Reviewed by Reverend Rock , host of “The Metal Mission”
Intrigued. That is the word I would use to describe my initial thoughts when I volunteered to take this review off the hands our regular reviewer, Dan Painkiller Crocker. PK lives in flood ravaged Calgary, Alberta, Canada and is quite understandably focused on other things.
Let’s back up a little bit and get some context. Queensryche is one of those bands that I have seen live more times than I would care to count due largely to the fact that through the early-80’s to mid-90’s they always seemed to be on the bill with headliners that I was keen to see, like Kiss. In the beginning that wasn’t really a bad deal as I was a fan of Queensryche’s 80’s work – I would identify myself as a fan until 1991’s ‘Empire’ album. At that point however the band lost me in spite of, or perhaps because of, the phenomenal popularity of ‘Silent Lucidity’ and the Empire album.
The ensuing two decades have not been kind to Queensryche in my, and a plethora of others’, opinion. I won’t enumerate the missteps and mistakes made by Tate and Company through this period but suffice it to say that when I took on this assignment I had to scramble to get caught up with those releases and the unfortunate drama that the band now finds itself embroiled in with their fired former front man. I quickly discerned that the band’s output since ‘Empire’ is a forgettable collection of bizarre genre bending creative decisions led, seemingly, by the aforementioned Mr. Tate.
What, then, can we expect from the Todd La Torre-led version of the band? Admittedly I had feared for the worst but… my fears were completely unfounded. “Queensryche” is the equal of anything the band released at their zenith. It’s not quite “Operation Mindcrime” but almost. Yes I’ve heard Tate’s Queensryche release from April of this year and the one thing I’ll say for the benefit of the fans is this: If the judge presiding over the who-owns-the-name-case (to be heard in November ’13) ruled solely on the evidence of the music then the La Torre led version should win, no-contest.
Checking in at just less than 35 minutes this is the shortest Queensryche album to date and rather than feel ripped off, I am left wanting more. Rather than tacking on three or four “historical” tracks that feel forced and fleeces the fans of their good memories the band has produced a lean and mean juggernaut of awesome songs with nary a weak moment.
The production is clean, crisp and clear whether you are listening through ear-buds or a huge studio set up with a 400 watt sub. And here’s the bottom line that I know you’re eager to read: Todd La Torre absolutely kills it. His range, inflection and timbre are more than a match for anything the former front man was capable of, with the emphasis on the word ‘was’. The songs are a return to the band’s prog-metal roots without being pretentious or dull and I have no doubt in my mind that the live version of the band will exceed all expectations.
There have been few examples of bands who have survived the replacement of an iconic front man. Tim ‘Ripper’ Owens acquitted himself well for a short time with Judas Priest in the 90’s and more recently Mark Tornillo’s work with Accept is outstanding. We can now add Todd La Torre to that short list and while this is pure speculation on my part, I would say that his contribution to “Queensryche” has helped reinvent, reinvigorate and recapture the magic that made Queensryche a metal legend.
Reverend Rock’s Rating: 5/5 – Do Not Miss It!