Friday, June 21, 2013

REVIEW: Queensrÿche - Queensrÿche (2013)

It's official folks: after what feels like centuries, one of progressive metal's pioneers are finally back on track! And I'll be damned if it's not one of the best comeback albums I've ever had the pleasure to listen to, much less own. No more drama, no more Geoff Tate....just a great bunch of guys doing the music they know and love.

But I digress: I just got this sucker not too long ago in the mail, but I've spun it enough to say with 1000% confidence that it's the best album these guys have done since 1994's Promised Land, possibly even Empire.

And speaking of Empire, that's the album that came to mind most when listening through this new self-titled (the cover art being a nod to it as well): Michael Wilton (the founding guitarist alongside Chris DeGarmo) was a big factor in that particular album's more anthemic cuts like 'Resistance' and the title track, and he's gotten to stretch his riffage muscles more here than he's gotten to in ages! Furthermore, Scott Rockenfield, guitarist Parker Lundgren, Eddie Jackson and drummer-turned vocal powerhouse Todd La Torre have a chemistry that rivals anything we've had since '91...and that's not something you can say about just any ol' comeback record!

Despite lacking a bit of the diverse, nuanced touches of variety that DeGarmo brought to the QR table with his more classic pop/rock tastes back in the late 80's/early 90's, there's a helluva lot to like here: a great deal of it might even work on radio (the Rage For Order-ish 'Don't Look Back', Operation: Mindcrime-reminiscent stomper 'Redemption' and the blistering 'Fallout' being my three main picks) but you also, surprisingly enough, get a foray into power metal with the sizzling 'Vindication' and two really snappy, cinematic mid-tempo hair raisers in the form of 'A World Without' and closing number 'Open Road'. Nothing overstays its welcome...hell, you might find yourself salivating for more as the last notes fade out.

Going back to Todd for a moment: this is his debut album as a vocalist, and he really brings the bacon here. Others have likened him more to original Crimson Glory frontman Midnight (R.I.P.!) and a younger Bruce Dickinson more than Tate as far as intonation and delivery goes, and after you've spent some time with the album, you'll probably find yourself in agreement. He's got a lot of range and power, but he isn't emulating anyone in particular: if anything, he's a chameleon of sorts, an amalgamate of every great 80's metal pioneer and then some. Any of today's heavier outfits would be lucky to have him: we're just doubly fortunate that he happens to be in Queensrÿche's present!

In conclusion: there was no way that this album was going to please everyone, but it really is interesting to hear, for the first time in fifteen years or more, QR actually sound alive, vital and most importantly, relevent in today's musicscape. They've brought everything we loved sonically from the EP through Promised Land and spiced things up with some 2000's melodic metal sensibilities. What more could you want really, especially when the QR brand itself is at stake in November?

PS: For those of you who will undoubtedly complain about the short running length....the band is already at work on the next record. Which will, according to them, have longer material that they couldn't finish in time for the self-titled. Definitely looking forward to that!!

Buy It Here!