June , 2013
Review by Andy Laudano
Label: Century Media
It's been a long time since Queensryche fans have had something to get excited about. In the beginning, everything was going great for the Seattle based progressive hard rock/metal band. Following their impressive self titled debut EP, each Queensryche album seemed to get better and better. The Warning and Rage For Order became instant classics and Operation: Mindcrime a true masterpiece. Empire would become Queensryche's best selling album ever. It seemed the band could do no wrong.
But then it all started to fall apart. Promised Land is still remembered fondly by some of the band's more progressive minded fans, but hardly a worthy successor to their previous works. Fans that thought this was just a small bump in the road were then forced to suffer through the Hear In The Now Frontier album and the following departure of founding member, guitarist Chris DeGarmo. The downward spiral continued with Q2K and suddenly Queensryche had become the band that you went to see live just to hear them play the old stuff.
Even that became hard to do as more and more older material disappeared from the set while singer Geoff Tate's once majestic voice began to deteriorate. With each terrible release it became harder and harder to remain a Queensryche fan. The last straw for many was the embarrassing debacle of the cabaret tour and the equally laughable Dedicated To Chaos album. Even more infuriating, Tate arrogantly acted as if it was the fans own fault for not liking the new material because they didn't 'get' what he was trying to do. They were the ones with the problem, not him. He even went so far as to tell a large festival audience at Rocklahoma they sucked!
Finally, the rest of the band had enough with Tate's primadonna antics and fired him after he physically assaulted them before a show in Brazil and spit on them during it. The band hired talented Crimson Glory vocalist, Todd La Torre as his replacement and embarked on a short concert tour to rave reviews before they began working a new album. This was their big chance to not only show what they could do but prove to the world that Tate was the one holding them back all these years from their rightful place at the top.
Like their original EP, the new album is also self titled, signifying that this is a brand new beginning. The album opens with the short intro, "X2" before diving into the mid tempo rocker, "Where Dreams Go To Die." The song features some killer drumming from Scott Rockenfield, a great guitar riff and shows off La Torre's impressive vocals. Best of all it features a catchy chorus and the twin guitar harmonies that have been missing from the band's music since Empire. This song gets better with each listen. It's interesting to note that it was written by one of their newest members, guitarist Parker Lundgren.
The next track, "Spore" is heavy and progressive. It also has a more modern feel to it from the heavy riffs and percussion. This is not a nostalgia act or a band stuck in the eighties. Queensryche have found a way to return to their signature sound, while still moving forward. "In This Light" is another great mid tempo song with a great chorus. This one has future single written all over it.
Fans should already be familiar with the Eddie Jackson bass heavy "Redemption," as it was the first new song released by the band as a teaser to promote the album. This was the track that let fans know that Queensryche was a metal band again. "Vindication" is the song with the fastest tempo and sees La Torre hit some big high notes.
"A World Without" is dark, moody and progressive, It showcases La Torre's lower register before going into another soaring chorus. There's also a guest vocal appearance from "Sister Mary," Pamela Moore. "Don't Look Back" features some more dual guitar harmonies from Lundgren and Michael Wilton and La Torre's highest notes yet. "Fallout" is a short, fast rocker before the beautiful closing ballad, "Open Road."
From top to bottom this is a fantastic album. The songs are well written and the production by James "Jimbo" Barton (who engineered both Operation: Mindcrime and Empire) gives them a classic feel with a modern twist. This is the album they should have made after Empire. New vocalist Todd La Torre more than lives up to the hype. At times he sounds just like a younger, in his prime Tate and at other times he showcases his own style. The album proves La Torre is much more than a Tate clone.
Most importantly, this sounds like a Queensryche album again. The soaring vocals, thunderous rhythm section and screaming guitars. The instantly memorable, anthemic choruses that make you sing along with them and the infectious guitar parts that you can't help but hum along to. This is everything Queensryche fans have been begging for. The band sounds completely reenergized and hungry once again. If there was any minor complaint, it's that at about 35 minutes the album is a bit short, however for the first time in a long time it's a Queensryche album that actually leaves you wanting to hear more.
Rejoice Queensryche fans, your band is back!