Album Review: Queensryche – Queensryche

Queensryche-QueensrycheTo start things off, as I refer to the band Queensrÿche in this review, I am referring to the newly invigorated Queensrÿche featuring new vocalist Todd La Torre.  As if you needed me to say that, but if you haven’t been following the drama between Queensrÿche (La Torre) and… Queensrÿche (Tate), I thought I would let you know which review this is.  Instead of just talking about how good I think this self-titled album is (I’ll get to that later), let’s talk a walk down memory lane and look at where the band has been all these years leading up to the current release of their self-titled album this week on 25 Jun 2013.

Queensrÿche bounced on to the scene in 1984 with their first release The Warning.  They had an EP, but for the purpose of this review, I will start with studio albums.  Probably light years ahead of their time, their progressive sound was even too much for me.  In 1984 I was head-over-heels in love with Def Leppard’s Pyromania album.  So, to hear The Warning was beyond anything I could fathom musically. Overall, it did well for the band and probably Rush fans as well.  In 1986, with a more polished sound, Queensrÿche released Rage for Order two years later in 1986.  It was still a bit too progressive for me.  By now my favorite band was Dokken, so I think you can see the reason Queensrÿche just wasn’t clicking in my fragile little mind.  I was into Aqua Net, mullets, and power ballads.  To gauge the progression of the band, here are a few videos from that time.

Things clicked in 1988 when I first caught the song Eyes of a Stranger on MTV’s Headbanger’s Ball.  It wasn’t so progressive of a song.  It was more Hard-Rock induced which made it easier for me to accept.  By this time I was getting into more and more heavy music such as the Big Four bands and a few others.  I absolutely fell in love with Operation:  Mindcrime.  It was a huge success for the band.  The story, concept, and songs were all perfect as far as I was concerned.  If I remember correctly, this was first time I learned what a concept album was.  By this time I was also able to start accepting their first two albums much more.  My horizons were expanding.

As if Queensrÿche wasn’t popular enough, they released Empire in 1990.  Though it pretty much lacked anything I would consider Progressive Rock, it was another great album for the band.  They saw much more commercial success; they were everywhere. I too, really enjoyed this album.  It became a Billboard success and eventually went triple-platinum.  I assume that’s pretty good by anyone’s standards.  Despite the song Empire being the first single, it never was one of my favorite tracks off the album.

As a fan, the post-Empire Queensrÿche went downhill in my opinion.  I never really appreciated any of their albums that much even though I kept buying them.  I am not exactly sure what happened. The original lineup was still intact, so that wasn’t it.  Perhaps it was the four-year gap between albums.  I am unsure if there was any inner turmoil at this point, but Promised Land fell flat.  It was also 1994 and something else was going on…this thing called Grunge which ironically spawned out of the same city where Queensrÿche was from – Seattle.

Three more years passed by the time Hear in the now Frontier was released.  I liked a good portion of this album, but it surely didn’t capture my attention as much as Mindcrime and Empire.  It didn’t last long on the charts.  During the tour, Queensrÿche’s label EMI went bankrupt forcing the band to use personal funding to finance the rest of the tour.  At this point, the solid lineup of Tate, DeGarmo, Wilton, Jackson, and Rockenfield was about to undergo a change.

1999 introduced Kelly Gray on guitar and another Queensrÿche album called Q2K.  For me, it was another disappointment.  It’s not that the album was terrible, just more of the same.  You know the kind of album you buy and only end up liking 3 or 4 songs.  I wouldn’t call that much of a success.  Based on my research, The Right Side of My Mind was the first video they recorded since Promised Land though I can’t tell if it’s just a live clip of Evolution or an actual video.  I can’t find the latter if it exists.

DeGarmo did return for a bit to help out with the release of Tribe though he was not officially in the band.  Gray was also not listed as a permanent member by this time (2003).  I did like this album compared to many of its recent predecessors.   This was also the album where I got to finally see Queensrÿche live for my first and last time.  That tour was a co-headline bill with Dream Theater and Fates Warning opening the set.  It was probably one of my more memorable concert-going experiences in my life – three great bands.  It was a beautiful Sacramento, CA evening at the outdoor venue.  Both Queensrÿche and Dream Theater collaborated for some songs at the end of the show.  Check it out.  This clip is off Queensrÿche’s Art of Live DVD.  In my mind, Queensrÿche was sort of…coming back.

