Album Review: Queensryche – Queensryche
Posted by Reggie
To 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.
Ok, 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!