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Yes, this is it; the highest level to which a single can reach quality wise. I know for sure that there are a lot of songs that are better than ‘Queen of the Reich’ but very few of them have a single release as close to perfection as this one has. Two of the best songs that Queensryche ever composed placed on one single, now that’s something which is really hard to top. It also helps matters that the band was able to provide variety even with two songs; one song is an out and out rocker while the other one is a mellow and haunting ballad. The songs are also the best ones off the debut EP and the band only topped that release once in their career, with Operation Mindcrime.
The main track is the legendary ‘Queen of the Reich’. For me this track is without doubt the best Queensryche ever did. The guitar riffs are not just good they are insanely brilliant; the opening riff is a perfect example of the same. Having only heard Tribe (which sucks) and Empire (which is awesome) before I heard this album, I wasn’t merely surprised by the majestic guitarwork; it was like I was hit by a tonne of bricks. DeGarmo is completely in top form. But the magic isn’t limited to the guitar alone. Whenever the guitar calms down, the bass takes over. Even the drumming is intense and relentless. The song doesn’t touch the brakes even once; it’s all a non stop ride all the way to pure bliss. No member of the band seems to get complacent. This is heavy fucking metal at its absolute best.
Wait, did I tell about a certain Geoff Tate’s vocal performance on this track? No? My bad! I must tell you about the best vocal performance Tate ever gave. Nah! One of the best vocal performances anyone ever gave. The moment the initial scream fell on my ears, I was reminded of Bruce Dickinson. I mean, at the time I had only heard Bruce and Halford sustain such a high pitched scream for such a long period of time, how the hell can Tate do it? But my surprise didn’t end there, the verses, the chorus; Tate nails everything like a veteran. And that too on his debut vocal performance. His high range is seemingly endless. He just carries the chorus along and along. One expects him to falter, botch up a note, maybe at least sound a bit less godlike. Don’t worry, none of that happens. I personally consider Ronnie James Dio the best vocalist of all time, but if for this song and the one following it alone; Tate might just match him.
If you are fed up with the constant barrage of fanboy comments (which are all true), then bear with me a for a little more time cause more of that is about to come. Why? Because there happens to be another masterpiece on this single. Read on….
I was really confused as to how I should rate this single. Sure enough a single release for Queen of the Reich cannot get less than the perfect score but what about the B-side. The band probably didn’t want such a confusion to arise for future fans and reviewers and so, placed another classic, ‘The Lady wore Black’ here. The ballad beautifully contrasts the rocker. The song is restrained, calm and for some reason, haunting. It is carried forward by a slow guitar tune and only the tempo only rises during the chorus. While in the previous track Tate was all speed and power, here he is more thoughtful and uses his low and mid range to good effect. His voice is full of emotion, most striking of which is pain.
It was only after studying the lyrics of the song did I realize the reason why this song is composed to give a person goosebumps and why Tate sounds like a man in deep pain here. The song describes a man’s unfortunate infatuation with a lady who happens to be dead. No, he is not in love with her memory; he is in love with her ghost. Even after the song is over the touching tune and Tate’s deep, haunting voice will continue to resonate in your mind. This I can promise to you.
Now, I treat a lot of bands and a lot of their work in very high regard but the two songs here are in a class of their own. From a purely commercial approach, the single has been done well. Two songs that beautifully complement and contrast each other are placed together. One has a simple song structure the other is a complex and beautifully written song. I personally don’t believe in buying singles because I don’t see the point in spending money on a song that you already own. If the B-side is not on the album you can always download it. But there are a few rare cases where I am willing to change my stand. This single is one of those rare cases. I will not go around searching for it, but if I come across it in a store I’ll buy it. This is that damn good. If you haven’t heard the two songs present on this near perfect single, then you have no right to call yourself a heavy metal fan. Period.