Operation:  Mindcrime II was released in 2006 and I have to admit I didn’t give this album enough spins to leave you a validated opinion.  Initially, it didn’t strike me as all that good, but I remember it being ok.  It charted well, though probably because of the weight of the album’s title.  Later, I found out that much of the album was the brain-child of Tate and studio musicians. At this time the four core band members are still in the band and we now introduce Mike Stone on guitar.  I imagine the tension was thick around this time, but it would still take three albums before the band would crumble to its foundation.  Don’t worry though; this story has a happy ending.

A year later, Queensrÿche released Take Cover…an album of cover songs as the name implies.  In short, they were pretty good.  They covered some classic tunes and did well with them.  I never thought of Queensrÿche as a band that is bad at covers.  In 2009, American Soldier was released and I did enjoy that one for the most part.  Through my chosen career-path helped me relate to the material (another concept album), I did find a few songs I enjoyed on the album.  Though watching and reading interviews, I gained a bit of respect for Tate knowing that his father was a military man.  I thought if I ever met him that might be something to talk about…something to have in common.  I doubt that will even happen now.

I tried to find something redeeming about their 2011 release, Dedicated to Chaos, but I couldn’t.  I think I was mainly positive in my review as I always try to be, but after thinking about it I rated it too high even with a 3 out of 5.  It’s one of the few reviews I would go back and change, but it is what it is.  The four founding members are still the same with a revolving door on that guitar position.  Gray and Stone are listed as contributing members, but not full-time in the band.

A lot of shit has happened in the last two years; enough for a sappy movie on the Lifetime channel.  Tate split…ah fuck it you know how it goes.  Let’s talk about the new Queensrÿche featuring new vocalist Todd La Torre and founding members Wilton, Jackson, and Rockenfield.  Another new member, Parker Lundgren also joined the band.  Interestingly, Lundgren married Tate’s stepdaughter (see in the video above), but is divorced already.  He played in Tate’s version of Queensrÿche after the release of Dedicated to Chaos.  I bet that makes for good dinner conversation.  Todd La Torre used to be part of Florida-based Crimson Glory.

Queensryche_band_375x326-300x300Ok, let’s point out the obvious.  This album is way too short.  Unless you bought the extended version with two live tracks, the new original music only lasts about 35 minutes. CDs normally hold up to 80 minutes of music.  Though I would not expect a band to make that much new music, but 35 minutes?  Come on guys!  Perhaps they were in a rush to respond to Tate’s (FU) album; I am not sure.  Despite the brevity of this self-titled album, the content is exactly what I have wanted from Queensrÿche since Empire.

Though the band hasn’t revived their progressive prowess of their first two albums, I can’t find any other faults with this refreshed band other than the album’s brevity.  It makes me wonder what was holding the band back all these years.  I’m not really wondering; I think we all know.  La Torre does have a similar tone to Tate which is expected.  It helps keep the integrity of the music intact for live shows.  In fact, it may be no mistake that live versions of Queen of the Reich and En Force are on the album.  La Torre nails those old classics.  They were probably included to prove that point.

Set aside the intro and a short instrumental, we have nine actual new songs.  Each song is a strong representation of an edgier Queensrÿche; the kind rocked the late 80s and very early 90s.  They didn’t come out and try to outdo Tate and his version, I think they just had chance to make the music they have wanted to make for years, but couldn’t.  Queensrÿche, though short, is a very solid album.  Redemption (below) is a good example of the edge that has been lacking in the camp. If you are like me and relatively disappointed for a long time this is a perfect opportunity for renewed hope.  Without any bias against their former vocalist, Queensrÿche (with La Torre) is what Queensrÿche should have been for a long time.  They are back!

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About Reggie

Just a dude writing a heavy metal blog and always on the prowl for a cool metal show. I am also a family man...first and foremost!

Posted on June 27, 2013, in Album Reviews and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 18 Comments.

