the entire album on their website. At first, I was going to avoid listening to it. I had avoided the 90 second samples that the band had released, and I wanted to wait until the CD was delivered to my door before I listened to the whole thing. But, I kept reading the comments on the band's Facebook page from people who had listened to the whole thing, and I caved. I have no will power apparently. I listened. Several times, and I'm glad I did.
Many reviewers have stated that this album is the best since Promised Land or Empire. I am going to take a controversial standpoint and say that this is the best Queensryche album since Promised Land, but is better than Empire. Yeah, I know I'm going to take some heat for saying this, but hear me out.
I like Empire and Promised Land alot, which is more than I can say for anything released after that. But, in my opinion, Empire was the start of the downward spiral. Empire was the first album that Queensryche put out with 'filler songs.' We had great songs like Empire, Resistance, Best I Can, Anybody Listening, etc. But, we also had Della Brown (which was the first of many cigar bar type power ballads that came later) One and Only, and of course, Silent Lucidity. I NEVER liked those songs, and while Promised Land was a good album, it had a couple more of the cigar bar power ballads. The new album has NO filler songs, and definitely no cigar bar songs. No disrespect whatsoever is intended toward the band regarding the 'cigar bar' songs.
Now, fast forward about 20 years, and Queensryche has a new singer, and have released a new album. I've already given my opinion on it, but let's review each song. Ready? Here we go!
-Track 1, X2...I was kind of expecting something similar to the Mindcrime intro, Anarchy X. I was blown away when I heard the track. It sounds nothing like Anarchy X. What it sounds like is the music behind a sci fi action film's trailer. You know, one of those trailers that has little or no words, but kick ass music with scenes from the movie? I was envisioning the trailer to Star Trek: Into Darkness when I heard this. I also heard some of the computer mechanical sounds used in NM 156. Its deep, its dark, and, it leads into...
-Track 2, Where Dreams Go To Die...This was my favorite song of the three they released. Its deep, its brutal, and it is Queensryche. But, it is really heavier than anything they put out to date. It starts slow, but punches you in the stomach. This..and all of the songs have the classic trademark vocal harmonies, and the twin guitar attack, which was missing from QR for a long time. But, like I said, this song is brutal. It was written by guitarist, Parker Lundgren, who is airing out some personal issues. He does it VERY well, and I hope he never writes a song about me. However, the fact that his song was chosen to be the first song on the album speaks volumes of the band's respect for him.
-Track 3, Spore...Starts off with a very gritty and dirty sounding guitar riff, and goes into an anthem of sorts. Great vocal harmonies throughout the song are complimented by a guitar lead following along through most of it. Its bold and in your face chorus is a welcome return to form for the band. Eddie Jackson is beating his bass with a telephone pole in this song...Something else that was a QR trademark that was lost over the years. Also, my favorite song on the album.
-Track 4, In This Light...Its a completely different song, but the opening lick in this song kind of reminds me of Speak. Its an up tempo ballad, with a rhythm section that probably registers on the Richter Scale. A sentimental yet powerful chorus filled with vocal harmony. But surprisingly, the thing that stands out the most (and no one has ever said this before) is the rhythm guitar behind the solo. I'm sure this was intentional.
-Track 5, Redemption...This was the first song the band released. The song that told the QR fans that their favorite band was back. The rhythm section is also prominent in this song, along with driving guitar riffs, a chorus that hits on all cylinders, and is also a return to the semi political lyrical content that QR was so into back in the day.
-Track 6, Vindication...I think someone told Scott Rockenfield that he couldn't play fast anymore, and he proved them wrong. The drums take you back to The Needle Lies, but on top of the speed, he channeled his inner Neil Peart and boosted the speed. He is all over the place on this song. The verses are dark and moody, but the chorus is happy sounding. Have you ever been wronged, and vindicated? The feel of this song illustrates this. You're pissed off, but when things go your way, you're on top of the world. Very fitting.
-Track 7, Midnight Lullabye... Creepy into to the next song. 'Damien the Omen' creepy. I have a song that I co-wrote with a former drummer called Twisted Lullabye. I wonder how much the band would charge me in royalty fees to record that as the intro to our song. It fits!
-Track 8, A World Without... A dark, and heavy song that is as creepy as it is awesome. Would make a good soundtrack song for a post apocalyptic horror movie...But no zombies because they have been done to death! And, did I hear Pamela Moore?
-Track 9, Don't Look Back... An orgy of eargasams from every band member. Plus, Todd LaTorre reminds us all that he was the singer of Crimson Glory when he hits a note higher than anything I can remember from even the classic QR songs. The man nailed Red Sharks by CG for heaven's sake!
-Track 10, Fallout...Short and sweet, but fast and heavy enough to knock you through a wall. Its getting a little redundant to say that this song has great vocal and guitar harmony. All the songs do, and its awesome!
-Track 11, Open Road...A ballad that fits in with the classic ballads such as Anybody Listening, I Will Remember, I Dream in Infrared, and Someone Else. It also features some great vocal work by Todd LaTorre.
So, the band still had it in them after all these years. The fans wondering who this band was and when the band they loved would return can stop wondering. They are back. The album was produced perfectly, and patiently, and it paid off. Big time. The passion is back. The musicianship is back. Queensryche is back!
And, the passion of the fans is back. I'm almost 40, and I feel like a teenager again, waiting in anticipation for my favorite band's new album to come out. It may be because today's music simply can't hold a candle to what it once was.
One thing that I want to say about Todd LaTorre...While he has a phenomenal vocal range, he does not force it on you like another replacement singer from several years ago. I think you know who I'm talking about. While I respect Ripper Owens, and he has become one of my favorite singers, he would force his range on you when it wasn't necessary. And, while Todd's voice is a perfect fit for the classic songs, he is not a clone, and he sounds like himself on the new album.
This album is not a nostalgic trip down memory lane. It shows the natural progression that the band should have taken back in the day, but it also sounds modern. I imagine the band will gain scores of young metal fans with this album. It might even be a good idea for Queensryche to take an up and coming current metal band on tour with them to expose young fans to them.
We, as fans are lucky, because bands don't just regroup like this. As fans, we all wish they did, but it simply doesn't happen. Even Death Magnetic by Metallica is not the return to form that this album is. And, it was a total team effort with contributions from every band member. Something else that was lost post Promised Land, which contributed to the watering down of their sound.
People may still want to blast the band for not having Chris DeGarmo. Well, Hear and the Now Frontier and Tribe were both mainly he and Tate. And, both albums were seriously under par.