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Having not heard any Queensryche at all, I wasn't really sure what to expect. Iron Maiden worship with some prog sections? Some catchy hard rock/metal with a few extended instrumental breaks? Didn't really have any much of an idea, but by the first "Welcome to the Show! I'm going to tell you what's up! (what's up what's up)" half way into the first song it was pretty obvious that expecting good, or even barely tolerable music was a bit of a mistake on my part.
You could almost imagine this being a parody of music. I remember when St.Anger got released a few optimistic/stupid souls went "har har, now where's the real album"? American Soldier is even more of a joke; if there's a chance to be bad here Queensryche go for it with an almost admirable vigour. Poorly fitting, useless spoken word bits? Guitars used as percussion? Absolutely horrible vocals? Pretension? Flag waving done in such poor taste and with such a lack of subtlety that even O'Reilly would blush? A complete lack of hooks or anything memorable? It's all here, all in vast quantities. I never thought I'd say that an album would be better if it included deathcore styled breakdowns, but man, some Waking the Cadaver sections would be great right now.
I guess one thing you'd have to give to this album is that it's rather original sounding, but that's definitely more by accident then by design. Sections that bring to mind Creed and other modern rock bands clash terribly with wailing vocals, spoken word bits that have no relation to the music played, panned and repeated with no seeming purpose. Songs that come and go without a chorus or a hook of any kind, vocals and backing vocals building up on each other to create new and equally awful sounds, short dramatic bits (He's alive!!!) that must've been put there for a joke. Man, this stuff could almost be avant garde. Is this Queensryche giving us this album, or some sadistic artistic savant making a harsh, unsparing comment on capitalism, imperialism and the demise of the American way?
The subject matter deserves a bit of a mention. I'm not going to discuss politics or anything. I'm just curious; how do you manage to stuff such a fertile, easy-to-do subject up? War lyrics basically write themselves, writing military style riffs shouldn't be too difficult... how on earth can you mess it up this badly? The only song that has any sort of coherence and deals with the subject well enough would be the sort-of-ok rock tune "The Killer", everything else coasting along in some confusing, useless mush of post-grunge vapidness and overkill with the vocal layering.
I guess on the plus side, if I ever have to go to war I doubt anything will shock me after the graphic and intense badness of this album. Perhaps Queensryche are making us empathy for the soldiers by giving their listeners' post-traumatic stress disorder? Napalm victims have nothing on those of us who've listened to this album. In short, this is a really, really bad album; horrifically bad. God bless the soldiers, so that they may return in one piece and wreck horrible vengeance on Queensryche for embarrasing them so much.