Sound — 7
Queensrÿche had been one of the most disappointing names in progressive metal for over a decade; the reason behind that only became known to the most casual of listeners during their gruesome split and subsequent court battle against original lead vocalist Geoff Tate. Without rehashing the details which have been presented countless times over the past several years, Queensrÿche found themselves in an even more interesting situation when it came down to releasing their debut installment featuring Todd La Torre of Crimson Glory at the helm. There was pressure for the band to demonstrate their relevance and ability to craft a strong return-to-form, especially following the swift release of the abhorrent "Frequency Unknown" from Tate's short lived version of Queensrÿche centered around himself. What Michael Wilton, Eddie Jackson, Scott Rockenfield and company came up with was the 2013 eponymous Queensrÿche release, which boasted a return to the band's indigenous progressive metal roots, even if it lacked a lengthy duration and a fitting production.
Fast forward two years later, the court case was handed in favor of Queensrÿche and the band was provided the opportunity to craft an even more fitting follow-up to their acclaimed 2013 rebirth. Understanding the expectation for a classic sounding album, while acknowledging that growth still needed to be demonstrated through new material to avoid claims of simply rehashing their earlier efforts, Queensrÿche have since returned with "Condition Hüman." The album includes nearly twenty minutes more than what was featured on the band's previous title, and with that expanded timeframe comes a far more impressive presentation. There are some tracks where La Torre embraces Tate's original identity vocally and that vintage sound comes racing through, ala the Iron Maiden-esque opener "Arrow of Time," however most of the album includes expansive journeys into previously unexplored terrain on a Queensrÿche album. The production of Chris "Zeuss" Harris is instrumental in allowing the band to explore alternative routes while maintaining that warm feel which was included on the first handful of Queensrÿche records.
"Guardian" is a brilliant assembly of fierce heavy metal which unifies wild guitar harmonies courtesy of Wilton and Parker Lundgren, the fierce backbone of Rockenfield and Jackson, and the broad range of La Torre which shifts between manic screams and gloaming roars. "Eye9" is similar in that regard; this track is arguably the heaviest Queensrÿche song to date, highlighted by a bellowing bass line and protruding group harmonies. One of the album's most memorable moments arrives courtesy of "Bulletproof," a standout power ballad with a kick that stands alongside Queensrÿche's finest and could find a welcome home on the active rock airwaves. "Just Us" doesn't quite live up to the expectations of the preceding tracks, instead offering a more emotional, laidback atmosphere that doesn't necessarily reinforce the intensity of "Hellfire" or "Toxic Remedy." Everything is soon considered an afterthought, however, when "Condition Hüman" reaches it's anthemic title track. It's an epic song in the vein of "Roads to Madness" that reaches nearly eight minutes and is constructed around four time changes, further validating that this incarnation is the one, true Queensrÿche.
Lyrics — 8
Todd La Torre has all of the ability, range and tone necessary to serve as a clone of Tate in Queensrÿche, however he doesn't allow himself to do so on "Condition Hüman." There is a degree of that original sound that has to be kept on life support in the case of any established rock or metal group that was founded more than a few decades ago in order to maintain that distinctive sound, and La Torre and his Queensrÿche bandmates seem to have acknowledged this. However, the influence of names like Bruce Dickinson and Ian Gillan are readily apparent throughout La Torre's vocal performance here, which allows this new material and current lineup to have an extra degree of identity.
Overall Impression — 8
The pressure was on Queensrÿche to find a way to outdo themselves. The band succeeded here with "Condition Hüman," and while it may not be the full fledged, classic record that some had their fingers crossed for, it exceeds almost anything that the band has released over the past two decades.