parker lundgren

REVIEW: Queensrÿche – Condition Hüman (2015 vinyl box set version)

As we gear up for this year’s release of the next Queensryche album The Verdict, let’s look back at a different edition of their last album Condition Hüman.  For our original 2015 review of Condition Hüman, click here!

QUEENSRŸCHE – Condition Hüman (2015 Century Media 2 LP, + 7″ single coloured vinyl box set)

It is almost customary now.  When a band comes out with a new album, there has to be a crazy deluxe edition with vinyl and CD.  The best of these editions are the ones that include exclusive music.  In the end, all the posters and booklets in the world add up to only paper.  Exclusive music is the thing of real value.

Queensryche did well with their Condition Hüman deluxe.  It was available in a variety of colours.  This one is yellow, number 659/1000.  There’s a cool turntable mat inside, and a double sided poster.  For music, the album is split onto two coloured 180 gram vinyl records, including the Japanese bonus track “Espiritu Muerto” on Side D.   (The D-side is also etched with the Queensryche logo in the empty space.)  For your convenience, the entire album including Japanese bonus track is duplicated on the CD inside.  Then for the diehards comes the true exclusive:  two more songs on a 7″ single, not on any other version of the album.  This is the real reward for spending the extra money on the deluxe.

“Espiritu Muerto” chugs heavily along, punishing the skulls of unbelievers.   On the 7″ record, the two exclusive songs are fairly non-descript. “46° North” is B-side-ish, like a leftover written for Empire but dropped in favour of something more commercial.  “Mercury Rising” is on the other side, with a vaguely psychedelic metal vibe and science fiction lyrics.

Condition Hüman itself is a strong metallic album, though with hindsight perhaps too “metal” for its own good.  There was a time, not so long ago, when fans would have begged and pleaded with Queensryche to write just one new song in the vein of Condition Hüman.  Now that we have two albums solidly back in the metal genre, it would be nice to hear real diversity in Queensryche again.

That said, Condition Hüman is a damn fine album for what it is.  The Queensryche of today, fronted by Todd La Torre, has been determined to retain trademark elements from Queensryche’s 80s heyday.  That includes strong riffs, dual harmony solos, and screamin’ vocals.  These are all delivered with gravy on top.

The vinyl experience of Condition Hüman is actually superior to that of CD.  It was always a long album, with the standard edition being 53 minutes of pretty relentless stomping.  On vinyl, you’re forced to pause and flip the record three times before even getting to the single.  These brief respites allow you to breath and absorb.  What I’ve absorbed is that Condition Hüman is still a damn fine collection of songs, if a bit too single-minded.  One gets the impression from this album that, though good, Queensryche can still do better.

4/5 stars

LP-A1 Arrow Of Time
LP-A2 Guardian
LP-A3 Hellfire
LP-A4 Toxic Remedy

LP-B1 Selfish Lives
LP-B2 Eye 9
LP-B3 Bulletproof
LP-B4 Hourglass

LP-C1 Just Us
LP-C2 All There Was
LP-C3 The Aftermath
LP-C4 Condition Hüman

LP-D1 Espiritu Muerto

7″-A 46° North
7″-B Mercury Rising

REVIEW: Queensrÿche – Condition Hüman (2015 Japanese edition)

NEW RELEASE

QUEENSRŸCHE – Condition Hüman (2015 Century Media Japanese edition)

As if it was not abundantly clear on their last album (2013’s self-titled), Queensryche seem to have no intentions of abandoning their heavy metal roots again.  Furthermore when you have a significant lineup change, such as a new lead singer, you can’t just stand still.  You have to keep progressing forward.  The ‘Ryche used their last album to re-ground their sound, but for a followup you need more than that.  Condition Hüman pushes the boundaries out once more, but not without keeping the metal intact.

