Before getting into the actual review, I will say the year 2013 is the time setting for a rather unusual situation in the music world, with the apparent arrival of two new albums by QUEENSRYCHE, but why would the band release two albums within the same year? Well, it wouldn’t. After a series of events generating animosity between lead singer Geoff Tate and the rest of his band mates, leading to a heated dispute between them, he was finally fired from the band, and replaced with no other than Todd La Torre from CRIMSON GLORY. In response, Tate sued the other members claiming wrongful termination, and formed another band. Long story short, until a final decision by the judge is made, both Tate’s new band, as well as the one with La Torre on vocals are called QUEENSRYCHE. With all of the previous events, each of the homonymous bands have released a record in 2013: “Frequency unknown” by the Tate version, and the eponymous “Queensr˙che” -the one which will be reviewed here- by the version with La Torre.
First off, while having enormous respect for Tate, I do believe La Torre is as good a replacement as one could hope for. He has proven himself as a more than talented singer with CRIMSOM GLORY, and his style is actually quite similar to Tate’s, having himself cited Tate as one of his major influences, fitting the music perfectly.
The composition and general sound of the album is reminiscent of their master pieces “Operation Mind Crime” and “Empire”, and of course, while not as groundbreaking as those, this is indeed a very good record.
An epic, yet engaging and not too long intro is heard in “X2”, leading right to the headbanging oriented first riff of “Where Dreams Go To Die”, a song that combines heavy rocking bits with milder, melodic and even “sweet” passages and choruses that nonetheless are never boring, thanks to a powerful bass line always keeping things in motion. The next track, “Spore”, follows a similar formula, but the melodic choruses are slightly darker and is a perfect continuation for the first song. In a way that has become quite typical of melodic progressive metal, a balladesque song comes under the title “In This Light”; not a bad track, but probably the weakest on the album. Then, we are treated with the best and heaviest riffs of the record in “Redemption”, an absolute highlight which groovy mid-pace is abruptly broken in the end by the initially faster “Vindication”, another well made piece. I perceive these too songs, “Redemption” and “Vindication”, as brothers; the first being like an older, more mature and also grimmer version of the second, which is more upbeat, lighter and perhaps naive.
A break happens at this point, with an interlude track called “Midnight Lullaby” that could easily be used for a horror flick and serves as intro for “A World Without”, gloomy, mournful and epic, with and initial guitar arpeggio that reminds me of “One” by METALLICA, but that’s as far as similarities go. Time to headbang again with “Don’t Look Back”; if I said “Redemption” and “Vindication” are an older and a younger brother, this would be the one in the middle. We are getting near the end, and “Fallout” forces us to keep on rocking with yet another heavy, catchy riff that continues throughout the song, interacting with some great vocal and lead guitar melodies. Finally, things end with “Open Road”. If “In This Light” is balladesque, this last song is a ballad by definition, but it is more heartfelt and engaging. While the song order in “Queensr˙che” is very well thought of, I would switch the last two tracks.
The lyrics might not be as good as the ones in the conceptual “Operation Mindcrime”, but they are quite decent, dealing with themes like personal suffering, introspection, social criticism and, to a lesser extent, romantic affairs, but all is done in a poetic and philosophical manner.
Musicianship by all band members in every song is superb, as well as songwriting and production, making this the best album they have released in many years.
(Online August 8, 2013)