Review Summary: Queensryche return with a fantastic album that includes a belting vocal performance, guitar melodies that will have you quivering in your boots and some of the best progressive metal out there
One would be hard pushed to find anyone that would disagree that Queensryche's output in recent years has ranged from bad to abysmal. The band that once revolutionized the metal genre with their distinctive Iron Maiden-sounding guitar harmonies in more of a progressive nature than almost every band of their day threw their legacy down the drain with American Soldier and the insipid Dedicated To Chaos. In fact, almost every album that followed their strong 1994 outing Promised Land has had many negative features that have had fans silently weeping whilst praying that they would return to the striking form that brought about creations such as Operation Mindcrime. Finally, in the aftermath of a split within the band that lead to two separate parties claiming the Queensryche name, the band has put out something that can make one proud to be a fan of them again.
The aforementioned split has taken away the problematic former member of the "true" Queensryche, vocalist Geoff Tate, and in the wake of this the band drafted in Todd La Torre and proceeded to write some of their strongest material in years. Right from the off, the band showcases their dynamic style that will have fans and newcomers alike creaming themselves. It would seem that on their eponymous 2013 album they have strived to create an album that will appeal to the masses whilst reclaiming their former glory, and they achieve this masterfully. Michael Wilson and Parker Lundgren showcase a fantastic display of guitar harmonies and awesome riffs that will drop your jaw to the ground the first time you hear it. Redemption was the first song released from this album and this is a great example of the interesting and yet accessible sound of the guitars here. The guitarists went all out with this album, scattering many quick lead section and creative fills that keeps the music moving along at a brisk pace whilst remaining extremely creative throughout.
The one thing about many of Queensryche's early albums that invoked feelings of wonder in the heart of even the most seasoned metalheads was their ability to seamlessly get from A to B and then through to point C without ever needing to break up the flow of their music. They attempted to replicate this on several of their later albums, including the followup to Operation Mindcrime, but there was a lot of passion missing from these albums. Thankfully, this was not the case with the band's self-titled effort, in which they kick you straight in the teeth with some awe-inspiring progressions. Not once is there a pedestrian drum line that merely blends in among the rest of the soundscape, and nor is there a functionless bass line akin to many of the most commercially oriented bands that Queensryche attempted to mimic on many of their newer albums. The very first song on the album showcases the bombastic nature of this record, jumping from the heavy to the softer side of their sound in seconds without compromising themselves.
The atmosphere here is constructed fantastically, with Where Dreams Go To Rest showing off with some brilliant drumming and a chilling guitar performance that will send shivers down your spine. Several songs in, and this dark and thought-provoking fog the band brings with their performance never threatens to cave in, and the vocals only add to this. Many people will rightfully be skeptical as to whether Todd has the chops to compete with the vocals on the earlier Queensryche albums. To put things gently, he absolutely dominates this album. His vocals suit the nature of Queensryche's music perfectly, with many higher pitched, gritty vocal passages throughout but also the occasional moment of mellower vocals. He has a decent enough range and the way his voice plays off the squealing, higher guitar tones is a joy to behold. If you are a fan of Queensryche who doubts that Todd has the ability to live up to Tate's works, guess again as this is a magnificent effort from the new vocalist.
Queensryche really managed to put together a solid album for the "true" incarnation of the band's first attempt since the split with Geoff Tate. The musical progressions are amazing, the guitar lines are stellar and the vocal performance is as strong as it gets. Fans of the band will love this and newcomers are recommended to pick this up as soon as possible.