Review Summary: No frills, no ego. Fuck Geoff Tate for shitting on the legacy of the band that produced this album.
To the modern metal fan, Queensryche is usually nothing more than a joke. A band that has been skating through the last two decades solely on fan nostalgia and a breakout concept album that is nearly twenty-five years old. Of course, that's not an entirely accurate picture of the band's history but there's no denying that they've definitely been sidelined by ego and an unconcealed aversion to metal since the late nineties. It wasn't always like that, though. For a brief shining moment in the early eighties, the band knew nothing but the metal. In 1983 Queensryche released their self-titled debut EP, and it was straight-up metal without any shame. At that point they weren't looking for social commentary or high-brow concepts, and there definitely wasn't any ego actively driving the band into the ground. Instead, they were content to deliver four tracks of heavy riffs, shredding solos, fantasy lyrics and soaring vocals.
It is this EP that spawned fan-favorite 'The Queen of the Reich' and there's little doubt why they love it. This is eighties metal through-and-through. It features some of Geoff Tate's highest vocal acrobatics over a straight-up metal riff and a stern warning to metalheads everywhere: beware the Queen of the Reich – a point that's beaten home through a harmonized solo that transitions into some excellent shredding. While I'm not really sure if the Queen of the Reich ever claimed any victims, her supposed exploits definitely lead to one of the best songs in the Queensryche discography. If that wasn't enough, the next song comes with yet another metal warning: beware the night because he's loose again. Who exactly is loose you might ask… the Nightrider. Yes, it's amusing that so many early metal songs were stories about mythical beasts and scary dudes, but the awesome music and excellent vocals should be enough incentive to suspend disbelief for a few moments.
The album ends with another fan-favorite, 'The Lady Wore Black'. Is it another warning of impending doom at the hand of some spandex-clad horror? No, it's the Ryche's very first ballad and it's still one of their best. The song is a dark, moody piece that features Geoff's haunting vocals and lyrics that would make the guys in Cradle of Filth proud (in fact, its premise is very similar to 'A Gothic Romance'). At any rate, it's an excellent way for the band to finish off their only full-on metal album. This is the last time the band would be content with heavy riffs and a no-frills attitude, and it's worth any self-respecting metalhead's (do those people exist?) time.