Review Summary: The Queen of the Reich gathers her forces and takes back some lost ground.
Queensryche have been in the progressive metal genre since before progressive metal really existed. The veterans of rock have released many great albums in their time, ranging from the excellent ‘Operation: Mindcrime’ to albums like ‘Promised Land’ and ‘Rage to Order’. Over the past decade however, their material has suffered from a decrease in quality. The band suffered according, and in 2012 the members split into two factions. One half led by vocalist Geoff Tate, and the other led by the remaining band members. To avoid confusion, this version of the band is not led by Geoff Tate.
To replace the loss of a member so intrinsic to the sound of Queensryche, the new band joined force with Todd La Torre, who was previously in the band Crimson glory. And if there is one thing that can be said about him from the off, he sounds very much like classic Geoff Tate. In fact he sounds more like Geoff Tate than Geoff Tate currently does.
On this album, Queensryche have regained a certain ‘spark’ that has been missing from their recent work. Everyone on this album has something to prove, Todd most of all, as the focus is now on him as Queensryche front man. On the whole he manages to impress with his powerful voice, even on the slower ballad style songs such as ‘In this Light’. Occasionally he sounds a little bit off, such as on the chorus of ‘Redemption’ where he seems to inadvertently strain his voice.
Musically the album is well done, the guitar work is excellent with Lundgren and Wilton pulling off some gritty style riffs and manage to sound much better than they have done on previous work. The rhythm section, having been proven countless times over, remains just as good as ever. With excellent drum work from Rockenfield and thumping bass from Jackson, which proves particularly noticeable on certain songs, such as the opening of ‘Fallout’. Scott proves himself very well on the song ‘Vindication’ which has excellent drum work throughout its length, and is an excellent sample of what the album provides in total.
Despite its short length, Queensryche manages to provide quite a varied record, with hard rocking songs mixed with ballads, along with dark and moody records such as ‘A World Without’. This short length works in the band's favour, because like a boxer they dart in quickly in the first few rounds to overwhelm the opponent and pray they knock them out before they tire. Luckily in this case, Queensryche are more Mike Tyson than Rocky Balboa, and they swarm you to death before you can respond.
But not everything on this record is perfect and it does have flaws, many of which lie in the production department. I hope you like drums, because on this album the drums are very loud and you can’t escape them. Occasionally the guitar and bass guitars get lost in the mix, and Todd's voice can sometimes sounds synthetic and produced. But these don't mar too much what is a great return to form. Queensryche’s second self titled album is something of a return to form, and the band haven't sounded this good since the Chris DeGarmo era. This isn't an Empire Two or Promised Land Two, but it is a step in the right direction, it's a much darker and heavier record than anything else Queensryche have done, and shows a lot more musical talent than previous outings. Todd La Torre's appearance has breathed some life into the dying husk that was Queensryche, and now we have to wait and see if she fully recovers from what has been a very long illness.