Having failed to win over disgruntled fans with Tribe and Operation: Mindcrime II, Queensryche went for a different approach for their tenth full-length studio album. The writing is still dominated by outsiders but all the band members seem to be accounted for and while the military theme could be seen as a different type of pandering, it is much more honest due to the insights gained by interviewing actual soldiers and incorporating their sound bites into the songwriting.
Despite the elaborate concept, it is still hard to identify this as a true Queensryche album. The prevailing style is a mix of post grunge and alternative metal, the guitars have a rather conventional chug, the vocals are about the same as they’ve been, and a liberal amount of samples are used to set the atmosphere. There is a bit of prog influence and the saxophone makes its first appearance since Promised Land but the band’s most defining traits are still sadly absent.
With that, the songwriting is also a mixed bag. Things start off rather awkwardly as “Sliver” and “Unafraid” seem to be going for a Saliva vibe while “Hundred Mile Stare” and “At 30,000 Feet” are decent but ultimately don’t live up to their atmospheric promise. Thankfully, it does get better as it goes along with “The Killer” offering some strong percussion, “Man Down!” being a more successful upbeat track, and “If I Were King” and “Remember Me” making for good ballads.
“Home Again” is another noteworthy track though one that is sure to divide people. While its structure is that of a typical acoustic ballad, its defining factor is the duet between Geoff Tate and his daughter Emily. While Emily’s flat tone and the song’s somewhat saccharine nature may turn some listeners off, she puts more emotion into her performance than her father has in years. Hell, it just might be one of the most passionate ballads that Queensryche has ever put together and will get you misty-eyed if you relate to the theme.
Overall, American Soldier is one of the most mixed albums in the Queensryche discography. The outside contributions still grate on the nerves and several ideas don’t quite catch fire, but the second half does make it potentially worth getting if you can deal with a different sound. There are better war-themed albums out there but this is arguably as good as Geoff Tate and his cronies will ever get.
“If I Were King”