Roadrunner/Loud & Proud
Review by Rick Ossian
“Seattle veterans turn the introspective into the anthemic on the sole stand-out track from their otherwise disappointing new album“; this, according to Classic Rock‘s The Dirt: Heavy Rotation page. Funny but I thought the track being referred to, Around the World, was one of the most insipid pieces of crap pop I’ve ever heard. Sure, its sunshine-y, its uplifting, it even cops a lyric from John Lennon (All We Need is Love), but its empty, almost soulless. The rest of the disc is not. The rest of the disc has one asking many questions, not least of which being “how come the same issue of my favourite magazine just welcomed back these guys 6 pages ago?” There is a tendency in the popular mainstream media to laud bands for “return(s) to form” or comebacks, and, unfortunately, just as much of a predilection towards chastising said bands for experimentation, innovation, ‘progression’, as it were. But don’t try to tell Geoff Tate (vocalist) that Queensrÿche is a ‘progressive’ metal or rock band! He HATES pigeonholes, as he discusses with Henry Yates in the “Welcome Back” section of Classic Rock. Incidentally, can someone tell me why we are welcoming them back? Just where did they go? American Soldier was a 2009 release, and, if memory serves, there was also a covers disc in between that and this.
In order to properly address the stabs certain musos and punters may take at these denizens of the rock community, we need to first take stock of what we have, which is, of course, the music. I have been reading a lot about the ‘Ryche men lately, and it hasn’t all been good, as we’ve seen. Bearing that in mind, I would pose this question: can we do better? Of course not! I can play guitar, but I have nothing on Michael Wilton (or Damon Johnson, Kelly Gray, or the master, Chris DeGarmo, for that matter). Normally when I am listening to a new piece of music I can be picky. I look for certain things, like intriguing, interesting, intelligent lyrics. I try to find common themes that thread the music together, like the Orwellian nightmare hinted at in Wot We Do, which recalls the band’s masterpiece, Operation: Mindcrime. I also tend to focus on instrumental passages, strong ones, especially. For example, on first few listens I couldn’t help but notice how “locked in” Eddie Jackson (bass) and Scott Rockenfield (drums) are as a rhythm section. And while we’re on the subject, check out the bass lines and cool little fills that Eddie sprinkles liberally over the 12 tracks represented here. Incidentally, for those of you who claim to be diehard, or hardcore, Queensrÿche fans, Amazon does have a Special Edition with 4 extra tracks (Broken, an avant-garde piece with violins that asks us “can (we) remember sunny days?“, Hard Times, a sort of poppy mellow love ballad, Luvin U (another ballad), and I Believe). The standout of the 4 bonus pieces is most likely the latter, where again the lyrics come to the fore, finding our character being prescribed “green shampoo“, but “what the doctor will give you ain’t on the news“.
Big riffs abound here, particularly in the closer, Big Noize, where powerful riffing is actually used to announce a change, signalling alterations in regime and time signature simultaneously, midway through a six-minute-plus epic. This track is, by turns, creepy (they expect us to change our brain, change your mind) and jubilant (“fun’s about to begin, better jump in“). There are suggestions of a revolution from within, and lost innocence (“no more snow white smile”), and even aggressive at times (“hold on–rewind–STOP TALKING!“). The Lie, by contrast, features a proggy guitar solo, thumping, horse-race style drumming, big power chords, la la la’s, everything you probably wouldn’t necessarily expect from these guys. But then there are also violins (Wot We Do, I Believe,), saxophone (Wot We Do again), sitar (Got It Bad), even RAPPING (Drive), sprinkled throughout as if to add 21st century ambience in a way. According to Tate, these types of innovations are absolutely necessary: “If its gonna keep moving, (a) band needs to embrace new ideas“. But hip-hop, you ask? Ambient muzak? Violins? Indeed.
So, bottom line, then? This band is celebrating their 30th anniversary. This is their 12th record. It is chock full of killer riffs, wickedly good rhythms, Floyd-esque sound effects, and, ultimately, good Queensrÿche songs. If you can get past the newness of the musical vibe, you’re in! Listen and enjoy!
Rating: *** 1/2