Hair Metal Mansion correspondent DAWN OSBOURNE checks in with the following:
Looking back over the fifteen albums making up Queensryche's career, it is, in fact, incredible how varied the music and approach has been. Amongst metal circles favourites include the first Queensryche ep including the unforgettable 'Queen of the Reich" much vaunted on MTV (when M meant meaningful). Also, "I don't believe in Love' and "Eyes of a Stranger' off the end of Operation Mindcrime deserve an honourable mention in this context. Since then Queensryche fans have been incredibly loyal given the music has varied from frankly luke warm rock, to dance to grunge. The new album is a return to roots, but even better, it builds on key strengths and offers fine quality material for the faithful.
In 2013 Queensryche came back with a welcome return to a more metal sound that won them so many fans in the first place. However, there was air of hesitation about that eponymous 'Queensryche' record, an unwillingness to stray too far from a tried and tested formula, a band, you could say, with wings clipped. It came in short as well, at just over half an hour. New Singer Todd La Torre admits recently that with the weight of the law suit over the Queensryche name hanging over them the band felt laden with baggage. He also has been saying that the latest and fifteenth studio album, 'Condition Human', is the first one (since the original singer Geoff Tate's departure and the resolution of the name dispute leaving this incarnation of the band with the right to use the 'Queensryche' name) where the band has felt free to express themselves. They have all collaborated on the songwriting and, apparently, are feeling very happy about the results, having in the end to choose from well over twenty songs and producing a much longer record this time around. It is pleasing to report that this confidence is justified. The new album sticks with a full on sound but, while embracing their metal heritage, the new material shows a confidence to leave the past behind, to build on it and to produce a new modern sounding Queensryche. A Queensryche truly for 2015.
Further, the new album is more about the songs and less about the storytelling. Those of the opinion that sagas are the province of books and that the music should do the talking will, therefore, be very happy with the new approach. Meatier and heavier with not a concept in sight to distract from the main business of the day. A no-nonsense approach designed to keep more people happy arguably that their mid period albums which were not hard enough for many, seemed to put the story above the songs and, arguably compromised the original Queensryche sound. There's a speaking part towards the end of "Selfish Lives' on the new album which is a nod to this much used device on previous Queensryche concept albums, but arguably it's unnecesary as it's a fine metal track without the distractions.
While the opener 'Arrow of Time" is full of the Maidenesque vocals and harmonised guitars beloved of the band"s earlier years, that track is followed by tracks such as 'Guardian', 'Hellfire' and 'Toxic Remedy' which while sporting fine guitar solos and, at times, very Tate-like vocals are examples of an updated much heavier approach showing that the band has been listening to what has been happening on the metal scene since the 80s and is ready to meet younger bands on their own turf. 'Eye 9', Bulletproof" and 'Hourglass' have fine vocals which sound fresh and vibrant (and not at all rehashed former glories.) "Just Us' provides a change of pace with a more Zeppelinesque vibe providing a little light and shade before the last three songs which are more traditionally Queensryche in sound, culminating in the title track 'Condition Human', the band traditionally being ones to go for a big finish.
Evolution not imitation, this new album is much less self conscious than its predecessor showing a band that's relaxing into a new identity rather than being paranoid about preserving a rather large elephant in the room. It's a new effortless creative approach. Reinvigorated, who known what the band can achieve going forward? For starters it may reclaim fans fallen by the wayside when the metal sound was compromised. It may even be ripe for recruiting a new generation on its own terms. Bravo!
Very good Andrew, thanks.
I plan to pick it up at some point and will effort to see them when they're in Milwaukee end of January.