Indeed, “Arrow of Time” sounds as if the quintet had been ingesting nothing but classic Iron Maiden for breakfast.  Swift and viscous, “Arrow of Time” gets the job done in the requisite four minutes but not without exploring the exotic side of metal riffing.  Imagine an alternate reality where Queensryche did not go in the highly technological direction of 1986’s Rage for Order album.  Envision instead a timeline in which they followed The Warning (1984) with an album that continued to progress, but also go heavier at the same time.  That album would have been Condition Hüman.  “Hellfire” demonstrates this as well; the song would have fit on a heavier version of Rage.

“Guardian” demonstrates this even more clearly.  With the vintage-style screams and vocalizations (Todd La Torre for MVP), metal riffing, but also Mindcrime-like progressive rock, Queensryche have hit upon a satisfying balance.  Songwriting credits are various combinations of all five band members; all but “Eye 9”, written solely by bassist Eddie Jackson (a first, I think).  The album has a cohesive sound, like five guys all pulling in the same direction.  The production, by Zeuss, is punchy.   Queensryche have always employed elements such as sound effects and programming, and Condition Hüman has these fixtures as well.  

Moving on, “Toxic Remedy” is Mindcrime-like, but denser and massive sounding.  Pay attention to the way Todd La Torre layers his vocals on “Toxic Remedy”.  He has arranged the vocals in his own way; this is not a carbon copy of something else.  “Selfish Lives” is the same.  Yes, there are hooks and melodies that sound very Queensryche, but Todd is showing off his own personality more than before.   And he’s not taking the easy way out on any of it!  Sounds like he is really pushing his own limits, especially on “Selfish Lives”.  It’s quite remarkable how lucky Queensryche were to find a compatible guy like Todd, who is also able to stretch it out.

Another album highlight is the rhythmic “Eye 9”, the aforementioned Jackson composition.  This Queensryche-meets-Queens of the Stone Age track blows the doors wide open in terms of direction by putting the rhythm first.  It sounds like Queensryche, yet nothing like any prior Queensryche, simultaneously.  “Bulletproof” puts a new slant on the Queensryche power ballad, keeping the emphasis on the power.   La Torre makes it his own — listen to the last note he sings.  Sends chills up the spine.  Speaking of chills, crossing the acoustics with the heavy chunky riffing on “The Hourglass” did exactly that.  There are Pink Floyd influences coming up to breathe from time to time on Condition Hüman. This is most obvious on “Just Us”, which is also very much like the slightly psychedelic acoustic side of Led Zeppelin. Queensryche have never done anything like “Just Us” before.  “Silent Lucidity” this is not.  The soulful singing at the close of the song is also unlike anything on a prior Queensryche song.

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For fans of the technical, fast side of Queensryche, “All There Was” will scratch that itch.  With that pulsing technological rhythm and “Needle Lies” tempo, you are in for a ride.  Don’t forget the blazing guitar histrionics.  The final album track is “Condition Hüman” itself, 7:48 of dramatic progressive metallic rock.  Check out the “Astronomy Domine” section after the fifth minute, just before it goes into that deliberate Mindcrime riff.  If I had to pigeonhole the sound of this album, it would be “progressive metallic rock”, but pigeonholes are lazy.  Still, as Commander Pavel Chekov once said, “If shoe fits…”

Holding out for the Japanese edition of the album, the bonus track “Espiritu Muerto” is the bonus track worth waiting for.  Going sludgy for 3:40, but topped with a soaring chorus, the bonus track is in the mold of the album but different just the same.  It’s a long album though, and adding more material (even if good) can sometimes push a CD just a bit too far in terms of attention span.  “Espiritu Muerto” is close to this line, but because it has enough personality of its own, it’s worth staying around for.

If any of these songs sound intriguing to you, check out Condition Hüman.  Fans who wonder where Queensryche could have gone had they adhered to heavier roads will find much to enjoy.  They have never taken the easy way with any of their albums, but it is hard to imagine a fan of early ‘Ryche who won’t find something here to love.

