Queensryche
American Soldier


3.5
great

Review

by Trey Spencer STAFF
March 30th, 2009 | 113 replies | 26,942 views


Release Date: 2009 | Tracklist

Review Summary: For fans of Empire or Promised Land this is certainly a step in the right direction.

I wonder how many Queensryche fans are left that honestly believe this band still has something worth releasing. After the lackluster comeback of Operation: Mindcrime II it seemed the band had finally lost any remaining credibility that may have still been swirling around the toilet bowl. Later, when word came out that they were going to try their hand at another concept album the few remaining believers probably cringed (I know I did), while everyone else laughed. The band (i.e. vocalist Geoff Tate) had decided to do an entire album devoted to the American soldier and they were going to go as far as including actual recordings of the interviewed soldiers on the album. It appeared that all of the pieces were now in place for the band to finally go out in a dim implosion that very few would even notice. Instead, this album ends up showing the first signs of life in quite a few years.

Unfortunately, the first two tracks aren’t really indicative of this new sign of vitality and are a pretty poor way to start the album. The album opener, “Sliver”, is the kind of generic rock the band has been churning out for some time. The thing that makes this song worse, though, is the inclusion of a second set of vocals meant to sound like a drill instructor. Due to the repeated “welcome to the show” and “I’m going to tell you what’s up” lines they, instead, come off like a bad Fred Durst/nu-metal impression that is amusing at best. After the terrible opener the second track simply suffers from bad placement on the album. The song uses dialogue from the soldiers’ interviews for the verses and Geoff Tate for the choruses, but after the weak opener this song just bogs down. This track would be better suited near the end of the album, but as it stands it’s another track worthy of skipping.

After the disappointing opening tracks it may come as a surprise to suddenly hear the band change gear and present some real quality material. The riffs and the atmosphere of the songs feel closer to Empire or Promised Land than they do any release of the past twelve years and for most fans this will be a welcome realization. The songs presented here all move along at a deliberately slow pace utilizing a lot of clean guitar sections with the meatier riffs frequently coming along for bridges and choruses. Within the context of these moody compositions are also the kind of soaring melodies and dual-guitar harmonies that people often attributed to ex-guitarist Chris Degarmo, and they’re definitely a welcome addition. Another welcome return is that of the classy, melodic guitar solos of old that have come back in a big way; even the saxophone from Promised Land manages to make a few appearances.

In addition to the reappearance of many of the elements that used to make this band good, they have also included the new component unique to this album; the words of the interviewed soldiers. These snippets of dialog often help to set the mood for most of the songs, and they do so quite well. When a soldier speaks the words “bad things happen at night…” before a bleak clean guitar melody and Geoff Tate’s emotional vocals begin, it goes a long way towards establishing the direction of the song. “Home Again” is another song that benefits from the dialog when a soldier begins the song with the line, “It’s very hard to keep a family together when you’re half way across the world… we’re just counting the days till we get home”. It’s a touching song detailing the loneliness that comes about while living so far away from family. It even takes things one step further by including the thoughts of the children still left at home, as sung by Geoff Tate’s real-life daughter.

If everything I’ve detailed so far was all that needed to be stated, we’d be left with an album that starts weak before coming away strong, but that’s not entirely the case. Some of the missteps of their recent albums sporadically creep their way into these songs, but they’re generally fleeting in nature. Occasionally the band will let one of the stale, lifeless riffs of their last few albums slip through, but their negative impact is usually minimized by a quality backing melody or a quick change in direction. Also, it’s common knowledge that Geoff Tate’s vocals really aren’t what they used to be and from time to time he ends up sounding flat instead of pushing the melody like he used to. The main issue, though, is that a few of the songs still feature the dumbed-down one liners that the band has passed off as choruses lately and they end up diminishing the overall quality and atmosphere of the songs they’re present on.

There’s a saying that states, “you can build a million bridges and suck one dick and at the end of your life you’re going to be known as a cock sucker, not a bridge-builder”. Unfortunately, this metaphor may already apply to the band. There was a time when the Queensryche name was synonymous with high quality music, but with their last four albums (some would argue six)… well let’s just says that’s where the sucking part comes in. What I’m alluding to is that despite the quality of this album it may be too little too late. Queensryche’s current reputation for something other than superior releases may cause some to ignore this, but that would be a shame. While the band hasn’t come back with all guns blazing, they’ve at least moved in the right direction and that should be enough to leave most fans with a feeling other than disappointment for the first time in years.



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user ratings (186)
Chart.
2.8
good
other reviews of this album
PsychicChris (3.5)
There are better war-themed albums out there but this is arguably as good as Geoff Tate and his cron...


Comments:Add a Comment 
Athom
Staff Reviewer
March 30th 2009



17204 Comments


great review. i've never really been a fan of these guys.

