Review Summary: Underrated, really.
Geoff Tate and co. have certainly been dwindling for the last 15 years. Queensryche used to be known as one of the defining bands in the prog metal genre, but ever since 1997's Hear in the Now Frontier, they took on a more contemporary alternative style with hints of the old 'Ryche sound mixed in. What followed was an atomic bomb of backlash from fans who wanted the old classic sound of Queensryche back. So far, most attempts have still been in vain, but a couple of them have had some shining glimmers of the old days, including 2003's underrated Tribe.
One factor in attempting to bring success back to the band was to bring original guitarist Chris DeGarmo back to the fold for just this one album. However, when Sanctuary Records caught wind of this, they stated that DeGarmo returned as a permanent member, most likely to boost Queensryche's popularity and sales for the album. One thing can be said here: Chris's presence can clearly be felt here, and having him in the album marks a return to the quality not seen since Promised Land.
Unlike previous albums, Geoff Tate really keeps his vocals on the down low here, letting the other instruments shine. This also gives Tate a more diverse palette, especially in terms of the dynamics presented here. Every instrument is very balanced here as well, as supposed to the generally vocal/guitar fronted sound Queensryche usually possesses, giving every member a chance to show what they can do.
About the songs themselves, there are ten here, clocking in at 41:37. The short length of the songs keeps them from getting stale or boring, a problem Queensryche have been running into with some recent work (*cough* Dedicated to Chaos *cough*). "Open" is a great, well, opener and wastes no time cutting to the chase of the album's sound. There are explosive (though sometimes rather slow) choruses and sly verses that show more of that aforementioned diversity here. While I'm on the topic of diversity, this album also features the return of the saxophone used in Promised Land. On here, it's prominent on "Art of Life" and gives it a dark jazzy edge, fitting in with the rugged spoken verses.
A big highlight here is the title track, "Tribe." It starts out with a progressive 6/8 riff, and eases the distortion when the verse hits with more spoken vocals. The tension of the song never really lets up, though, until the chorus clashes with powerful soaring vocals and a heavy rhythm pacing things along. The song sounds like it could have been featured on Promised Land or even Empire to an extent.
Unfortunately, some latter-day Queensryche flaws are still present here, and heard the most on the final track, "Doin' Fine." I starts out promisingly enough, with a strong guitar riff and nice relaxed feel, but soon just turns lazy. Even with a short run-time of 3:54, the song drags on and on, and keeps you waiting for something interesting to show up. Really, that's the biggest problem with the album; Some songs are too draggy and lack the passion of the better songs. "Falling Behind" has a really apt song title in that sense; it starts out with a nice acoustic riff, but then just... never catches real fire.
However, the album is still very good, and is one of the best latter-day Queensryche albums you can get. Geoff Tate's vocals are still powerful, and Chris DeGarmo, while a bit restrained here, hasn't lost any of his touch. Overall, this is a solid album, and their best since Promised Land... that is, until American Soldier came along.