Part I of a Queensryche two-parter.
Sometimes a reissue is done so right you just gotta “Take Hold of the Flame”.
The 1984 debut EP by Queensryche is one such release. The original vinyl runs shy of 18 minutes, leaving plenty of space for bonus tracks. For this, they included the audio for all 10 songs from their first home video, Live in Tokyo. Wishes fulfilled.
The original four track EP put the quintet from Seattle on the map. Opening with “Queen of the Reich”, the young band showcased their knack for riffs and screaming vocals. Geoff Tate’s opening scream cannot be touched. Tate seemed embarrassed of these songs later on (all written by Michael Wilton and Chris DeGarmo with one lyric by Geoff). Though the songs are clearly a starting point, they’re nothing to be embarrassed by. “Queen of the Reich” remains simple, majestic and powerful.
The “Nightrider” sails away but the riffs go on with pneumatic precision. Early Queensryche were not that dissimilar from early Iron Maiden, but at least they were doing that sound well. Curiously enough this self-produced EP was not recorded with the intention to release it. Queensrÿche is actually just a demo, but the band were starting to make waves on the live scene and so the four songs were released as an EP. It eventually went gold; very rare for an EP.
Flipping over to side two, “Blinded” is screamy and raw. Not one of the bands’ most memorable tunes, but soon arrives “The Lady Wore Black”. This is a metal ballad in the classic vein of “Beyond the Realms of Death” or “Remember Tomorrow”. Tate’s voice cascades while the band weave a backing track of guitar thunder. Along with “Queen of the Reich”, it still turns up on live setlists.
The live set in Tokyo, recorded in 1984, contains all the tracks from the EP, a non-album song called “Prophecy”, and several from the debut full-length album The Warning. Opening with the “Nightrider”, Queensryche don’t let up through a generally fast and heavy set. “Prophecy” keeps up the brisk pace, with a chorus that is miles ahead of “Nightrider”. And this DeGarmo-penned smoker was a non-album track! “Deliverance” from The Warning follows in its ashy footsteps. It’s an onslaught of Warning tracks: “Child of Fire” and “En Force” rolled out in heavy fashion. This trio of Warning songs might be considered the slow part of the set. They have a soundalike vibe as they steamroll the ears.
“The Lady Wore Black” brings a slower, dark atmosphere. Tate’s sustain is unbelievable! Then it’s a blast of classics to close the set: “Warning”, “Take Hold of the Flame” and “Queen of the Reich”. Magnificent metal through and through, with “Take Hold” being an unequivocal high point. From Tate’s vocal to the exalted riffing, Queensryche nail it.
Don’t just get the EP. Make sure to get the 2003 CD reissue with the glorious Tokyo show included. You’ll be happy you did.