Review Summary: Queensryche is the album that most fans have been begging for. A modern take on the classic sound.
How long have Queensryche fans been begging for a return to what made the band so special? How long have we been hoping for just the slightest bit of metal swagger or even some classic dual guitar harmonies? How long have we held on to every scrap of nostalgia in order to not hate the last 15+ years of Queensryche releases? We've made excuses, we've dropped our standards and, in the end, we simply learned to be happy with any release that wasn't totally embarrassing. Dedicated to Chaos
pushed most of us beyond our levels of tolerance. It was easily a new low for the band, and worse, Geoff Tate seemed to be blaming the listener for the negative reactions. As if the only thing keeping us from enjoying the album was our lack of sophistication and an inability to transcend to the artistic heights that Geoff Tate had so obviously attained -- yeah right. It finally seemed like it was time to end this abusive relationship and move on, but then the unexpected happened.
In a surprise move, the band dumped Geoff Tate and picked up ex-Crimson Glory vocalist Todd La Torre. This change of personnel seemed to revitalize the remaining members, and a quick tour was followed by the release of the band’s twelfth album, Queensryche
. For long time fans, this album is most likely going to elicit memories of Empire
with its strong songwriting and infectious choruses but there’s more to it than that. If anything, Queensryche
is the sound of Empire
with hints of the band’s earliest material, but built for the modern metal fan. This is most noticeable in the fat riffs that dominate just about every song. Even at their most ‘metal’ the band were never really known for writing heavy music, but that has changed on Queensryche
. There are places throughout this album where the bottom-end and percussion blend to create some positively crushing (by Queensryche standards) refrains -- most notably within ‘Spore’. There’s more to this album than an emphasis on heavy riffs, though.
Even at their lowest, Queensryche were never a one-trick pony and they haven’t become one now. Just about every track explores a different facet of the band’s sound while still maintaining a uniform listening experience. There’s the album opener, ‘Where Dreams Go to Die’, that alternates between heavy, militaristic sections and a mellow groove. Later, there’s the ‘Another Rainy Night’ / ‘Jet City Woman’ vibe of ‘In This Light’ which is definitely an album highlight. There are also a few power ballads that bring to mind the style found on ‘No Sanctuary’ and ‘London’. There are even a few bones for the Mindcrime
crowd including ‘Vindication’ with a chorus that actually kind of has a classic Helloween feel. Despite references to the band’s past, the songs on Queensryche
never sound rehashed or stale. Queensryche have masterfully managed to return to the sound of their classic albums, but have done so while moving forward (as they have always done).
When the band dropped Geoff Tate in favor of Todd La Torre, most fans probably expected the worst. Yes, Geoff was driving the band into the dirt, but change is a hard thing to accept even when it is necessary. It turns out, however, that Todd La Torre was the perfect replacement. He is able to emulate Geoff Tate’s classic vocal style perfectly, and also brings his own gritty style to the songs. There are plenty of times over the course of the album where I literally forgot that there even was a new vocalist. A fan that hadn’t heard about all of the drama would probably never even know that a change had taken place.
Of course, there are a few issues that should be addressed. If there is one complaint that could be leveled against these songs, it’s that they lack the high level of classy, progressive elements that were so prevalent during the Chris DeGarmo era. The songs all seem to be lacking that layer of subtle flourishes and clean guitar melodies that were (apparently) DeGarmo’s influence. Of course, they’ve been missing since the late nineties but I was hoping that the remaining members input had simply been stifled in that area. The other minor issue is the album’s runtime. At barely thirty-five minutes, the length leaves me wanting more. This complaint is as much a testament to the high quality of each song as it is a gripe against the brevity of the album. It just feels like it would have been a perfect opportunity to crank out an extended song similar to ‘Roads to Madness’, ‘Eyes of a Stranger’ (the extended live version) or ‘’Promised Land’. The absence of a few more short songs (or one extended track) doesn’t diminish the value of what is present on the album, it is more of a wish or ‘in a perfect world’ complaint than anything else.
Dedicated to Chaos
burned a lot of Queensryche’s remaining fans, and Geoff Tate’s increasingly hostile stance put off a lot more. It really seemed like the band were going to implode in the kind of way that makes VH1’s Behind the Music
executives moist in their undies, but it hasn’t happened. Instead, the band have ditched the bad karma and released their best album since the early nineties (if not earlier). New vocalist Todd La Torre is spot on with his interpretation of Geoff Tate’s signature vocal style, but also brings enough of his own personal flair to keep from being a clone. Musically the band have stepped things up by mixing their signature sound with a modern, riff-heavy style that turned out to be truly complimentary. There’s absolutely no way Queensryche’s self-titled album will disappoint long-time fans that have been clamoring for a return to what initially made the band special.