4/5 stars

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REVIEW: Queensryche – Dedicated to Chaos (2011 special edition)

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QUEENSRYCHE – Dedicated to Chaos (2011 Roadrunner special edition)

Dedicated to Chaos will probably go down in history as the album that broke up Geoff Tate and Queensryche. The ironic thing was that Tate and the band hyped this album as a collaborative effort, with songwriting efforts from the whole band.  It seemed from the early press releases that there was a conscious effort to have the original members contributing as equal members.  Even Scott Rockenfield sounded genuinely psyched:

“It’s huge rock but with a great dance vibe to it, real modern dance. It’s kind of like Rage through a time tunnel, bringing it into the now. There are a lot of electronic elements to it. It’s a big rock thing that is going to have a lot of color to it — it’s good and really intense.”

Hearing that, I was excited. Not for the idea of “modern dance”, but for the Rage For Order vibe through a time tunnel. That could have been good. Unfortunately those are just words. Dedicated to Chaos may have elements from Rage and Promised Land (samples) but it is lightyears away from anything “rock”…certainly not “a big rock thing” as Rockenfield claimed.

Is it progressive rock? Who cares. It’s not good enough for a band of Queensryche’s stature. Tate’s friends Kelly Gray, Randy Gane, and Jason Slater also collaborated, watering down the attempt at re-integrating the band members. The impact of Jackson, Wilton and Rockenfield can barely be felt, even on the songs they co-wrote.

So here we are with Dedicated To Chaos, supposedly a rebirth but actually a funeral. It could have been my favourite album since Promised Land, had they delivered what they promised. The guitar patterns are more drony than riffy. There are electronic effects, as indicated. There is a huge emphasis on rhythm, but not necessarily groove. To its credit, much like Promised Land and Rage, there are unfamiliar sounds coming from everywhere. Some are percussive, others are more musical, but this is another true headphones album from Queensryche. If you actually wanted to hear what they were up to. Which I do not, I’ve given it a chance. I listened intently when it came out, and initially gave the album a rough grade of a 4/5, assuming it would grow on me. It did the opposite, and I liked it less with each listen.

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This layout annoys me to no end.

My biggest complaint with Queensryche was Geoff Tate’s aging voice. It seems to have lost so much range and power over the years to the point where I can’t listen to Take Cover at all. The voice isn’t getting any better. At least it was recorded better than Take Cover. He’s using more of his own voices too. This is done particularly well on “Got It Bad”.

The positives: “Get Started” which sounds almost Empire-lite.  Melodically strong was “Around The World”, which also has a nice positive message. You’ll hear more of Tate’s sax on “Higher” which is a modern sounding song with just a pinch of funk, yet with dual guitar solos. Lyrically, we’re all over the map. “Retail Therapy” is just pissed off at the world. “Around The World” has a kum-bay-a peace and love message. We’ve even got some civil disobedience and the hint of a conspiracy theory in “At the Edge”: “Time to look at what’s behind closed doors, Got gasoline, ammunition, like 911, a controlled demolition.” It also happens to be one of the best and longest songs on the album.

The negatives:  Most of the bulk of the album.  It’s just forgettable.  Go ahead — tell me how “Luvnu” goes.  Can’t remember, can ya?  This piece of crap was written by Tate with his buddies Randy Gane and Kelly Gray.  Surprised?

The “special edition” had three bonus tracks. They are mellow and atmospheric, but worth having only to the fan and collector.

2.5/5 stars

REVIEW: Queensrÿche – Queensrÿche (2013 Japanese edition with bonus tracks)

QUEENSRŸCHE – Queensrÿche (2013 Avalon Japanese import)

RYCHE2013_0004I purchased and reviewed the domestic “deluxe edition” of Queensryche (2013) in July of this year.  I initially gave it a 3.25/5 stars, but I have since revised that score to 3.5/5.  The album continues to appeal to me greatly months later, which is more than I can say for most Queensryche discs since Promised Land.  At the end of that review, I cryptically added, “Oh, and the live bonus tracks absolutely smoke.”

