A little while ago I wrote about the lamentable goings on within and around the Queensrÿche camp. You can read about the ins and outs of one of the biggest bust-ups in modern music history back in these pages, but with the dust settling a little bit, all parties move on under the moniker of ‘Queensryche‘ in a bid to lay a permanent claim to the Queensryche name. Tate laid the first blow, although it was more of a tickle really, with his album ‘Frequency Unknown’ being released to a pretty tepid response. The big ‘F.U.’ on the cover indicating that he’s possibly still feeling a bit indignant about the whole situation. Shame. And now the other Queensrÿche, and in my opinion the more legitimate Rÿche with three founding members of the band, have released their self titled effort with new vocalist Todd La Torre and longstanding guitarist Parker Lundgren.
So what is it like? Well, it’s good! The first thing that strikes you is La Torre’s voice. I don’t know what the brief was, but he sounds a lot like a young Tate. Time will tell whether he can do it live but on record he nails it. I mean really nails it. You will not miss Tate when you hear this guy, he hits notes Tate gave up trying to hit twenty years ago. Love him or hate him now, Tate’s voice was a big part of this band’s sound so it was vital for them to find the right replacement if they were to have any chance of keeping their core support. First box ticked then.
Now the music. Straight off the mark it sounds like a Rÿche record, with Scott Rock opening things up with some pounding drums as a guitar cries in the distance à la Mindcrime or Rage.. nice! The album then gets under way with the first real track, ‘Where Dreams go to Die’. An awesome track that builds to trademark dueling harmonic guitars in the solo. Oh yes! I remember this band! Next track Spore keeps up the pace, maintaining the momentum, nice riff, great solo where EdBass and Scott Rock deliver the menace while the guitars deliver the beauty. Okay, I am excited now! The next track kinda chills things out a bit, ‘In This Light’ starting off quite slow but then growing into something quite heavy and majestic. Reminds me of something from Mindcrime 2. Then BAM, ‘Redemption’ and ‘Vindication’ crank things back up again, the second of the two bursting from the speakers like a juggernaut with swirling guitars and frenzied drums – old school Rÿche at its very best! Time for a breather, and we get it with ‘Midnight Lullaby’ that sounds just like you might imagine from the title, a spooky little segue into ‘A World Without’, another classically sounding Rÿche ballad that could have come from any of the Rage/Mindcrime/Empire writing sessions. By now you are realizing that this is a very good album. The best track of the album comes next, ‘Don’t Look Back’, sounding something similar to ‘The Needle Lies’ maybe? Whatever, it kicks arse! This is as heavy as they have been in twenty years, and what a joy to behold. Did I say the last track was my favourite? I might’ve lied, cos ‘Fallout’ is another cracker. Fast, heavy, QR to the very core. Then before you know it you are at the last track, ‘Open Road’. They know how to end an album, classic QR closer that has you reaching out to hit the play button allover again. It’s a short album, barely 35 minutes, and that’s maybe why on the UK version at least they have added a couple of live cuts, ‘Queen Of The Reich’ and ‘En Force’ closing things out with La Torre doing an awesome job on both. Geoff who anybody?
You have to remember when listening to both of these new Rÿche albums that they were created under very difficult circumstances, and I think it’s fair to say that the second of the two with the more legitimate Rÿche line-up is by far the better record. The Tate record sounds like a Tate record and should have been labelled that way. He’d led Queensrÿche down the road to obscurity over the last twenty years, and it’s maybe quite surprising that it took them so long to get rid of him? With La Torre involved the band sound refreshed, invigorated, they sound like they are enjoying being in Queensrÿche again, and as a fan it’s so great to hear. I cannot wait to see what they come up with for their next record, when they are given the opportunity to create a record in their own time, in their own space where everybody has an equal say and Todd can have his own input – without the outside pressures of having to prove a point or justify themselves. I am excited to be a Rÿche fan again, my favourite band are back and they are back with a serious bang!