Review by Paddy Gallagher for MPM
Metal for the thinking man”!!
It’s a great day when a new album is released by one of Prog Metal’s “Big 3”; however, I reckon there are slight head scratching issues with the new Queensrÿche album and it’s not the absence of past members; it’s the bookends – “In Extremis” and “Rebel Yell”.
I’ll deal with them first to get any slight negativity out of the way as this album and the musicians deserve much praise.
While “In Extremis” is a fine song by any standard, initially I could hear too many Maidenisms for my liking (not that there’s anything wrong with some Maidenisms), from first riff to the vocal melodies to the twin lead guitar work, but the more I repeated the song, the less obvious the similarities became.
No harm in sounding a bit like Iron Maiden though considering the influence the legendary English band had on the Rÿche, I guess on first listen it kind of threw me. By second song “Chapters” Queensrÿche sound more like top of their game Queensrÿche, as they should as this release is Queensrÿche at the top of their game.
The second point is a cover of Billy Idol’s “Rebel Yell”! This just begs the question; why?? I hope we don’t hear it live at the expense of an original song.
Anyhoo, moaning over, the middle ten songs are classic Prog Metal of the highest order that can easily sit alongside the band’s legendary classic tracks and equal many by other Prog Metal luminaries such as Fates Warning, Dream Theater, Crimson Glory, Shadow Gallery!
“Chapters” is built on the excellent bass work of Eddie Jackson and the magic that Casey Grillo brings to the drumkit is evident throughout the album. He’s highly deserving of his now permanent membership of the band, even though that may be a sore point with Scott Rockenfield. His pedigree is in no doubt after his lengthy 9 album, 21-year stint with the mighty Kamelot. The replacement of Parker Lundgren with the returning Mike Stone works very well, both Mike and Michael Wilton linking together superbly.
Quite literally we are straight in to “Lost in Sorrow” with Todd’s vocals blending with nice atmospheric riffing building towards a strong chorus vocal melody. “Sicdeth” is a real headbanger, chugging riffs with classic Metal screams from Todd. The Rage for Order influenced “Behind the Walls” with Todd imploring “Did you ever love me? Did you ever love you?”. Casey Grillo, take a bow. Brilliant work!
“Nocturnal Light” and “Out of the Black” are cracking rockers that would be top tunes on any album, but perhaps the highlight of the album is the utterly magnificent “Forest”. This beautiful piece of music I can hear live slotting into the set immediately before “Silent Lucidity”, both combining to provide around 10 minutes of exquisite atmospherics at a slower pace.
Back to fists in the air riffs with “Realms” building towards a strong chorus and cracking air guitar inducing solo. “Hold On” starts with fine riff work and Casey giving the kit a pounding before easing into softly sung verses which pick up tempo and volume by chorus time.
The longest song on the album clocking in at 7 minutes 30 seconds is 2nd last song, “Tormentum”, a piece of Progressive Metal excellence.
A tough choice must be made by the band, namely what songs not to play live? There’s not a song here that wouldn’t go down a storm, well apart from “Rebel Yell” but that’s just my take, it’ll probably keep the heads banging if it’s played.
All musicians perform to the highest level in this recording; Eddie’s bass providing a strong backbone and added dynamics to the sound (nice to hear a prominent bassline), plus his partner in rhythm Casey’s percussive heroics are worthy of drum performance of the year. There seems to be a freshness about the guitar work, Michael and Mike with fire in their tummies. And not forgetting Todd’s performance which can’t be praised enough; what a voice!
And lastly, the song writing is on a higher plane than many bands will accomplish this year, perhaps the best the band has produced with Todd which is no mean feat as the previous three albums since he took over the microphone are enjoyable slabs of quality Metal.
“Metal for the thinking man”!! You bet!
Eddie Jackson – bass
Michael Wilton – guitar
Todd La Torre – vocals
Casey Grillo – drums
Mike Stone – guitar