Not to be confused with the 1983 EP, Queensryche’s twelfth full-length studio album finds the band in the most challenging predicament of their career. Too far removed in time from the classics and too far removed in quality from recent efforts, it is an album that simultaneously is way overdue and feels like the debut of a completely new band. Either way, former Crimson Glory singer Todd La Torre and guitarist Parker Lundgren have secured themselves without a single outsider in sight.
As expected by a band that has spent the last year reaching for their prog metal past and generally making up for lost time, there are plenty of references to their classic works to be found on here. Just as lead single “Redemption” channels Operation: Mindcrime with its twin guitar introduction and rapid fire choruses, faster songs like “Don’t Look Back” and “Fallout” show off their long forgotten Iron Maiden influence and probably would’ve fit in on The Warning with more structural complexity. They even allow some 90s influence to slip by as “Open Road” plays out like an Empire ballad, “A World Without” and the interludes evoke Promised Land, and “In This Light” is a radio friendly number in the vein of Hear In The Now Frontier.
But the debut aspect does come into play, as there are some new elements to be found. This album just might be Queensryche’s most aggressive since the EP as the production offers a bright yet gritty tone, the drums bring in more power, the guitars offer active riffs and solos, and La Torre’s vocals are raspier than his clone status would have you believe. Influence from contemporary power metal is also abundant and can best be seen on the theatrical “Where Dreams Go To Die” and the uplifting contrasts on “Vindication.”
While the production’s loudness has been a point of contention, the album’s thirty-five minute run time is the ultimate cause for concern. On one hand, it allows the band to focus on more straightforward songwriting and results in an album largely devoid of filler. On the other, a few songs could’ve been a minute or two longer and the inclusion of an epic track would’ve been great. Ultimately, the length doesn’t affect the quality but rather makes it feel more like an amazing appetizer.
And with that, Queensryche’s first album with the new lineup isn’t the godly comeback we hoped for but it does provide excellent songs and hope for an even greater follow-up when all this legal mumbo jumbo has been resolved. It is overwhelmingly clear that this lineup has earned their claim to the Queensryche name; they understand what made it great and how to properly bring those elements into the modern age. Let’s just hope you know who has a backup plan now that this has blown up in his face…
“Where Dreams Go To Die”
“A World Without”
“Don’t Look Back”