Queensrÿche

QUEENSRŸCHE – Condition Hüman

queensryche conditionc humanThis will be the last time I ever use the words “soap opera” in a Queensrÿche or Geoff Tate review. The soap opera that dominated the most of the four of the original members’ lives the last few years are now gone – and hopefully forgotten forever. Everything has turned out for the best for both parts, the three remaining original members of Queensrÿche – Scott Rockenfield (drums), Michael Wilton (guitars) and Eddie Jackson (bass), plus guitar player (and Geoff Tate’s ex-son in law) Parker Lundgren and new vocalist Todd LaTorre (ex-Crimson Glory) got to keep the name, after paying, I guess, a pretty large sum of money to Tate and Tate got the exclusive right to be the only one who can play the iconic album Operation: Mindcrime (1988) in its entirety. Tate also took the name Operation: Mindcrime as the name for his new band / project and released an album, The Key (reviewed here) at the end of September this year. The fact that Wilton, Jackson and Rockenfield weren’t one bit happy with the more alternative direction Tate and his buddy, song writer and producer Jason Slater had been taking Queensrÿche in the last few years stood clear when the new line-up released their self-titled come back album (reviewed here) in 2013. Even without Tate at the mike – a very important part of Queensrÿche’s sound – the band sounded more like Queensrÿche should than the last few records when Tate was still in the band. Not since 1994 and Promised Land had Queensrÿche made a record that was so close to the sound that made them a big band in the 80’s. Not only in sound was the record a huge leap forward, the songs on the album were damn great as well – it sure was a true Queensrÿche record in every way. I also saw the band live around that time and they were magnificent. The last time I saw them with Tate, they were a huge let-down. But to show everyone that their debut Tate-less record wasn’t just a lucky shot, they – two years later – had to show everyone that they were back for real. Yes, the new album really had to be equally as good as its predecessor. With the rave reviews and the big welcome the album got, the pressure was definitely on the band. Now it was time to show everyone that this is the real deal, that Queensrÿche still are a force to be reckoned with in 2015.

Opener “Arrow Of Time” is one of two tracks I had heard prior to the album’s release and the first time I heard it, it left me a bit underwhelmed. To the song’s defense, I must admit that it was playing in the background while handling some domestic tasks, so it didn’t get the fair treatment then. But once it popped through my headphones, I had to beg to differ with myself – this wasn’t underwhelming, it was great. It’s a hard and heavy track and reminds me of the really early 80’s Queensrÿche, but with a 2015 update. A killer opener and to these ears, it sounds just as Queensrÿche should. “Guardian” is the second track I heard before the album’s release, they had released it as their leading video track off the record and it stuck with me right from go. This is how Operation: Mindcrime could have sounded if the band that recorded The Warning  (1984) had recorded that album back then. The lyrics also repeat the line “evolution calling”, an obvious reference to their classic “Revolution Calling” song. Great stuff. “Hellfire” – a very popular title as of late. Bands like Accept, Ludor and Airbourne has used it lately – goes in a more progressive direction. The title suggests – at least for me – that the song should be a fast and aggressive metal tune, but this one is not. It’s heavy, distinct and direct and has the Queensrÿche vibes sound wise – great! “Toxic Remedy” is a bit on the dark side with an Operation: Mindcrime arrangement and a big sound. A modern Queensrÿche classic to be, perhaps? “Selfish Lives” is a slower track, ballad-like, but I wouldn’t categorise it as a ballad, per se. A heavy ballad, maybe, but not a power ballad. With big Queensrÿche arrangements and a killer vocal performance from LaTorre makes it one of this album’s finest moments. “Eye9” is phenomenal, maybe the best song on the entire album. It’s a metal track, very melodic with some really direct melodies that make it very catchy, but at the same time, its rhythm and backbone is on the more progressive side. Rockenfield’s drumming here is awesome. “Bulletproof”, however, is a ballad albeit a heavy one without any cheese at all. The melodies are really strong and the whole song is dark and beautiful and it might just be their finest ballad since “Silent Lucidity”. “Hourglass” is slow, heavy and atmospheric and I’m getting “Promised Land” vibes from it. I love that song so great move! “Just Us” is a ballad based on acoustic guitar and a love song. Love songs has a tendency to be pink, fluffy and a bit cheesy, but not in the hands of Queensrÿche. It’s powerful, beautiful and emotional – great! “All There Was” is a good, straight forward metal track, but it lacks the Queensrÿche sound. It’s just another metal song, no more, no less. “The Aftermath” is a one minute long intro that builds an atmosphere for the coming title track. “Condition Human” is big, epic and with dark atmosphere – very much Queensrÿche sounding. This song would have fitted the Promised Land (a criminally underrated album) record like a glove, but there is also clear references to Operation: Mindcrime. Bloody fantastic!

It only took me one listen to this album to realise that this “new” version of Queensrÿche are on a roll. For the second time in a row, the guys have released a brilliant record that virtually screams Queensrÿche from every angle. Compared to the last album, this has a warmer and fatter sound and they whole surrounding has all the elements of a band that has gotten to know each other musically – the band sounds like a tighter unit now.  The production is overseen by one Chris “Zeuss” Harris, a guy who is mostly known for his work with acts like Rob Zombie, Crowbar, Bullet For My Valentine, Soulfly and Six Feet Under – much more brutal acts, but the guy has captured the band’s sound really well. Everyone who’s reading this know by now that these guys are really top-notch musicians, but Todd LaTorre must have some extra kudos here. The guy had some big shoes to fill – Geoff Tate was, no matter how you choose to look at it, a pivotal and very important person when it came to creating the band’s sound, a team effort by all five, of course and very hard to replace. But LaTorre manages to be himself, but still make sure that this album sound like Queensrÿche vocally. He has a voice similar to Tate, yes, but that is how his voice sounds no matter who he’s playing with, but he also has his own identity which makes the guy his own master and no Tate-clone. There will always be hardcore Rÿche-fans who will never accept anyone but Tate as the singer, but this album should go down well by both big Queensrÿche fans and the everyday metal head down the street. Well done!

8/10

Tracklist:

1. Arrow Of Time
2. Guard
3. Hellfire
4. Toxic Remedy
5. Selfish Lives
6. Eye9
7. Bulletproof
8. Hourglass
9. Just Us
10. All There Was
11. The Aftermath
12. Condition Human