This week, we will discuss Queensryche. This Seattle area outfit came out in the eighties and is known for its melodic hard rock, mixed with plenty of experimentation into the world of progressive heavy metal. It’s 1988 album, Operation: Mindcrime, is widely considered to be a landmark concept record. The band’s original and classic line-up consisted of vocalist Geoff Tate, dual guitarists Chris DeGarmo and Michael Wilton, bassist Eddie Jackson, and drummer Scott Rockenfield. Only Wilton and Jackson remain from this line-up, as Queensryche has traveled down the ill-advised path of multiple versions of the band.
Quite frankly, while Queensryche’s post-1990 output contains its share of fits and starts, this album is easily its worst. I find nothing on here that I would care to listen to again. This is the final record featuring Tate before his dismissal from the group, and it is apparent that things weren’t well within the camp.
Best Song (Because I must): Retail Therapy
Best Deep Cut: Retail Therapy
Original guitarist Chris DeGarmo, who had been out of the group for several years, contributed somewhat to this album, although he permanently left the group before the recording sessions were finished. The result was a very uneven output; however, the strongest tracks are ones in which he contributed: Falling Behind, Doin’ Fine, and Art of Life.
Best Song: Falling Behind
Best Deep Cut: Falling Behind
The band was shifting closer to a mainstream sound, and it struck a nerve with many of its following. Singles Sign of the Times and You are decent tracks, along with Get a Life, The Voice Inside, and Anytime/Anywhere. Alas, the album’s longevity (14 songs) does it in.
Best Song: Get a Life
Best Deep Cut: Get a Life
The conceptual idea of this album, collecting first-hand accounts from American veterans who experienced all aspects of war, was a very noble one. In some instances, the results are touching. Unfortunately, while most of the songs aren’t bad, the record lacks anything memorable. I do enjoy the duet Tate sang with his daughter, Emily, entitled Home Again.
Best Song: Home Again
Best Deep Cut: Home Again
There’s not much about this 1999 offering that stands the test of time. I will mention that this is the only Queensryche record to feature guitarist Kelly Gray, as longtime axeman Chris DeGarmo had left the group.
Best Song: Falling Down
Best Deep Cut: Falling Down
By 1994, Queensryche was still able to headline major venues, however, it was based on past success, as grunge was taking the rock scene by storm. Promised Land is a hit and miss affair. I Am I, Bridge, My Global Mind, and Someone Else? highlight this uneven affair.
Best Song: Bridge
Best Deep Cut: My Global Mind
A sequel to a signature record that we will discus further down in this ranking, Operation: Mindcrime II is a fitting follow-up. In my opinion, while sequels are hardly ever better than the original (movies, records, girlfriends), at the very least, this offering brought Quennsryche back down its proper progressive metal rabbit hole.
Best Song: I’m American
Best Deep Cut: I’m American
New singer Todd La Torre’s debut signaled a return to a more classic Queensryche sound. While none of the songs feature the left-hand turns of the band’s progressive metal heyday, the album is an enjoyable listen just the same. For me personally, this record rejuvenated my feelings about the group going forward.
Best Song: Fallout
Best Deep Cut: Fallout
By far my least favorite of the classic 80’s/early 90’s releases, Rage for Order was far more progressive than its predecessors. The band utilized keyboards to a much higher degree, as well as heavy vocal and echo affects. To some degree, the shift works, primarily with the brilliant Walk in the Shadows and the album closing I Will Remember, however, the filler on the release is too much to overcome.
Best Song: Walk in the Shadows
Best Deep Cut: I Will Remember
Another La Torre classic, this album is progressive and gets quite heavy at times. Close your eyes and see if you don’t hear Geoff Tate, circa 1984. Arrow of Time, Hellfire, Toxic Remedy, and The Aftermath are the highlights.
Best Song: Toxic Remedy
Best Deep Cut: Toxic Remedy
Word on the street is that Queensryche is planning to release a new album later this year. While I had soured on the group due to subpar offerings in Tate’s later years, the three La Torre records have me looking forward to the new one. The Verdict continues a string in which the band outdoes its previous effort. Credit La Torre, with his ear-splitting vocals, as well as thunderous drumming, filling in for regular drummer Scott Rockenfield. Give a listen to Blood of the Levant, Man the Machine, Light-years, and Dark Reverie.
Best Song: Blood of the Levant
Best Deep Cut: Blood of the Levant
Yes, it is normally against my policy to include anything but full studio albums, however, this brief four song offering features two of the band’s early classics: Queen of the Reich and The Lady Wore Black. Meanwhile, Nightrider is not to be ignored.
Best Song: Queen of the Reich
Best Deep Cut: Nightrider
An early Queensryche classic, The Warning gave fans a glimpse into the progressive metal that was to come yet maintained its heavy metal sound. The album features mainstays Warning and Take Hold of the Flame, as well as lesser-known gems Child of Fire and Roads to Madness.
Best Song: Roads to Madness
Best Deep Cut: Roads to Madness
If the record stopped after track 8, it would perhaps be the king of the mountain. Alas, there are three lesser quality cuts that close the album. That said, the momentum gained in tracks 1-8 is to be taken seriously. Best I Can, Jet City Woman, Another Rainy Night (Without You), and Empire are outstanding singles, while Silent Lucidity is the song most people know the band for. Meanwhile, don’t fall asleep on The Thin Line and Resistance.
Best Song: Jet City Woman
Best Deep Cut: The Thin Line
The band’s opus is a concept album, as well as a rock opera that follows the story of a man who is swept up in the world of social and political violence, reluctantly becoming a hired assassin. Along the way, he falls in love with a young nun who is escaping her former life as a prostitute.
The singles are the remembered tracks, including Revolution Calling, Speak, Breaking the Silence, I Don’t Believe in Love, and Eyes of a Stranger. That said, the robust deep cuts are aplenty. Give a listen to the title track, Spreading the Disease, and the ten-minute Suite Sister Mary.
Best Song: Eyes of a Stranger
Best Deep Cut: Spreading the Disease