The Todd La Torre era of Queensryche is now three albums deep. There’s no more mucking around. When drummer Scott Rockenfield went on personal leave, they didn’t let that stop them from writing and recording The Verdict. La Torre, a capable drummer in his own right, took on the challenge quite seamlessly.
So what’s the verdict on The Verdict?
The first Todd album (2013’s Queensrÿche) was safe and too brief. The second (2015’s Condition Hüman) was a lot to digest. The Verdict may have struck a better balance. They’re still exploring their own brand of metal, bringing in a few new sounds without departing from their core direction. They sound more comfortable in their own shoes. Don’t expect a progression into new musical territory. That’s not what The Verdict is. It’s a full-force metal album with nuance, complexity, and plenty of guitar harmonies. That’s what Queensryche do now. The writing is sharpened, and the songs sound assembled with care.
The album requires a few listens to sink in. The immediate standout here is a track called “Light-Years”, a song written by bassist Eddie Jackson who seems to come up with amazing songs out of the blue. Regal, riff-laden metal with bravery and hooks. This song should surely go down as a future Ryche classic. (Jackson also wrote “Propaganda Fashion” and co-wrote a bunch of others.) Another impressive song is the ballady “Dark Reverie” contributed by Parker Lundgren. Todd really kicks it in the ass with his outstanding vocals. The longest track “Bent” is dark and epic. The only real weakness on this album is a lack of diversity, which they seem to be trying to avoid lest they end up with another Dedicated to Chaos.
The balance is clear. The complexity of Condition Hüman is tempered by sharper hooks and melodies on The Verdict. They’ve cranked out a lot of music over the last six years and they’re sounding more confident today. Speaking of “a lot of music”, the consumer has choose between the standard single 10 track CD or the double “Masterpiece Edition” with rarities and new recordings.
For many fans, this will be their first chance to own the songs “46° North”, “Mercury Rising”, and “Espiritu Muerto”. To get those, you had to buy the (previously reviewed) vinyl box set version of Condition Hüman. Fans will also be thrilled by the four live songs from 2013’s Queensrÿche. One of them, “Eyes of a Stranger”, could only be found on the (previously reviewed) Japanese version. These, of course, all feature Scott Rockenfield on drums, his only appearances in this set.
The percussion on the two new recordings is handled by touring drummer Casey Grillo. If he ends up a permanent member one day, nobody can say, but these are his very first recordings with Queensryche. They are acoustic versions of “I Dream in Infrared” (from Rage for Order) and “Open Road” from (Queensrÿche). Both are quite excellent. It would be cool to get more of these acoustic renderings. (Geoff Tate did four on his Queensryche’s Frequency Unknown album.)
The “Masterpiece Edition” (9000 copies) comes packed in a nice big box similar to the one from 2013’s Queensrÿche. Additional goodies inside include an iron-on patch, a Verdict fridge magnet, and bottle opener. Now your kitchen can finally be complete. Just extra fluff, really — buy it for the songs.