Since nobody likes a tease, I’ve decided to focus on all four live tracks for this review.  For the very reasonable price of $32 USD plus $3 shipping, I had a sealed copy of Queensryche sent to me from Japan, so I now have all four live tracks.  If you want the short report:  They’re good enough that Queensryche should consider releasing a full live CD/DVD.  I’d buy it based on these four tracks.  But nobody comes to mikeladano.com for the short version.

“Queen of the Reich” is the first song I ever heard from the original  Queensryche, as I suspect is true for most of the band’s fanbase.  Right from the opening scream, I feel that this is the band that represents Queensryche.  Every note is nailed, as is every scream.  On this song Todd La Torre can do no wrong, but not just that.  I would say that his versions are, in general, fresh sounding.  He is reverent to the originals, but I also hear his own voice.  I must also commend Scott Rockenfield.  His drums are heavy as fuck, and his bass drum precisely punctuates every beat.

“En Force” is a welcome surprise.  In 2001, Eddie Jackson told me that it was considered in the running for the Live Evolution album but did not make the cut.  The good news is the guys still know how to play it!  This has never been my absolute favourite track from The Warning, but to hear it live with all the screams intact?  That’s something I never thought would happen again.

“Prophecy” is a difficult song, and although Todd doesn’t sing it album-perfect, I have to ask myself, who else these days can sing these Queensryche songs like this?  Not too many singers.  I just hope Todd doesn’t blow out his voice.  I’m sure this kind of singing takes its toll.

Last is the classic “Eyes of a Stranger”.  This is the only bonus track not from the stone ages of the Ryche, the only representation of Operation: Mindcrime.  It is actually this track, in many respects, that shows off the talents of Todd La Torre.  It is another side of the spectrum, and Todd pulls this off as well.  Look, I know Geoff Tate’s the original, etc. etc.  I get that.  Focused on the here and now, this is how I’d like to hear Queensryche sound.  Heavy, slightly progressive rock music with shredding vocals.  That’s what I like, and Queensryche deliver on these four bonus tracks.

Lastly, a word about Parker Lundgren.  I remember when Kelly Gray joined the band, on Live Evolution he lent a different sound to the band.  It was good, just different.  Parker fits much more seamlessly.   He doesn’t attract attention to himself by playing things differently, he played it the way you remember it.

Yeah, so I bought the album twice.  You knew I was going to.  For the bonus tracks:

5/5 stars

More RYCHE:

REVIEW: Queensrÿche – Queensrÿche (deluxe edition 2013)

QUEENSRŸCHE – Queensrÿche (2013 deluxe edition)

So after all the hubbub and commotion and he-says she-says, both Queensryches have finally released their albums.  The consensus is pretty clear:  fans prefer the original band to the original singer.  The sales figures speak for themselves.  Queensryche has more than doubled the sales numbers of Frequency Unknown, and charted in the 20’s rather than the 80’s.  The judge that will settle the case of who gets the Queensryche name in November said that the market would decide.  If that’s indeed the case, Tate can look forward to a solo career.

In the meantime Michael Wilton, Scott Rockenfield and Eddie Jackson carried on with Parker Lundgren and Todd La Torre, and basically did what fans have been asking:  revert to an earlier sound.

Instead of going through this album song-by-song, I thought I would try something different.  Instead I’d like to just talk about what I like and don’t like about Queensryche.  You can feel free if you disagree if you like.  Uncle Meat couldn’t bring himself to review the album.  He hated it so much he rated it 0/5 stars.  He said that the hiring of a Tate clone only makes Queensryche look like a bunch of douchebags.  His opinion was that this act alone put Tate on top, even if he did release the dreadful Frequency Unknown.  He asked me to say this on his behalf:

“This is like the winner of the Queensryche Karaoke contest.  Worst album of the year, of any genre.”

