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Two Words: Shit Sandwich - 10%

jerkov, January 18th, 2004

Yes, I'm ripping off Spinal Tap with the title of this review......so what? I actually have a good reason for stealing this phrase from one of the funniest movies of all time: because Q2K is literally a shit sandwich. How, you ask? Because the band took the only two semi-decent songs on the album, made them the first and last tracks, and filled the rest with pure, unlistenable shit. So imagine if you will, the two semi-decent songs acting as two slices of bread, with a heaping pile of shit in between. There you have it --- one giant shit sandwich of an album.

Let me get this out of the way: Queensryche is one of my favorite bands of all time, so don't get the (wrong) idea that I hate the band and am just giving them a bad review for the hell of it. I think that albums like Rage for Order, Operation: Mindcrime, The Warning, the self-titled EP, and even Empire are all fantastic albums, with RFO and O:M probably two of the best albums ever recorded. It goes downhill after Empire, but even Promised Land and Hear in the Now Frontier had some damn good songs on them. Then came this --- Q2K, which is the first album recorded by the band after the departure of Chris DeGarmo. Terminal drunkard Kelly Gray took his place, and didn't do such a hot job either, so at least there is some reasoning behind why this album sucks so much. Although you can't blame Gray completely for why this album is so shitty, since Geoff Tate was probably the main creative force behind the album since DeGarmo left, and he doesn't like metal anymore, remember?

The cover art is pretty cool; looking at it, you'd think that the band would be returning to some of the technological themes present on The Warning and Rage For Order; nope, mostly just terrible lyrics dealing with love and such. The album sputters off to a start with "Falling Down", one of only two passable songs on the album. Right away, it's apparent that this is not a heavy metal album; maybe progressive rock or something? Anyways, there is some decent riffage in the beginning, and Tate's vocals sound pretty good, with some good use of backing vocals in the bridge and the chorus. I do kinda dig the guitar solos, because there is some dueling going on between Michael Wilton and Kelly Gray, and then they both combine together to play some more leads before the solo is over. Kind of reminiscent of some of the solos in Rage For Order in the way that it's structured, although nowhere near as good. It's a decent song, but not even in the same neighborhood of anything appearing on RFO or Mindcrime.

Now the album goes downhill, fast. "Sacred Ground" sounds like a really bad alternative rock song, featuring absent-minded guitar riffs, tambourine banging, and inane lyrics. Even worse, Tate sounds like he is talking through a lot of the song, I can't even call it singing. "One Life" starts off sounding like bad elevator music, and when the song "kicks in" it doesn't get much better. The riffs are terrible and are horribly structured; the notes don't even sound like they flow together at all. Who wrote these riffs, and why was the whole band under the impression that they sounded good? Another annoyance that can be heard here and a lot throughout the album is that Kelly Gray loves to use weird guitar effects, probably to compensate for the fact he can't play leads very well. If you've heard/seen the live CD/DVD Live Evolution, then you've heard Gray butchering DeGarmo solos while trying to hide his mistakes through layers of guitar effects. Mike Stone is a much better fit for the band, but that's another story entirely. "When the Rain Comes" is a pathetic attempt at soft, contemporary music.......is this the same band that did "Queen of the Ryche" or what? "How Could I" and "Beside You" is just more of the same --- terrible lyrics, terrible guitar work, extremely boring songs.

When I first heard the next track, "Liquid Sky", I thought it sounded pretty cool.......maybe there was some hope for the rest of the album! A nice little guitar part starts the song out, very refreshing after all of the boring riffs present through the rest of the album. However, 17 seconds into the song, the guitar part stops and in comes Tate with more horrible lyrics, something about he's not no Romeo and he's the man for you. Real deep and thought provoking, is it not? I thought Queensryche was supposed to be the thinking man's heavy metal band. There aren't even anymore cool guitar parts in the rest of the song to partially redeem it (just a short reprise of the same part from the beginning in the middle of the song); it blends nicely with the rest of the shitty songs on the album. "Burning Man" drags the album down further, if that's even possible at this point. The bass riff and drum work through the verse & chorus sounds like it should be in some jingle on a TV commercial trying to sell a new sports drink or something. Awful, awful, awful. "Wot Kinda Man" follows, and yes, it also sucks. First of all, I can't get over the title --- why are they misspelling "what"? Is it supposed to be cool or something? I hate that, a lot. It's fucking stupid. The song is just as forgettable as anything else on the record, with no memorable guitar or vocal work anywhere to be heard (hey, those two factors used to be Ryche trademarks, but I guess the band forgot that while recording Q2K).

The album is mercifully brought to a close with "Right Side of My Mind", which is actually kinda decent. It sort of reminds me of a weird Pink Floyd song in some parts, and hey --- there is actually some listenable guitar work in this song! Nothing to get too excited about, but it's a hell of a lot better than anything else on the album (besides "Falling Down"). Still, this is nowhere near what the band is capable of. I think the big problem with Q2K is that everything sounds so uninspired. Tate sounds like he's hardly putting out any effort and doesn't even really hit any high notes. Like I mentioned, most of the riffs sound like they were haphazardly thrown together, and when you combine it all, you get one boring, very forgettable album.

I hate to give Queensryche such a low score, but they truly deserve it with this album. Maybe everyone was all shaken up after DeGarmo left and they just couldn't write anything decent without him (although Wilton and Tate have written some of the band's finest work on their classic albums without DeGarmo, so it's not like the rest of the band can't write songs or anything). On their recent tours, they didn't even bother to play any Q2K material (based on the shows I saw, at least), so maybe the band realizes now that Q2K was just a big mistake. Their latest album, Tribe, isn't exactly a return to top form, but it's definitely a step in the right direction. It's nice to see that the band bounced back a little after this horrible album, but I'm still waiting for Queensryche to really get it back together and start making some real metal again. Come on, Tate, save the soft stuff for your solo albums and let's get some of the old, heavy Queensryche back again.