Sound — 9
Queensryche, in it's earliest beginnings, was progressive metal at it's best. Throughout those first handful of albums, including "Empire," "Rage for Order" and "Operation: Mindcrime," the band produced mind altering classics and a line of iconic hits. The up-close-and-person dueling guitar work of Michael Wilton and Chris DeGarmo, most similar to that found in Judas Priest and Iron Maiden, and the commanding vocal ability of lead singer Geoff Tate made such songs as "Eyes of a Stranger" and "Revolution Calling" such heavily hailed anthems.
But following their album, "Promised Land," the band's iconic sound began to diminish, and fade away into a style that most heavily resembles the alternative metal genre. There's nothing wrong with a band wanting to change their sound, but when you try new takes on your own style there has to be some anchor to your previous work. In this case there was nothing, none of that classic Queensryche element that originally made them stand out, and throughout the 2000's the band released a string of increasing unsuccessful albums comprised of downright bland pop rock.
But as any fan who hasn't been under a rock for the past twelve months can tell you, the reason as to why these albums had a drastic change in sound was revealed to be attributed to Geoff Tate, who had been ruling over the rest of the band members with an iron fist by directly limiting their ability to creatively contribute to songwriting and instead bringing in groups of outside writers to forge the past decade of Queensryche albums. After multiple physical assaults towards the rest of the lineup, three of the original members of the band sat down and eventually came to the conclusion that working with Geoff was no longer possible, and decided to fire him from the group and replace him with new powerhouse lead vocalist Todd La Torre of Crimson Glory.
Geoff later decided that he is entitled to the Queensryche name, and formed his own version of the band. But that is another story. What we're here to talk about now is the dynamic return-to-form given by this lineup with their new self-titled studio album. This album is a proud collection of eleven new compositions that all are simply soaked in classic Queensryche influence. All of those aforementioned factors that made the band's earlier material so iconic have proudly returned, louder than ever. There's no need for cheap album covers; this album makes a bolder statement than the letters "F.U." ever could.
Songs such as "Vindication" and "Don't Look Back" are fast paced riff racers that proudly feature some dominative guitar playing. It's refreshing to hear Michael Wilton be a rock guitarist again; throughout this new album it's almost as though he's been pent up for the past decade, and now that he's been freed he's letting loose finger blistering guitar solos and mad riffs unlike ever before. "A World Without" is a downright powerful song, that is drowned in progressive elements similar to those found in "Silent Lucidity." And "Where Dreams Go to Die" is another song that sounds as though it just stepped off of the "Rage for Order" album.
For the first time since 1994, I have been able to listen to a Queensryche album from start to finish and end up with absolutely no complaints.
Lyrics — 9
Lead vocalist Todd La Torre gives an astonishing performance throughout this new album. His range is simply uncanny, there is no way a human being should be able to produce those meanousing growls at the end of "Don't Look Back" and still be able to hit ball crushing highs such as those found in "Vindication." His voice has enough resemblance to Geoff to keep the album sounding familiar to the band's earlier material, yet just as Todd has stated on multiple occasions in interviews he makes a conscious effort to just add enough personality and uniqueness to allow him to stand out and make his own mark on the band's history. And he ever does so throughout "Queensryche."
Overall Impression — 9
It shouldn't be possible for a band to make a comeback as glorious as Queensryche does with their new album. I personally could not be happier or more impressed with this album, as a longtime Queensryche fan I had to sit there for year after year as the band released bland album after bland album, never once staying true to the sound that made them unique. So to have the band transition so quickly from the atrocity that was "Dedicated to Chaos," to the instant classic that we have in front of us with "Queensryche," it's incredible. It's an album that is long overdue, but at least it's finally here.