The highest praise I can give this brand-new self-titled release is to say that this is the very first Queensrÿche purchase I’ve ever made. I’d never really listened to Queensrÿche before the drama of the past year caught my attention, and at first, it was really more like watching a train wreck: disturbing and fascinating at the same time. When I discovered the singles they’d posted to YouTube, I was really surprised by how much I liked them. By the time I heard “Where Dreams Go to Die,” I was sold. I immediately pre-ordered the album.
A couple of weeks later, Jeremy Hart (your erstwhile editor here at Space City Rock) told me Queensrÿche was going to be in Houston the next day (on June 8), but he didn’t know which version it was. I did a quick search and found out it was these guys (the real Queensrÿche, in my opinion). So I went to see them live, without owning a single release by the band. Since I’d pre-ordered the new album, though, I had started working my way through their back catalog on Rhapsody, to see if their classic stuff matched their reputation.
Needless to say, it did. At least up until the mid-’90s, when they seemed to lose their way. Up to that point, though, they could do no wrong, and Geoff Tate was quite possibly the most incredible singer I’d ever heard. Range, power — you name it, he had it in spades.
Since the concert I was going to see was part of their “Back to History” tour, could the new guy (Todd La Torre) do this classic material justice? I mean, the three new songs sounded great, but could he do “Queen of the Reich”? In a word, yes. Although I wasn’t as intimately familiar with the songs as most of the other concert-goers, by this time I knew them well enough to know that Todd was the real deal, not merely an imitator. His voice was absolutely incredible.
Not only did he have the power and the range, but he also had a grittiness and aggressiveness that Tate never had. For 90 straight minutes, he ruled that stage and owned every song, and still seemed energized when it was over. As a result, I ended up buying their first six releases (EP through Promised Land) with my Father’s Day cash. Now I’ll just pretend that the band took an extended hiatus after 1994, and have simply come back with a new (incredible) singer and a new guitarist (who wrote my favorite song on the album, “Where Dreams Go to Die”), and my discography is complete.
So, what about this new album, then? The concert just made me want it even more, especially when they sang “Fallout” during the encore. When the band made the album available for streaming on their Website a week before release, I couldn’t help myself. I listened to it multiple times that day. I found that it more than fulfilled the promise of the three YouTube singles. Despite multiple repeat listens throughout the week, however, I found myself eagerly awaiting the arrival of the CD. I wanted my copy.
Well, now I’ve had it for a little over a week, and I haven’t stopped playing it. On average, I probably play it three times a day. This album is a fantastic example of a band taking their classic sound and bringing it into the modern day. It is both classic and fresh. Most of all, it rocks. They have shaken the dust of the last decade’s worth of mediocre adult-contemporary output from their feet and brought back the metal.
The musicians (Scott Rockenfield, Michael Wilton, Parker Lundgren, and Eddie Jackson) sound rejuvenated, and Todd is on fire. For the first time in over a decade, the songs are full-band efforts, and the chemistry is undeniable. In case I haven’t made it clear yet, I absolutely love it. Like I said, it made me a fan. If you’re a fan that became jaded with their output over the past 10-15 years, I think you’ll feel like this is the return of a long-lost friend. Not the kind of reunion that’s awkward, where neither of you knows what to say to one another, but the comfortable kind where you pick up right where you left off.
In case you’re like me and aren’t familiar with Queensrÿche, I think you’ll like this if you like modern melodic/progressive/power metal (Jorn, Rob Rock, Avantasia, Unisonic, Iron Savior, Primal Fear, Symphony X, Vanden Plas, Dream Theater, Circus Maximus, Masterplan, etc.).
This is no nostalgia act. This is an incredible album, written and performed by a band that is insanely talented. They are hungry and have something to prove. They’ve proven it to me. I recommend you let them prove it to you, too.