Queensrÿche – Queensrÿche
Reviewed by Sebastian Kluth
Here it is. After the lukewarm Frequency Unknown record by Geoff Tate’s Queensrÿche, his old band mates have united forces with singer Todd La Torre of Crimson Glory fame and put out their first release after the big bang, which is simply entitled Queensrÿche. The band seems to want to make clear that this is a new beginning, and at the same time a sort of return to the band’s roots after many controversial records. That is, in fact, what it is.
The name of the record isn’t original (there was already a self-titled EP, after all), the album artwork is rather simplistic, and one only gets thirty-five minutes of music – including two short and atmospheric instrumental tracks that are great, but that don’t fit in with the nine regular songs. That’s not what I would call value for your money, but at least the band didn’t decide to cover some of its classics like Geoff Tate did. If you were hoping for a few more thought-epics, you’re going to be disappointed. All tracks on here are short, precise and mostly predictable.
There are a few more negative things to touch on. I think that Todd La Torre sounds way too close to the original singer Geoff Tate on this record, and I would have liked a different and fresh touch added to the concept. Add to this that the first few songs that were released as singles were among the weakest, and made me expect the worst. I might also advise you that this record has a very commercial touch, and isn’t the return to the metal years that many people were hoping for. It sounds more as if it was influenced by commercially successful records like Empire or Promised Land. There is also an occasional influence of the last few Queensrÿche records, which can be heard in here from time to time. From that point of view, this record can at least be seen as something of a logical continuation of the band. It’s a very typical Queensrÿche record, but I expected more from a band that has written some of the most important progressive metal records back in the eighties, and that allegedly wanted to take a step back in that influential direction, using all of those song ideas that had gone unused during the last years due to Geoff Tate’s stubborn attitude. In fact, the new songs have all been written by the new line-up, and no old or unused material can be heard on this record. I expected the final result to be a little bit more courageous, edgier, and energizing.
This doesn’t mean that the record is all bad. In fact, almost all songs are technically well performed, especially the melodic mid tempo guitar playing, which has that certain Queensrÿche signature sound that has always distinguished that band. The soothing vocals by Todd La Torre are by far superior to the current abilities of his predecessor. I, for one, don’t miss Tate for a second. This record could have easily been released in the middle of the nineties by this same band – the songs here are all very short and never get boring. All of them have a very catchy and warm feeling, and could have been potential singles. The band varies its output from more laid back ballads like the closing “Open Road”, to typical melodic metal anthems like “Don’t Look Back”, and on to exceptionally more progressive and thought-out tracks like the catchy “Vindication”. This latter, a positive surprise, is also by far my favorite song on this album. The thirty-five minutes are very entertaining overall, and, if nothing else, include no filler material or stinkers. There are many catchy tunes, most of which have a strong tendency to grow on the listener.
In the end, this record not only goes back to the early and mid-nineties of the band’s career, but also connects that period with a few of the better songs from the last output or two. It’s a logical step for the band, and this release has all the trademarks that people have always liked about Queensrÿche (and that had become less prominent on the last few releases). This is where the simplistic album title and cover become logical. Fans will judge this record as a return to form, and will by far prefer this record to the output of Geoff Tate’s Queensrÿche.
Personally, I have some mixed feelings. I expected a more metal approach, or at least a few more progressive songs. The record is solid, but coming from a band with a back catalogue like Queensrÿche’s, it’s only of an average quality, and far from being groundbreaking. This is, in fact, one of the most commercial and poppy metal releases I have heard in quite a while. In comparison to this, the latest records from Helloween and Stratovarius were far more gripping, and Black Sabbath also managed to sound more energizing. This here is not the comeback of the year, sorry. The new Queensrÿche prefers a more traditional, laid back but also boring approach. I still like this album, but I must admit that I’m disappointed by the final result. This record is sort of a safe play, although the tactic will definitely work in the band’s favor. After all and despite its obvious flaws, this record sounds absolutely honest, and is a good definition of what Queensrÿche has been about throughout its career.
3.5 // 5