  1. Excellent review dude! I liked you personal history with the band there. I agree the album is a bit too short. But do have to say, concise and solid is welcome in my book. I am quite happy with this album and it gives me hope that their next album will be a doozy.

  2. Thanks for a good history lesson on Queensryche 🙂
    I’ve never followed the band or liked their music much, but this new album is on my to-buy list. I was surprised I like it so much. Well done, Queensryche with Todd!

  3. Personal taste aside (my fave Ryche album is Promised Land), I do think they are very bad at covers, and Take Cover is the perfect demonstration. The record was dead to me as soon as I listened to Jesus Christ Superstar’s Heaven on Their Minds, one of my favorite songs ever, and they approached the 7/8 section by evening it out to a 4/4. A prog band. Ok, they were never on the technical side of progressive, but this is no excuse, it’s like “we really wanted to do it but we weren’t able, so we did it anyway”.

    As for the Comfortably Numb cover with DT (another song I’m really connected to), I find it lacks soul, especially the Queensryche part and that awful solo. Heck, I’ve even come to think that John Petrucci is incredibly expressive on that one. Not to mention both voices… awful. If you want to hear a great approach on that song, check out the Waters version with Eddie Vedder singing Gilmour’s part. Not properly a cover, but it’s entirely another story.

    That said, I’m not a hater, in fact I dig lots of the older stuff, and although I haven’t already listened to the new album I’m very curious… will check out the stream soon 🙂

    • Interesting, Promised Land is usually not one of the albums I hear that people like so much. You know, I went and tried to find my CD and realized I don’t have it anymore. Based on your feelings about the album, I thought I would go give it a try. I like to hear what other people like in regards to bands I like too. I think you would like the new album. To me it has the feel of their 80s and early 90s work. There are a few more tracks on YouTube besides the one I posted with this review.

      Sorry you didn’t like the Queensryche/Dream Theater collaboration. Maybe for me seeing it live was a better experience than what ended up on that DVD. You would think that two bands with the clout they have would do the song justice to Floyd fans. Then again, the only Pink Floyd songs I like are ones covered by other bands. I was never a fan of their work. Thank you for coming by an chatting. I have to go stream Promised Land somewhere.

  4. larry breitenbach

    The new Queensryche with La Torre at the helm brings back the sound that made Queensryche the monster metal band it was. Can’t wait for the next release !!!

    • I’m glad you like it…so refreshing compared to recent years. I hope they do make a future monstrous album they way Queensryche knows how to do.

  5. What a review AND history lesson. I first began listening to QR about 5 years ago and was blown away by earlier music (I was a late bloomer into the Progressive Metal/Metal music scene). What I CAN comment about is that Operation Mindcrime and Empire were AWESOME albums! I have some of their later work and have listened to a lot of their music from the “online video website.” Of that material, it’s “ok,” and as a performer, when someone refers to music as “ok,” it really didn’t move them.

    Regarding Take Cover, I’ve only listened to a few tracks, and I was pleasantly surprised by one in particular. I have been a Pink Floyd fan for as long as I can remember – I like the blues feeling in their music. As a “rabid” fan as I was, I have always held them in a position where NOBODY should ever cover their music….until I heard Queensryche cover Welcome to the Machine. I thought that cover was spot-on great! They took a classic song and turned it into a powerhouse progressive metal song – making it their own.

    I liked the concept of American Soldier, and the music wasn’t all that bad. Yes, it was a departure from O:M and Empire, but it still sounded “ok” to me. My first concert was the Cabaret show at Soaring Eagle Casino, and being the first time I’ve saw them live, I thought the show was pretty good. I did note that there wasn’t much smiling on the stage, and after watching everything unfold, I knew why.

    I bought the digital copy of the newest album, and I’m waiting on the deluxe version to be shipped to my local “big box store” that helps me “Save Money,” and “Live Better” (I don’t want to give away free advertising that isn’t musical).Yes, I agree that the album is a bit short, and it was engineered a little too hot. My mp3 player has an 80% volume threshold that I set, and even when I turn the volume to 50%, there’s a bit of distortion and hiss in my ear buds. Other than those two small short-comings, I’m waiting for their next release with baited breath.

