Thursday, June 20, 2013

Queensryche Month, Part 9: Review of Tribe

Tribe could be seen as a sort of crossroads in Queensryche’s career. It certainly doesn’t reach for their metal days, but it does have a unified lyrical theme and was their last true band effort before their next three releases were handed off to Geoff Tate’s entourage of outside writers. It even sees the brief return of Chris DeGarmo as a session member, overshadowing guitarist Mike Stone’s official addition to the group’s ranks in place of Kelly Gray.

Being the last part of what I’m now calling Queensryche’s Grunge Trilogy, Tribe seems to serve as an odd cross between Promised Land and Q2K. Just as it stays close to the latter’s rhythmic emphasis and muddy guitar tone, it also has a contemplative theme and might be their most laid back release to date. Of course, there are a few songs like “Open” and the disjointed “Art Of Life” that are slightly heavier than those on the last couple efforts, but they don’t feel out of place with the album’s reflective outlook.

But even with DeGarmo’s contributions, there still aren’t many changes to the band dynamic. “Open” does have the distinct honor of having the first honest to God Queensryche riff since “Hit The Black” but there aren’t too many intricate moments on the ballads that made past somber tracks like “Out Of Mind” and “The Lady Wore Black” so captivating. This is also where the vocals would start to get a little grating though it seems to have more to do with the patterns and inflection than trying to hit notes that just can’t be hit anymore.

And in a way similar to St. Anger, there are some moments where things feel a little unfinished. But while that album spent too much time beating stale ideas into the ground, Tribe has songs that seem like they should’ve gone in a different direction than what was released. “Desert Dance” could’ve been a highlight if it had spent more time on its darker beginning and the title track would’ve been even stronger if the flow of the vocals wasn’t so awkward during the verses. The ballads also have a tendency to run together though a few of them do show signs of promise.

Overall, Tribe is a decent album though it somehow seems to be even weaker than the last couple despite DeGarmo’s contributions. The reflective tone is nicely delivered and fitting for a band of Queensryche’s experience and “Open” is easily their strongest latter day diamond, but his involvement is more of a point of hype and what could’ve been than anything that truly salvages the album’s more monotonous moments. Stick with Hear In The Now Frontier if you want to hear the band play grunge. That album needs more love anyway…

Current Highlights:
“Great Divide”
“Rhythm Of Hope”

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