Released four long years after Empire, Promised Land just might be the biggest black sheep of Queensryche’s classic era. While it did go gold and had a few successful singles to its name, a series of personal struggles kept the band from truly capitalizing on their last album’s success and this one remains one of their most obscure to date. These factors do give Promised Land a status not unlike that of Metallica’s Loads, but this album is much more consistent and forward thinking.
While Promised Land isn’t exactly inaccessible, it could be seen as an antithesis of Empire. Trading in big hooks for ambient textures and upbeat hard rock for spacy prog, it may be their most complex effort as well as one of their most restrained in execution. It also manages to be their most cynical as the heavier songs are more about creating a biting atmosphere than a truly metal riff and the lyrics deal with themes of disillusionment and detachment.
But with that, it isn’t as far removed from previous Queensryche albums as one would think. The upbeat “Damaged” plays out like an Empire outtake, the atmosphere on songs like “Dis Con Nec Ted” was forseen on “Della Brown,” and a good bulk of the softer songs on here had their roots in “No Sanctuary” and “I Will Remember” among others.
The band dynamics have also undergone a few changes to match the style. The guitars now seem to be the band’s strongest asset as they jump from a heavy crunch on “I Am I” to gentle acoustics and everything in between. On the flip side, the rhythm section seems to have been scaled back and Geoff Tate’s vocals show their first signs of wear but keep their composure by sticking to a lower range. A few members also get to flex some extra muscles as Scott Rockenfield breaks out the electronics, guitarist Chris DeGarmo plays the piano on “Lady Jane” and “Someone Else,” and Tate showcases his skills with a saxophone to chilling effect on the title track.
If Empire is Dark Side Of The Moon, then Promised Land is Queensryche’s answer to Wish You Were Here. It may not have the status of its predecessors but its classy execution may place it just below Mindcrime on the band’s overall hierarchy. It may be one of their trickiest releases to get into but it’s a hell of a lot easier to recommend than anything that would come out after it…
“I Am I”
“Out Of Mind”