Saturday, 10 August 2013

The curious case of Queensryche.

The curious case of Queensryche. I've been a fairly big fan of Queensryche for a while now, probably as long as I have been a fan of Iron Maiden. Just not with the same intensity. Quite a lot of people will probably recognise them more now due to court case that is happening in November, where it will be decided whether Geoff Tate owns the name Queensryche or whether the founding members own it (You don't really have to guess who I think should win).The first song I ever heard was the classy classic Iron Maiden worshipping song Queen of The Reich with it fantastic Dungeons & Dragons / Highlander video:

But my first album that I bought was Operation: Mindcrime, which has been dubbed the best Metal Concept album of all time. And it still is. What a effing masterpiece that is, not one dud song or needless tracks on there at all, with the particular standout being Suite Sister Mary. For those who don't know, the story of Operation: Mindcrime, revolves around a man called Nikki. Who's become disillusioned with life and society. During one of his many herion induced benders he's recruited into an organization that is dedicated to starting a revolution in the US. This Organization is headed by a mysterious man called Dr.X, who also supplies his followers with drugs and special orders. Nikki becomes an assassin without his knowing, and Dr. X wants him to kill a corrupt priest. During his time, Nikki starts getting friendly with a nun who used to moonlight as a prostitute, named Sister Mary. Dr. X takes notice of this and then orders Nikki to kill both the Priest and Sister Mary. After Nikki the priest, it seems like Dr. X has Sister Mary killed by someone else but lays the blame on Nikki. Nikki loses his mind, goes on another drug and alcohol induced bender, then ends up in a mental hospital. Where the story started.

This album had it all, cracking music, cracking story and cracking lyrics. Shame it never got turned into a cracking movie.

The next album I actually bought was Promised Land. Which just blew me away, big time. The riffs in I Am I and Damaged. Then there was the melancholic meanderings of Out of Mind and Lady Jane, Out of Mind influenced how I approached my job in mental health quite a bit, though it took some time to realise that. Lady Jane is a very very creepy song, and Geoff Tate expresses that creepiness exceedingly well. There's a lot of mental health issues being discussed on this album, and they are very upfront about it. DIS CON NEC TED which seems to be sung from the point of view of someone who's been lobotomised(my interpretation of it anyway), Bridge deals with absent father issues, Someone Else? is about someone(HA!) dealing with depression and stage fright. And so on and so on. The title song is a delightful example of organized chaos in tune form, the only downside seemingly being Geoff Tate's obsession with playing out of tune saxophone for no real reason.

The thing that always impressed me about Queensryche was the fact that they never seemed to repeat themselves. They went from NWOBHM style of their EP and The Warning, into slightly more accessible Duran Duran influence metal in Rage for Order(where Geoff goes full on stalker mode), then Progressive story telling metal of Operation Mindcrime, to pop metal of Empire, slightly more alternative progressive turn in Promised Land, Grunge/Seattle rock in Hear to the Now Frontier.

Hear in The Now Frontier is seen by many as a watershed in Queensryche career, slightly because it was so different from their epic Operation: Mindcrime but mainly because Chris DeGarmo quit after that one. But that is one thing I've hated about a lot of Queensryche "fans", with every album especially after HitNF, the common complaint was "Well it isn't Operation:Mindcrime or Empire", "They need DeGarmo back.", whine whine whine, bitch bitch bitch. Yet, commonly the same fans will say how well shit HitNF is. The problem with that, DeGarmo wrote all the songs bar two(Which also happened to be the rockiest songs on here), Hit the Black and Anytime/Anywhere). I fucking love that album, except for two songs(Cuckoo's Nest and Get a Life). Yes it is different, yes it is stripped down, but it is delivered with style that only Queensryche could do. It does include one very progressive song in the form of Sp00l. DeGarmo mounts the microphone in All I Want. There are great rock tunes(besides the ones I've previously mentioned) like You and Reach, some soulful thinking in Miles Away, desperation in Saved.

