Sunday, 30 June 2013

Queensrÿche's 'Queensrÿche' - Album Review

I am sure by now that anyone who is (and probably anyone who is not) knows the Queensrÿche story inside and out. Hardly a day goes by without one of the rock news sites trying to milk the drama for all it is worth and most of us are now thoroughly sick of reading about it. Queensrÿche (here meaning the band with three of the original members, and not Geoff Tate's new version) have mostly kept quiet and dignified throughout this whole ordeal and decided to let the music do the talking. This was a wise move as their new album, simply titled Queensrÿche, is very strong. To make things clear, I am not one of those people who blindly dismisses the entire post-Promised Land discography by the band as awful. While it is certainly true that the older stuff is still the best, many of the band's later albums still had plenty of good songs on them. 2009's American Soldier was a particular highlight and even 2011's pretty average Dedicated to Chaos had a couple of decent songs to be found on it. So, for me at least, Queensrÿche were not all doom and gloom but the line-up change has definately been for the better. Queensrÿche is the first album to feature new frontman Todd La Torre, and guitarist Parker Lundgren as a full member of the band (although he is credited with 'additional guitar' on Dedicated to Choas). This album marks a return to the band's roots and there is certainly a lot of 1986's Rage for Order on this album - but most importantly it sounds like Queensrÿche, something which could be argued has not happened since 1997's Hear in the Now Frontier but that is, of course, debatable.

After the atmospheric introduction X2, the album gets underway with the epic Where Dreams Go to Die. This was one of the songs released before the album (the second in fact) was to give fans a flavour of what was to come and I think it got people really excited! From the outset, everything that made/makes Queensrÿche great is present. Great lead guitar, a doomy atmosphere, pounding drums and powerful vocals - all those things are present and correct. The song itself sounds like a mix of the Rage for Order and Promised Land sounds and is a great way to get the album started. After a few listens, the song really sticks in your head - it is a real earworm! Spore follows and this is a more of a straight ahead rocker. The riffs and bassline are classic Queensrÿche and the chorus is deceivingly catchy and would be a monster live. Up next is In This Light which is the most commercial-sounding song on the album, very reminiscent of 1990's Empire. It probably has the best chorus on the album, which I remember loving from the moment I first heard the pre-release samples from the band months and months ago. The duel guitar solo from Michael Wilton and Lundgren is, again, classic Queensrÿche - something we have not heard properly for a long time. If the band film a video for one of their songs, this would be the best choice as I think it would get a fair amount of radio play. Redemption follows and this was the first of the three songs to be released before the album. Again, the song is very strong with a big chorus and some great lead guitar work throughout. However, at the beginning of the song there is some very strange distortion on the drums which I very much doubt was supposed to be there. In fact, this seems to be the best time to bring up that while on the surface the album sounds well produced, sometimes there are things which stand out that should really have been spotted in the mixing/mastering process. It does not spoil the album but it is a shame that these really obvious little things, like the drums at the beginning of Redemption, were not fixed.

Vindication is next and this is certainly a throw-back to Rage for Order (as is much of the album). La Torre's vocals here seem to evoke that distant technological sound that vocals on Rage for Order had and it really works well here. Drummer Scott Rockenfield is at his most inventive here, he has not had a chance to really shine for many albums now so it is great to hear him at his best again. There is another great chorus on this song, which proves the band has remembered how to write catchy songs! This is easily the most instant and accessible album since Empire - which for me is a good thing. Another atmospheric piece, Midnight Lullaby, acts as an intro for A World Without which is a dense ballad with a foreboding atmosphere helped by some great orchestral arrangements. Pamela Moore, who sang on both the band's Operation: Mindcrime records, lends her voice to this track which adds and extra dimension to the song. It is a real grower and would work really well live I think mid-set to act as a break from all the loud metal. There is also a really great, melodic guitar solo here. Don't Look Back follows and while I think this is the weakest song on the album, it is still enjoyable. It moves back to the simpler hard rock sound again and features a really prominant bassline from Eddie Jackson that drives the sound and is nice and thick. The bass sound throughout this album is meaty and full and helps to really make the album sound big. The final of the three songs to be released before the album, Fallout, is next and this is short song but full of energy and power. I really love the melodies, which are of a classic 1980s heavy metal sound, and the little flourishes of lead guitar. It really rocks! Another ballad-type song in the form of Open Road rounds out the album and evokes previous album closers such as I Will Remember and Anybody Listening? while still bringing it's own thing to the party. Queensrÿche seem to be the masters of getting a slower song to work as a closing song for a metal album. The guitar solo is one of the best from the album and La Torre's vocals are so passionate and full of feeling. Overall, Queensrÿche is a really great album. Lots of fans (including myself) have been waiting for an album like this from the band for many years and judging from many of the reviews I have already read, people are liking this a lot. I just hope that by the end of the year all the legal wranglings between the band and Geoff Tate can be sorted so Queensrÿche can just get back to doing what they do best, and that is rocking hard and creating more albums like this! I also am looking forward to their gig in October even more now.

The album was released on 24th June 2013 via Century Media Records. Below is the band's promotional soundclip of Fallout.

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