So there’s that.  I respect the criticism about the Karaoke contest.  But lemme tell you folks, even if La Torre’s Tate is uncanny, it’s also welcome to my weary ears.  I like hearing a Queensryche album where the singer is actually hitting the notes.  I’ve heard Tate fans talk about electronic processing on La Torre’s voice.  Well, that’s pretty much rooted in the 1986 Rage For Order sound.

If I had to nail Queensryche down to a specific era, it would be Warning-Rage-Empire in that order.  Not terribly original, no.  I’ll let it slide though, and for this reason:  when a band like Queensryche, who have musically been adrift at sea for a long time (barring the odd triumph like American Soldier), they need to re-ground themselves and regain the faith and trust of the fans.  Priest did something similar with their Angel of Retribution album.  Various songs sounded pretty bang-on for specific eras of the band.  And you know what?  That worked for me.  It was what I needed.  They saved the double concept album for the next record.

So, if Queensryche can progress from here, I’ll be happy and forgive them for the lack of originality.  I’ll let it slide for one album.  I’m also a little disappointed in the brief running time of 35 minutes: 9 short songs plus 2 intros.  None of the tracks are longer than 4 1/2 minutes.

QR2013 PICKI find pretty much all the songs to be of equal quality.  That is, all of them are good, some of them are better than good, none of them are poor.  I’ve waited to listen to this album 5 or 6 times before I tried to review it.  After that many listens, none of the songs are particularly jumping out at me more than others.  But none are turning me off.  All  have moments of greatness here and there, sometimes in the guitars, other times the drums, or the vocals.  La Torre is definitely stunning at times on this album.  It’s also fantasic to actually hear Scott Rockenfield playing the drums on a Queensryche album, and sounding like Scott Rockenfield.  He has a unique sound, one of his own, as does bassist Eddie Jackson.

As for the new boy Parker Lundgren?  Sure, he played on some of Dedicated to Chaos, but now you can actually hear him.  He meshes better with Michael Wilton than anybody else the band has had since Chris DeGarmo.

Which brings me to my final point.  I still miss DeGarmo.  This is nothing against Michael, Scott, Eddie, Parker or Todd.  DeGarmo had some kind of magic.  Look at all of Queensryche’s hits.  See who wrote most of them.  Queensryche absolutely miss DeGarmo, more than they do Tate.

In closing, I enjoy Queensryche a lot more than Frequency Unknown, or many albums since Promised Land.  Do I like it more than Rage?  Warning?  The EP?  No.  It’s good, no mistake, but it’s not at that level.  Whether they are capable of ever getting there again remains to be seen.  My attention is peaked; I’ll definitely check out the next album, which the band have already started writing.  In fact I’m looking forward to the next one, and hopefully the next one after that.

Oh, and the live bonus tracks absolutely smoke.

3.5/5 stars

FYI:  The Japanese edition contains an additional bonus track, which is “Eyes of a Stranger” performed live by the new lineup.  All four live tracks are taken from the same gig.  Reviewed separately.

REVIEW: Queensryche – “Redemption” (2013 single)

QUEENSRYCHE – “Redemption” (2013 single from the forthcoming new album Queensryche)

Ever since I first saw the video for “Queen of the Reich” back in, oh, ’84 or around there, I’ve been a fan of this band.  I’ve followed them through ups (Operation: Mindcrime) but pretty much abandoned them on the downs (Tribe).  As time went on it seemed that former singer Geoff Tate was in command, and his choices of direction or stage show hasn’t always been to my taste, nor that of many fans.

Hiring a new singer this late in the game is very rarely a good move.  But it seems fairly obvious that Tate was poisoning his relationship with the band and fans, and it was with relief to me when they finally fired him and moved on.  Todd La Torre is completely unknown to me, I had never heard his work with Crimson Glory.  The new Queensryche single “Redemption” from their untitled album due in June is the first time I’ve heard any of his original material.

