As strange as it might seem, Queensryche’s debut remains their most influential album up to this day; it also rests overshadowed by a series of legendary subsequent releases. It is undeniable that very few records could ever compete with albums such as “Rage for Order” and “Promised Land” in terms of vision, creativity and execution, let alone with “Operation Mindcrime”, their masterpiece - one of the best metal albums ever recorded- and it is exactly because of albums like these, that Queensryche are considered as the driving force in progressive metal during the 80’s and 90’s, back at a time when progressive only meant “forward thinking”. But then again “Warning” was the record that set the guidelines for nearly a decade to those who eventually formed the US power metal scene. Through power metal, which in their case is less dynamic than it is dark and less aggressive than it is energetic, the band started developing a sound that evolved around the NWOBHM and its key figures, but was more adventurous and ambitious than the average metal band and had a certain open mind-ness that even allowed bands like Pink Floyd to slip through the cracks, and reveal themselves in tracks such as “Roads to Madness”.
“Warning” surprises us by starting with the slow, marching title track, at a time when a fast opener was the rule. The somewhat weak production, which isn’t that heavier than, let’s say, the one in Priest’s “Killing Machine”, is striking, but soon enough the band’s weapons take over; twin guitar leads that bring the duet Tipton/Downing to mind, as performed best in “En Force”; Maiden-esque galloping rhythms and glorious choruses as heard in “Before the Storm”; above all, they are lucky enough to have found a very skilled and talented vocalist in Geoff Tate, whose voice follows Halford in terms of range and Dickinson in terms of complexity and creativity. His characteristic vocal lines highlight De Garmo’s songwriting, who displays a certain skill in writing songs that can be fist pumping but not immature, melodic without losing their edge, extremely memorable altogether but never ever cheesy, which is in fact a hard task, because much of “Warning” s dark atmosphere derives from its fantasy lyrics. The result is a record with no probable flaws, save maybe for “Child of Fire”. Despite its overall quality, there are a few standout tracks in Warning; “Deliverance” with its trademark riff and aggressive vocal line; “No Sanctuary”, where Queensryche become dramatic and lyrical, a very nice semi-ballad; “Roads to Madness”, Tate’s tour de force; and of course “Take Hold of the Flame”, the record’s smash hit and the best track in here.
Queensryche’s debut album is as important to any US power metal band, as “Stained Class” or “Piece of Mind” is. Sure, in “Warning” there are times that Queensryche can’t really hide their influences; sometimes they even sound as if they are trying to make an album that their peers would be proud to have created, but in the end it is exactly Ryche’s uniqueness that makes “Warning” really special. Through Queensryche’s vision the whole US power metal scene started shaping. Check any record you like, from “Awaken the Guardian” to “Graceful Inheritance”, it is “Warning” these records will remind you of first, before Priest and Maiden.