Review Summary: A dark, edgy slice of goth-metal, Rage for Order saw Queensryche edging towards their Mindcrime peak.
After releasing "The Warning" in 1984, Queensryche definitely shifted musical gears; mostly gone were the orchestral arrangements and Tolkienian lyrical imagery so prevalent in their previous outings. The band even tinkered with their look, largely ditching the leather and studs for pseudo-Victorian finery and heavy makeup (jury’s still out on whether that was a good idea). Vocalist Geoff Tate has mentioned in interviews that the entire band was reading Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles while this album was being created, and it certainly shows. From the opening "Walk in the Shadows" to the closing ballad "I Will Remember", Queensryche definitely gets their goth on.
Producer Neil Kernon creates a sound very reminiscent of The Sisters of Mercy’s “Floodland” album, or Bahaus’ classic “Bela Lugosi’s Dead”. The drums have a hollow, mechanistic feel (courtesy of Scott Rockenfield’s precise sticksmanship and the fact that the rhythm tracks were recorded in an empty, stone-walled warehouse) and the background synths contribute a wonderfully creepy vibe. When combined with Tate’s otherworldly vocal athletics and the intricate six-string bombast of Chris DeGarmo and Michael Wilton, the entire album creates a sense of paranoia and Gothic grandeur. The one thing largely missing from the mix is Eddie Jackson’s bass, but I’m guessing the treble-happy 80s production values (and second-rate equipment; Queensryche was still largely an unknown act at this time) are probably to blame.
Though half the tracks center in on Gothic romance (“Walk In the Shadows”, “The Killing Words” and “I Will Remember” in particular), the others find the group edging toward themes later fully explored in Operation: Mindcrime; massive, impersonal totalitarian forces moving to crush the human spirit and exterminate free will. The album’s high point (in my opinion) is the bondage-themed rocker “The Whisper”; the riff is absolutely amazing, and Tate’s hackle-raising call-and-response of seductive hissing and bombastic wailing on the chorus creates a perfect combination of sexual urgency and autocratic intensity.
The balance of both subject matter and musical styles is well-struck across the whole album, and unlike almost every other prog-rock/metal band, Queensryche avoided musical masturbation and embraced brevity, keeping the intensity of the music and lyrics intact. For that fact alone, Rage for Order should have won some kind of award.
The album hits a couple of off notes, however. “I Dream in Infrared”, though musically solid, pushes the lyrical weirdness envelope a bit too far. “Chemical Youth (We Are Rebellion)” plays with Mindcrime-esqe from-the-street preaching but doesn’t quite get there. And “Gonna Get Close to You” is borderline; though the Dalbello cover is an interesting choice and the music is well-played, Tate’s vocal histrionics occasionally get over-intense and just plain screechy. That song’s selection as the video/single release may have contributed to Rage for Order’s relative lack of popular success.
Rage for Order is best described as a "transition album"; the band explores new territory, breaks ground and grows into now-familiar roles. Chris DeGarmo's guitar playing in particular can be heard taking on the haunting quality that would later make Operation: Mindcrime so great. It’s good in its own right, though; listening to it will have you looking over your shoulder, should you choose to do so while walking at night. Anyone who appreciates both metal and 80s goth-rock would probably love this album.