The verdict?  It’s pretty much exactly what I expected.  It sounds like Queensryche circa Warning through to Mindcrime, but with modern touches.  There’s some solid riffing here, but not so much the audio collages of sound that Queensryche tend to do in the studio.  La Torre nails the vintage Tate vibe without adding a whole lot to it, right down to the multitracked backing vocals.  The track doesn’t expand the Queensryche sound, which is the opposite of what they used to do.  In this case I understand the reasons.  After a decade of more or less disappointing albums and wandering directions, now is not the time to experiment musically.  Queensryche had to return to a vintage sound, as demanded by their fans, and do so authentically.  I think they do this authentically by genuinely desiring to play that kind of music right now.

It’s hard to do a simple rating on a song I’ve been waiting for like this.  Am I underwhelmed?  Slightly.  Is that because I got exactly what I expected?  Probably.  Is it good?  Yes.  Am I looking forward to the album?  Big time.

3.5/5 stars

More Queensryche:

Mike Ladano: Exclusive EDDIE JACKSON interview, part I

Mike Ladano: Exclusive EDDIE JACKSON interview, part II

Mike Ladano: Exclusive EDDIE JACKSON interview, part III

Mike Ladano: Exclusive EDDIE JACKSON interview, part IV

The “real” Queensryche — new song samples, new trailer!

Far too early for comment. But I will anyway.

The first song snippet didn’t sound like Queensryche to me (more like Racer X!).  The second and beyond did…keep in mind these must be demos because they’re not hitting the studio until next month.

I’m sure the Tate camp will be pissed off at them saying they are the “masterminds” behind Mindcrime and Empire…that was probably taking it too far.  This is turning into a PR war.

I’m encouraged.  Produced with Jimo Barton again!  You’re not gonna get that much from a few seconds’ worth, but a couple of these songs sound like possible winners, and have the “Queensryche sound”.  (Nobody sounds like Rockenfield!)  It does sound a lot better than pretty much anything from Hear In The Now to present.  But will it be memorable and live up to The Warning or Rage For Order?

We’ll see in 2013.

Discuss.

UPDATE: Two Queensryches? F***!

(Below: Sarzo)


http://www.bravewords.com/news/189489

http://www.bravewords.com/news/189504

The “real”Queenryche:
Eddie Jackson (bass), Scott Rockenfield (drums), Michael Wilton and Parker Lundgren (guitars), Todd La Torre (new singer)

Geoff Tate’s new “second” Queensryche:  Rudy Sarzo (bass, ex-Dio, ex-Quiet Riot, ex-Ozzy, ex-Whitesnake), Bobby Blotzer (drums, Ratt), Glen Drover (guitars, ex-Megadeth), Kelly Gray (guitars, ex-Queensryche) and Randy Gane (keyboards, ex-Myth).

Getting (Canadian!) Glen Drover is a huge coup.  Sarzo’s history speaks for itself. Gray is no surprise, at least to me.  But “Da Blotz” Bobby Blotzer on drums?  Seriously, Geoff?  That’s…uhhh…an interesting choice for a new Queensryche.  What, was Frankie Banali unavailable so next on the list was Da Blotz?

My initial impressions are as follows:  Drover’s brilliant but this new patchwork Queensryche smells like the new Guns N’ Roses.  Blotzer is a choice that just boggles my mind.  I guess we’ll see how it goes, but my money’s on the old Queensryche.   Still can’t believe the fans have to deal with two Queensryches, now.  Hopefully the courts will put this to an end in 2013 and rule that the guys who booted Geoff out by  majority vote have the rights to the name….

This is just getting stupid.  Geoff, stop being a douche!

If you like Queensryche, check these out:

Mike Ladano: Exclusive EDDIE JACKSON interview, part I

Mike Ladano: Exclusive EDDIE JACKSON interview, part II

Mike Ladano: Exclusive EDDIE JACKSON interview, part III

Mike Ladano: Exclusive EDDIE JACKSON interview, part IV