Sound: That voice. It's hard not to immediately recognize Queensryche's music when you've got the mega-wailer Geoff Tate behind the mic. Even if you're not a fan of every phase of Queensryche's history, Tate's talent cannot be denied and that's one of the biggest selling points of the band's new compilation Sign Of The Times: The Best Of Queensryche. The CD is a pretty fascinating look at a band that has gone from epic metal to radio-friendly rock in the course of a few decades. If there is one point about the CD that is a little disappointing, it's that only a few selections from the Operation: Mindcrime era are represented.
Sign Of The Times takes a fairly chronological approach to the band's music, with over-the-top fantastical tracks like Queen Of The Reich and The Lady Wore Black. While the aforementioned titles don't show the band's true potential, they are still fun tracks to listen to -- and check out the videos for them on YouTube for a quick chuckle. Tate was just as strong at the age of 25 and a song like Walk In The Shadows (originally from the Rage For Order album) is in fact one of the most memorable melodies on the compilation.
The only beef comes in the fact that only 2 tracks from Operation: Mindcrime appear on the CD. Mindcrime was the first platinum release for Queensryche and, for some it remains the band's most innovative. The CD does offer up Eyes Of A Stranger and I Don't Believe In Love, then quickly transitions into the band's monster hit Silent Lucidity. Although Silent Lucidity was a no-brainer to add and there are some other fantastic tracks from the Empire album, it is somewhat surprising that Best I Can didn't make the cut. But given the band has a lot of musical history to cover, it's completely understandable that listeners will likely be missing a personal favorite or two.
For those who drifted away from Queensryche's music after Empire, Sign Of The Times gives plenty of insight to what the band has been up to since the early '90s. I am I that highlights a particularly intriguing, effects-laced vocal from Tate and excellent riffage from Chris DeGarmo. One of the most satisfying tracks is Real World, which surprisingly enough is from The Last Action Hero. It's a quiet, unassuming track that revolves around a beautiful melody, and it's fantastic to finally have it on an actual Queensryche album rather than a soundtrack. // 8
Lyrics: There is a distinct evolution in Queensryche's lyrics, but even during different trends the band has always put plenty of thought into what they wrote. You'll get a bit more of a melodramatic approach in the earlier tracks and that suits the music to a tee. In Queen Of The Reich Tate sings, Flying high through the night; She will hide your fate; As she takes your soul from under; And the blinding light of the castle fades. The epic-style lyrics probably scared some away, but looking back it just proves how much the band has grown.
In a later song like Bridge, there is a more realistic, personal approach and that undoubtedly played a hand in connecting with new audiences. In Bridge Tate sings, Time can change a thing or two; Time has changed the lives of me and you; But you know... it could have been different dad. The songs on the compilation truly cover a wide range of topics and emotions, and they rarely disappoint. // 9
Overall Impression: There are a few later songs from Queensryche period without guitarist Chris DeGarmo that don't come close to the heyday of the band (namely the formulaic ballad Until There Was You), but you've still got about 15 other songs that will satisfying any fan. Among some of the other standout tracks featured are Jet City Woman, Another Rainy Night, and Warning. While Operation: Mindcrime could have had maybe 1 or 2 more tracks represented, Sign Of The Times is still full of classic Queensryche tracks that are worth revisiting. // 9