Redemption

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: Geoff Tate’s Queensryche – “Cold” (2013 single)

Geoff Tate’s QUEENSRYCHE – “Cold” (2013 single)

Oh, how I wanted to hate this.

I don’t hate it.  It has a catchy riff, a good vocal from Geoff Tate, a shredding guitar solo, and it’s not about spitting on people or knives. It sounds modern while still featuring a guitar riff or two.  I don’t hate it like I hated, say, Tribe.  I’m disappointed that it’s a little faceless and generic sounding.

The problem is that it doesn’t sound like Queensryche.  It sounds like a Geoff Tate solo track.  Probably the best Geoff Tate solo track that there’s been so far.  But just a Geoff Tate solo track.

The blockheaded drums do not sound like the textured complexity of Queensryche.  (Sounds like Simon Wright though.)

The piano is distracting, I kept thinking a phone was ringing somewhere in my house.  It sounds like, “Hey, we have a keyboard player in our band.”

I love the guitar solo.  It’s so tasty and good.  Who is this?  Kelly?  Robert?  Neither?  What will this sound like when performed live without guest stars?

I don’t know if the mix is worth the brew-ha-ha that’s being made of it.  It’s not to my taste personally but it sounds like they had a vision of a heavier than fuck sound and just kind of overdid it.

This track confirms that Tate is still capable of writing good music.  It does not confirm that Tate still is capable of writing good Queensryche music.  This is his Chinese Democracy.  It has a vibe of, “Let’s saturate the song with everything from the biggest sounding drums to the fastest solo to a guy playing piano.”  Let’s try anything.

Where the real Queensryche’s song, “Redemption”, sounded unmistakably like Queensryche, Tate’s reeks of contrivances.    In the Battle of the Ryches, Round One, the original band comes out on top.  Tateryche will have their supporters, but it is clear now that Queensryche is a band sound, not merely a singer.

2.5/5 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

TATERYCHE

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