Is this sad saga of one band splitting into two not just the saddest thing in recent memory when it comes to classic metal? Let's face it, if you followed Queensryche at all in the 80s or even through a lot of the bad times of the last two years, they were almost always a dignified bunch that seemed above the fray of the rest of the riff raff. Now, we have two bands. We have the Geoff Tate version of the band - an act powered largely by some sort of insanity that has overtaken the once dignified Tate and turned him into a babbling maniac who's more than willing to tell you about his black man's stereotypical penis than about his music. He's REALLY challenged people to even care about anything called Queensryche in recent months, and it's just sad to see happen. Then you have "the other guys". They've stayed largely silent about the split after the first few weeks, and aside from a lot of positive posts on their various social media sites, really haven't had much to say regarding the split and the new version of the band featuring vocalist Todd LaTorre. I guess they've decided to let the music do the talking.
And talking it does. QUEENSRYCHE, while definitely a second tier release that would fall below everything from PROMISED LAND back in their catalog, is also the best and closest release to their classic sound of that same time period. There is little doubt that fans of the classic era will be more than happy with this release, if for no other reason than it actually "sounds" like the band most fans have missed for a long time.
Let's get to the obvious main focus of the album, vocalist Todd LaTorre. Certainly, regardless of what kind of crap has had the name "Queensryche" on it over the last two decades, the voice has been the signature that held fans to the band. LaTorre comes from Crimson Glory, and interestingly spent his life as a lifelong Geoff Tate fan. What's great about his performance here on QUEENSRYCHE is that he does sound like Tate in places, but it's not merely an imitation of the once great vocalist. Listening to songs like "Vindication", he not only channels Tate in some parts, but sets his own signature to the sound in other places. For his part, LaTorre sounds really good on the album. Only on "Redemption" do they throw some ridiculously unnecessary effect or recording technique on his vocals which is kind of useless in my eyes.
As for the band, they sound great. Michael Wilton and Parker Lundgren have seemingly revisited the band's back catalog to recreate the vibe on guitar lost the day Chris DeGarmo ran from the band. They are balanced by the always firm backend created by drummer Scott Rockenfield and bassist Eddie Jackson. As far as performances, they sound very good.
For this version of Queensryche though, it all comes down to the actual sound and style of the songs. For the most part, they have done a good job recreating the vibe. Songs like "A World Without" could easily have been mixed in on PROMISED LAND without sounding widely different, while other songs like "Where Dreams Go To Die" and "Spore" have an EMPIRE-like flair to them. There's nothing on QUEENSRYCHE that's going to take you to the ugly place filled with such turds as DEDICATED TO CHAOS or AMERICAN SOLDIER. That said, and while the album is pretty damn solid, there's something that's just not all the way there yet. I'm not sure what it is, but you don't walk away from a listen to QUEENSRYCHE thinking you've just heard something monumentally special the way you did RAGE FOR ORDER, EMPIRE or the legendary OPERATION MINDCRIME. Maybe that's too much to hope for in the first place.
PITRIFF RATING - 84/100 - While I do really dig this and I'm glad to see the mighty Queensryche come roaring back after two decades of utter crap, QUEENSRYCHE does not jump all the way back to where the band was at their peak. I'm sure that's far too much to expect, but unfortunately for the core 3 members of this band, that's the standard they set by being so ridiculously great early in their career. Very solid effort, and certainly one that won't disappoint anyone that has waited forever for these guys to make it back. They have.