Quite a bit has changed in the Queensryche camp since 2019’s The Verdict album; drummer Casey Grillo is now a full time member of the band, and guitarist Mike Stone has since returned after a decade-plus absence. Still intact though is that signature sound the group created well over four decades ago.
Here the guys unleash yet another round of thought-provoking progressive metal true to form. Opener “In Extremis” gives listeners an immediate look at what’s to come from the twelve track album. “Chapters,” Nocturnal Light,” and “Out of the Black” are by far some of the stronger tracks found here, with the single “Behind the Walls” standing out as an instant classic. There’s also a seven minute masterpiece in the form of “Tormentum” that’s undeniably perfect.
“Hold On” is likely to become a staple in the band’s live sets, but is weak in comparison to the previously mentioned other numbers, though does contain a music video that makes interesting social commentary on the digital age (hence the album title). Surprisingly, the band end things with a cover of Billy Idol’s “Rebel Yell,” a curious yet admirable choice to close things out with.
If you’ve already been bit by the Queensryche bug, this shouldn’t be hard for you to get into; even purists who still can’t get past the fact that Geoff Tate is no longer fronting the band might be able to find something worthwhile that’s assembled here.
Unlike other bands from their era simply running off nostalgia (Ratt, Quiet Riot, etc…), bands like Queensryche are still releasing more-than-respectful material, and not relying solely on their past. And while they may still be largely ignored by modern radio these days, bands from said era such as them (along with Iron Maiden and Megadeth, among others), are still just as strong as ever. After catching them live this past weekend for the second time, there’s no denying these bands are still able to pack a house.
Fates Warning have always been somewhat of interest to me, especially since Armored Saint/ex-Anthrax bassist Joey Vera first came aboard. And with a solid lineup that also includes original guitarist Jim Matheos, joined with other longtime members Frank Aresti (guitars) Ray Adler (vocals), and current Sebastian Bach drummer Bobby Jarzombek, I was looking forward to actually seeing what they could do on stage when they opened the first night of this current tour. But for the most part, they focused a tad too heavily on their (not so) new album, 2016’s Theories of Flight, performing “From the Rooftops,” “Seven Stars,” and “The Light and Shade of Things.” The furthest the band even went in their own catalog was “Life in Still Water” from 1991. While it’s understandable they had limited time to work with (only able to squeeze in eight tracks) this is one case where it would have been nice if they dug just a little further back in time (at the very least 1988’s “Silent Cries” should have still found its way in the set list somewhere).
And finally, Queensryche took over. The last time my wife/photographer and I saw them live, they were still touring for their first album with current vocalist Todd La Torre in 2013. Since then, the band has released a couple of more albums, and were not swayed from playing material from any of them (despite knowing many likely still come to hear their Geoff Tate-era hits). One thing’s for sure, their stage/light show has definitely improved over time. However, it was somewhat disappointing to see original drummer Scott Rockenfield was not on board this time around, though Kamelot’s Casey Grillo filled in just fine.
Opening with “Blood of Levant,” the band continued with mostly newer tracks such as “I am I,” “Man the Machine,” and “Condition Human,” but managed to throw one from their debut album, “N M 156” in there before finally breaking out with one of their signature “classics” (“Queen of the Reich”) six tracks in. “Selfish Lives,” “Open Road,” “Light-Years,” and “Eyes of the Stranger” all followed before the band took a quick reprieve.
It didn’t take long for the band to come back with a trio of their most well-known hits for their encore, including their biggest (and in my book, extremely overrated) power ballad “Silent Lucidity,” as well as “Jet City Woman,” and finally “Empire.” I say it all of the time; if ever you doubt the ability of a band that’s been around as long as Queensryche, wait to see them live before judging. These guys have been going strong since 1980, and it’s clear they don’t show any signs of slowing down anytime soon.