Willie
Moderator
March 30th 2009



15919 Comments

Album Rating: 3.3

Then this wouldn't be a place to start, that's for sure. The review came out pretty long, but there was a lot worth mentioning (both positive and negative).

Digging: Nero Di Marte - Derivae

DaveyBoy
Staff Reviewer
March 30th 2009



20856 Comments


Review length is fine Trey. Another very clear & informative review from your good self.

I may actually try to listen to a song or two from this as the idea of using those soldier snippets at least sounds interesting.

Willie
Moderator
March 30th 2009



15919 Comments

Album Rating: 3.3

I thought the idea of them using soldier interview sound bites was going to sound stupid and contrived, but they presented it very well. It covers the human side of things without any of that hollywood bullshit.

Fugue
March 30th 2009



7352 Comments


I've only ever heard Operation:Mindcrime from this band. As I think it was a very good album would this be worth checking out? Also very well written review I enjoyed reading it.

Willie
Moderator
March 30th 2009



15919 Comments

Album Rating: 3.3

Thanks. They don't really have another album similar to Mindcrime. Actually, most of their albums are kind of different from each other. From Mindcrime there is Rage for Order (for moody, almost gothic, rock) or Empire (for slick, polished mainstream metal) or Promised Land (for moody experimentation).

Spamue1G
March 30th 2009



1292 Comments


I'm in the same boat as mutatedfreek right now... I was looking out for this a bit, but I'm not particularly interested anymore. I guess I'll check out a couple of the albums you just rec'd instead.
The review's good, but a bit lengthly, although I loved the conclusion. Nice work.This Message Edited On 03.30.09

Altmer
March 30th 2009



5652 Comments


I like Operation: Mindcrime by these guys, but everything else I don't care to hear, or it sucks ass. I am one of those people that is just like "this band sucked after Mindcrime" and doesn't care for anything else, and I doubt I will care for this. Good review though.

Willie
Moderator
March 30th 2009



15919 Comments

Album Rating: 3.3

No, you wouldn't care for this if that's the case. There was a time when this review was even longer and I stated (over the course of too many sentences) that the people that are basically only fans of Mindcrime will find nothing to like here.

@Spamue1G: Yeah, for people not really familiar with this band I wouldn't recommend this album at all. You're much better off with the recommendations and maybe you can one day come back to this.

This Message Edited On 03.30.09

Douchebag
March 30th 2009



3624 Comments


I made a point to listen to this, I loved mindcrime and hated Empire, so this was where I was gonna go next?

Just a question...Does this album praise war? or speak the truth?

Bfhurricane
March 30th 2009



6197 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

Great review, I was expecting you to write this. You made some solid points in the last paragraph, I'm definitely going to buy this. Is this politically biased by the way? That can ruin the damn album for me.

gaslightanthem
March 30th 2009



5209 Comments


Does this album praise war? or speak the truth?


This doesn't make sense.

Bfhurricane
March 30th 2009



6197 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

It makes sense but it's a stupid question. There's never a single truth about war or about the American soldier.

gaslightanthem
March 30th 2009



5209 Comments


I know the question does technically make sense but it doesn't in the fact that Alligator is proposing that he knows the truth when in actual fact he is blissfully unaware of many of the issues surrounding warfare and it's politics.

Willie
Moderator
March 30th 2009



15919 Comments

Album Rating: 3.3

There is absolutely no politics in this album. Every song is taken from soldiers' interviews that the vocalist conducted himself. It covers Americans from WW2 to the current one, so it's not even really trying to be current. Every song deals with individual experiences and really picks up more on the emotions and thoughts of that person. This was all covered too, but it's something else that had to go to decrease the review length.

Willie
Moderator
March 30th 2009



15919 Comments

Album Rating: 3.3

Oh yeah, also in no way do the songs or interviews come off like some arrogant "American Cowboy" trying to save the world. The only reason you know they're all American is because the band was stupid enough to include it in the title, but it really could be the same thoughts and feelings of any soldiers anywhere. Just making sure the rest of the world doesn't think they'll be getting a piece of self-serving American propaganda put to music.

jingledeath
March 30th 2009



7104 Comments


Excellent review, Willie. Probably listened to 1 or 2 of the band's songs but I don't remember liking them so I'm probably not going to get this.

Willie
Moderator
March 30th 2009



15919 Comments

Album Rating: 3.3

To be honest, if you heard anything from their last four albums you probably wouldn't like them. If you have the time you should try Operation: Mindcrime (the first one, not the second one).

jingledeath
March 30th 2009



7104 Comments


I still haven't checked out Pestilence and My Dying Bride properly and there's a lot of other music just lying around that I need to check out soon. I'll try it out once I get through all of them, which might take a long long time lol

Metalstyles
Staff Reviewer
March 30th 2009



8329 Comments


yaah I have the same problem as Jingle has, there is just so much good music lying around that I need to check out, but there really isn't enough time to do it. Review was great as always Willie, and I'll probably be checkin this out at some point, just not right away.



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