But my favourite song has to be this:

Obviously DeGarmo was heavily influenced by what was happening around them in their home town of Seattle. He even played with Jerry Cantrell(he  and did a few gigs with Alice In Chains. But hey, he quit. Get over it. Now he's flying for Lear Jets.

So what should a band do. A band that has a great history, fantastic back catalogue, know how to play and put together albums without what was arguably their most influential songwriter?

Well carry on that's what. Which they did. They bravely soldiered on through many albums that were consistently poo-pooed on. Which again irked me a lot. I like Q2K, with it's relaxed, slightly, jazzy atmosphere. I LOVE Tribe, I'd go as far as to say that it is my favourite album. But then again DeGarmo did come back and wrote a couple of songs with them on that album. But that album is amazing. Again there is a lot of thought gone into the lyrical content behind them, mainly on world peace, harmony, love(in the platonic sense) and generally how life is most of the time good, but we could do more for each other since we are essentially all one tribe. I loved the muddy production behind it(I was heavily influenced by Roy Z's style of music production), the well tribal sound of the drums and Geoff Tate's singing is inspirational. As it always had been. Yes, he isn't hitting the high notes as much, but then again I was never a big fan of falsetto singing. But he does focus on his mid range vocal style a lot, he's got a fantastic timbre and operatic style. 

Then, I don't know what happened. Mainly from what I can gather Geoff's ego got to him. He started treating Queensryche as his baby rather then the bands baby. I mean I didn't dislike Operation: Mindcrime 2, even though it did reek a bit of money grabbing, I did really like Take Cover, but American Soldier had a fantastic concept, but fell flat on extremely boring and basic song writing. And the less said about Dedicated to Chaos the better. Actually no, I take that back.

Dedicated to Chaos, was rank. It was horrible, I tried so so badly to like it, I tried to take it on face value. But sheesh it was bad. There seemed to be way to much U2 worshipping going on. Geoff hired some outside charlatans to write songs instead of... ooohhh I don't know... listen to what his band members were producing outside Queensryche. If he had only taken his time and listened to Rockenfield/Speer's Hells Canyon or maybe Micheal Wiltons Soulbender project. Both of which were rocking and full of ideas. But nnnoooo, he listens to Jason(fucking)Slater instead, who's past was some garbage industrial wanabe The Cure style of 'rock'.  He had a fantastic new guitarist on Tribe in the shape of Mike Stone, but he was gotten ridden fairly quickly after O:M2, for "financial" reasons.

I've still got my copy of Dedicated to Chaos, and I'm keeping it just to remind me there are such things as expensive beer coasters.

The thing is, I liked Geoff Tate's solo album that he released in 2002. It was fresh, it was laid back and very enjoyable to listen to. Now maybe, if he had been honest and actually put out American Soldier and Dedicated to Chaos as solo albums(that they are!) then I might have had more respect for him. But instead he goes on and does this:

So, they were right in getting rid of him. His version of Queensryche shat out this stinking pile a cow shit in the form of Frequency Unknown, which was essentially the spiritual heir to his solo album Kings & Thieves. Both of which are just horrible, absolutely horrible. No Geoff, I won't tell you that I luv it, stick it up your fucking pie hole and be gone. Those Glory Days are over. No just stop. Please.

But Queensryche with the rest put out an album of amazing quality. With a new singer called Todd La Torre, who is close enough in style to Geoff to pull it off, but has enough of a personality to put his own stamp on things. Parker, the man who replaces Mike Stone and Kelly Gray(please just stop playing solos!) and in a sense replaces DeGarmo, does a fantastic job. He might be "The Kid", but he's got talent to equal DeGarmo. They easily reference everything prior to Promised Land, without repeating themselves and although it is short, it is full from start to finish with pure quality songwriting. If they don't win the court case in November, I do hope they will keep on going. Because Geoff has lost my spending money.
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