It looks like the world of Queensrÿche is never easy but on the other hand, it never gets dull either. The whole Geoff Tate debacle has been dwelled on enough by now but even when the band should be in a good place, things happen. First, drummer Scott Rockenfield took a paternity leave of absence to be at home with his newborn child which had the guys touring with a temporary replacement, Casey Grillo (Kamelot). When it was time to start writing for the new album, Scott wasn’t involved and when they didn’t hear from him whether he’d be back soon or not, the guys decided to record the album without him. As singer Todd LaTorre having a past as a drummer he took it upon himself to do the drum parts. If Scott will come back to the band at all or not remains to be seen.
If that wasn’t enough, Pledge Music that was used to pay for the recording of the album, had mysteriously lost all of their money, leaving paying fans out in the cold with a loss of money and no album to pick up. Queensrÿche had to finance the recording of the album themselves with a money loss up to 70 000 dollars. This has affected not only Queensrÿche but other acts as well. The album, however, was released as expected on March 1 through Century Media, leaving both band and fans screwed by a bunch of shady hustlers. How sad. Well, back to the album. As a Queensrÿche fan who hadn’t gotten anything to write home about since the mid 90’s, the newly found spark they got when LaTorre joined with some killer live shows and two really good albums, Queensrÿche (2013) and Condition Hüman (2015), has brought on some major expectations for this album, the third with LaTorre.
The album opens with the latest single “Blood Of The Levant” and my first thought was, why isn’t this the leading single? Because folks, this is a real jawbreaker. This is a “when Queensrÿche were real Metal” 80’s sounding blaster, robust and heavy with an astonishing riff and twin guitars signed Michael Wilton and Parker Lundgren with LaTorre singing the living daylight out of it. This is awesome! The leading single “Man The Machine” follows and this is proggy Metal in a faster pace but still very in-your-face and striking. This might not be the best single-choice if you’re looking for a radio-hit but this shows that Queensrÿche are not. It’s the first taster because it’s a statement. That said, it do holds some catchy melodies and it hit home by first listen. Very good. “Light-Years” is darker and heavy with a groovy bass-line and a steady beat. It’s in a mid-pace and the progressive arrangements makes me think of the Promised Land record. I adore that record so this song grabbed me by the neck. Great!
With a somewhat eerie atmosphere “Inside Out” comes along in a mid-pace with a groove. The verses are dreamlike and almost levitating while the refrain goes for the throat with a punchy strike and a memorable melody. There are some Middle East-y twists over the melodies as well which gives the tune its dark vibes. Very good. “Propaganda Fashion” is hard-hitting, pounding and rough in a slightly progressive but also almost alternative way. It’s a fast song that holds a slower refrain with a striking melody that hits right between the eyes. This is damn good stuff! Entering ballad territory, the laid-back and slow “Dark Reverie” takes us back to Queenrÿche’s 80’s where the background keyboards plays a big part for that sound. A semi-ballad it might be but it’s hardly a soft one. It holds some heavier passages and the somber atmosphere makes the tune anything but a power ballad. This is pure brilliance!
“Bent” starts off with a noisy intro that sounds like something is broken but turns rough and heavy quickly. When the refrain comes in, the song slows down and brings on a dark and gloomy mood. It’s a decent song but the first one that fails to grab me. “Inner Unrest” comes in a mid pace with a heavy groove and vocal melodies that are very much a nod back to the QR past which also the case of the vocals where LaTorre half-whispers/half-sings them. It holds some really memorable guitar lines and a vocal melody just as memorable but still a progressive and heavy track. Good one. “Launder The Conscience” is upbeat, punchy and striking but also very melodic with some melodies reminiscent of LaTorre’s Crimson Glory days but also some classic QR arrangements. Dark and punchy the tune also is catchy – very good. Closing track “Portrait” brings along some dark, laid-back verses with a floating atmosphere and a dark sound-scape. Progressive and a bit experimental the song is earthy but with a Promised Land style arrangement and the tune is QR all the way. Brilliant.
I think that this album’s two LaTorre fronted predecessors are really good but this is the strongest effort so far by this line-up – their strongest since Promised Land, as a matter of fact. On one hand, this is their most classic Queensrÿche sounding album with Todd so far but at the same time, Todd has brought out more of himself this time instead of going Tate all the way, even though it’s impossible to ignore that their voices are very similar at times. And then there’s the drumming – LaTorre does an amazing job here. Now that I know that it is Todd drumming, I can hear that there’s a difference to Rockenfield – but not by much. The drum-arrangements has always been a big part of QR’s sound and LaTorre has certainly made sure that the drums sound like they’re supposed to. Very good indeed. If fans weren’t convinced that Queensrÿche are back on track by the previous two albums then this one should remove all doubts.
More Queensrÿche reviews:
1. Blood Of The Levant
2. Man The Machine
4. Inside Out
5. Propaganda Fashion
6. Dark Reverie
8. Inner Unrest
9. Launder The Conscience