    I have listened to my digital version so man times that my mp3 player is going to develop a rut on the disk where the Queensryche album resides.

    IMHO, this band rocks! They smile when their on stage now (evidenced in photographs), and they’re all excited about this and future albums. I’m waiting for THIS version to return to Ohio for a concert, and I’m intending on being there.

    • It took me a while to get into prog music as well. I started to like Queensryche before I knew what prog really was. I guess they were the band that opened the door for so many others that I enjoy today especially Dream Theater. I did like a few covers. It wasn’t that bad, but sometimes when people are so passionate about music, they never want to hear someone else cover it. I felt that way about Mariah Carey covering Open Arms by Journey. That should have never happened despite her ability to sing. Queensryche did justice to some of those old classics. I thought about going to that cabaret show, but I felt it would take away from the music. I’m glad it was a good experience for you. Thank you for coming by.

  6. As a long time Queensryche fan, after listening to this album for a week straight now, I have to say that I love this new album, and YES you are correct, this is EXACTLY what we’ve been missing and longing for, that unique sound that was so captivating, that sound that is Queensryche! I actually owned their first EP and The Warning on an actual album!!

    Oh and I love the Promised Land album, and I would definitely recommend listening to it again. IMO, this new disc is right up there with their their classics, Rage, Mindcrime, Empire and Promised Land!!!

    • You aren’t the first to mention Promised Land to me since this review. I went into my CD binder to check it out and looks like I must have parted ways with it at some point. I guess I never let it sink in. Nothing an iTunes card won’t fix. Thank you for coming by and checking out the site. Can’t stop listening to this new QR album!

  7. I feel like I could have written this! Dokken was my favorite band before I heard Queensryche! Operation: Mindcrime is when I first discoverd Queensryche and to this day it is my all time favorite record. Simply put…..it’s a Masterpiece. I actually really liked Hear in the Now Frontier, the last record with Degarmo. And perhaps that says something. I wanted to like Q2k….but I just never got into anything after that. Mindcrime 2??? Why even bother? They could never duplicate the greatness of the first one. It’s really too bad you never saw them on the Building Empires tour where they performed Mindcrime in it’s entirety. You really missed out! Go check out the DVD. The departing of Geoff Tate made me sad at first, and I thought my loyalty would be to him. But I was wrong. I’ve only heard amazing things about this new record and after previewing it and seeing some footage with Todd on vocals. I’ll be stopping after work to pick up my copy. Thank you!

    • I still listen to Dokken Under Lock and Key…love that album. The new one wasn’t bad either despite Lynch not being in the band. You won’t be disappointed with this new album except it isn’t long enough. I really like “In This Light.” I hope to catch them on your again. They came by England when I was stationed there. They did that cabaret show and I wasn’t interested in that.

  8. A spot to enjoy all members, current and former; and both versions of Queensryche without the hate, bullying & childish behavior:
    https://www.facebook.com/groups/618093574869848/

  9. shirokarasu2013

    We could have been musical twins in the 80’s. You definitely need to give Promised Land another chance. I am really surprised you liked anything after Hear in the Now Frontier. OMII was okay in parts but a let down nonetheless. Everything else was garbage IMO. The new release is perfect (I am not going to complain about the time issue at all). The main reason time is not an issue is that this is meant to be a statement, Queensryche is back as they should sound. I am sure the judge is going to base who gets the name based on the fans (likely sales between the 2).

    • There is another Promised Land reference. I feel I missed out on that one. I am going to have to buy it again…i’ve had several people promote that one. I probably haven’t heard it since a year or so after it was released. As far as the other albums, it was like two to three songs here and there I could pick from each. The time doesn’t seem to bother me much anymore since I like every actual song so much. I think I listened to it three times today. I hope the judge gives this version of Queensryche their name based on majority rules…three original members still in the band. Sales might help too…

  1. Pingback: Todd La Torre fronted Queensrÿche: RELEASE VIDEO FOR DEBUT SINGLE “FALLOUT” – Self-Titled Album Debuts in Top 25 on the Billboard Top 200 | Metal Refuge

  2. Pingback: Album Review: Queensrÿche – Condition Humän | A Metal State of Mind

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