CD Review: Queensrÿche / Queensrÿche
In order to avoid confusion based on information I have already written about very recently and for the sake of this review I need to make the obvious distinction that this is “Toddryche,” rock fans. The much anticipated new album featuring vocalist Todd La Torre does in many ways give back what many older Queensryche fans have been wanting for years, a return to the core of what made this band so great to begin with: metal guitars and high harmonies. It’s a simple formula but one that has been sorely lacking from the last few Queensryche records like American Soldier and Dedicated to Chaos. I don’t think that original Ryche members Scott Rockenfield, Eddie Jackson and Michael Wilton along with guitarist Parker Lundgren could have picked a better frontman to take Queensryche in this direction moving forward.
Todd’s style, range and tone fit well together with the band and judging from my listen to the new S/T Queensryche record the band will be a formidable force to reckon with in 2013 and beyond. The album brought back memories of The Warning, Rage for Order, Operation: Mindcrime, Empire and Promised Land for me without repeating history. Having James “Jimbo” Barton producing certainly didn’t hurt their chances. I don’t know what’s going to happen with the Queensryche name and logo moving forward but you could have called this band “Seattle Slew” and it won’t change the fact that what we have here is an American thoroughbred metal band ready to not just run the race but win back the confidence of the hard rock world. This record is a HUGE first step in that direction.
The instrumental track “X2” opens the album and sets the mood and tone as a dark, haunting and powerful tune. It’s a quality lead in to “Where Dreams Go To Die” which sounds like vintage Ryche going all the way back to The Warning. Scott’s drum beat is that military type sounding heavy kick in the ass style. The deep lyrics sound as if they could be used as a theme to the next Charles Bond picture.
“Spore” gives us the first real glimpse into Todd’s true vocal range. With big shoes to fill, he’s able to pull it off without sounding like a Tate wannabe. Nice distortion effects on the guitar sound on this track too. The song was a tad slow on the pace though, I wanted it faster. Great vocal.
“In This Light” reminds me of something from the Empire era with big time harmonies and very melodic sounding. I enjoyed the slow pace here, it fit this song perfectly. I think it’s my favorite song off this album and maybe the best song in 2013 I have heard yet off any record!
“Redemption” is the first single from the record. I think it was most likely chosen because the band really does feel like they’ve been reborn and looking to atone to the Ryche fans for the mistakes of the past few years with this new album, singer and direction. It has a very catchy chorus with more terrific harmonies.
“Vindication” gives us some real quick, slick drum parts from Scott to start off with Todd exploring a different type of pace with his vocals on this one. Some really high shrills but sort of hidden a bit behind some of the guitar sounds, which sound very Mindcrime-ish to me. Not crazy about the chorus on this one overall just ok.
“Midnight Lullaby” is a bit tough to explain. At under a minute it doesn’t have time to leave much of an impression but more like a sound effect leftover from a Puppet Master film – great for a movie but odd placed here on this record.
“A World Without” is as dark a Queensryche song that has ever been recorded. Historically it could be a Promised Land era track given its lyrical content. Todd gives us his low range throughout most of it but does turn up to a fever pitch of emotions on the chorus. Slow and moody, it leaves you feeling that way just as it was intended to.
“Don’t Look Back” (no not a Boston cover) gives the listener a “Spreading The Disease” Mindcrime sort of quick pace with some really heavy bass parts from Eddie Jackson. Memorable chorus with some of Todd’s best screams on the album, this is old school Ryche with some interesting solos.
“Fallout” packs a ton of power into a song that runs under 3 minutes. More great harmonies and rock chants with yet another memorable chorus. This will be a real crowd pleaser live for sure because it lends itself to fan participation.
“Open Road” is a slower paced tune with some real crisp sounding guitar parts. No big harmonies here but my favorite guitar leads on the whole album. One of those types of songs that you just sort of sway back and forth to yourself and it’s the only feel good song you will find on this release.
I was expecting based on everything I have read that Toddryche would come out with something very old school sounding with a return to vintage Ryche but my biggest fear would be the songwriting. Since the departure of Chris Degarmo it’s been a constant question for me surrounding not only the direction of the tracks, both lyrically and musically, but the overall feel of the band as a hard rock act. Clearly they were no longer a metal band but I always had the feeling that there may have been dissension in the ranks and that someday a metal flag would be waved once again. What I didn’t know is who would be waving it? Happily, the songwriting on this record is much stronger than I would have anticipated and Todd La Torre is waving that flag on behalf of Eddie, Michael, Scott and Parker and the entire Queensryche nation who have been waiting far too long to salute it.
1. X2 (1:09)
2. Where Dreams Go To Die (4:26)
3. Spore (3:25)
4. In This Light (3:24)
5. Redemption (4:16)
6. Vindication (3:26)
7. Midnight Lullaby (0:56)
8. A World Without (4:11)
9. Don’t Look Back (3:13)
10. Fallout (2:46)
11. Open Road (3:54)
Album produced by James ‘Jimbo’ Barton