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Originally recorded when the group was still known as The Mob, Queensryche’s debut EP serves as one of the band’s most conventional yet definitive statements. Its four songs have more to say than most bands’ full-lengths and simultaneously expresses their influences while hinting at the shadow that they would cast over the prog music scene.
Seeing as how the band was still largely riding on their Iron Maiden and Ronnie James Dio influences, it isn’t too surprising for this EP to be their most metal-oriented release to date. The songwriting is straightforward, the guitars operate at more aggressive tempos, the vocals are as charismatic as they are high pitched, and the production job also manages to be their grittiest.
Yet even in their earliest days, the band had several nuances that placed them above most traditional metal fare. You won’t see any epics on here but tracks like the immortal “Queen Of The Reich” offer a degree of structural complexity while “The Lady Wore Black” offers some bells and literal whistles that keep it from being your typical power ballad. The band’s sophisticated air was also firmly secured by their debut, putting them two steps ahead of their contemporaries in Fates Warning and Savatage.
But as anyone will tell you, Geoff Tate’s vocals are what truly set Queensryche apart from the rest of the pack. He offers a great deal of variety and control in his delivery as he offers consistent wails throughout “Queen of The Reich,” a nut ripping scream on “Blinded,” and masterful low to high transitions on “The Lady Wore Black.” Not too shabby for a guy that doesn’t even like metal and performed on this EP as a favor…
While it has been overshadows by the best (and the worst) of future installments, Queensryche’s debut EP shows the band starting off strong. Despite there being only four songs on display, there are a few classic tracks on board and heavier metal fans may find this to be an ideal starting point if they don’t already have the obligatory Mindcrime. Either way, it’s just more proof that 1983 was a damn good year…
“Queen Of The Reich”
“The Lady Wore Black”
Originally published at http://psychicshorts.blogspot.com
Metal was pretty young in 1982, and subgenres were still only just beginning to emerge; heavy metal was really only one genre, and only a handful of bands - Venom, Slayer, and of course Queensryche - were really starting to push the envelope. The NWOBHM was still going strong, and thrash wasn't really a thing yet, with some of the heavier bands just beginning to experiment with a speedier, more aggressive variety of heavy metal. Additionally, a metal band having a classically trained vocalist was virtually unheard of - setting the stage perfectly for a band like Queensryche to come along and change that.
The sound here is surprisingly mature for a style that Queensryche practically created - taking heavy metal and adding a more mystical, ambitious approach - with riffs and vocals more focused on atmosphere than aggression or heaviness, though the album is still plenty heavy. Each song has a solid buildup and flows cohesively, without want for much of anything; the guitar tone is nice and meaty, the drums very organic, and of course the vocals are fantastic - Tate's got a pretty unique style, at least for 1982 - those that sound like him tend to be imitators rather than influences, such as Tom Mallicoat of Lethal, or the lesser known of Olaf Bilic of Jester's March - but his shrieking, aggressive higher register is pretty much second to none here.
The songs here fall into two categories - the four power metal numbers, which are all killer, with their speedy riffs and blazing solos, and then the ballad "The Lady Wore Black", which is almost as good - Tate is excellent at shifting from aggressive to more melodic and restrained, a style that works well with the thoughtful, mellow strumming of the song. Overall, this is Queensryche's crowning achievement, as it's both their best musically and most influential album - setting the stage for bands like Lethal, Syrus, Zions Abyss, Damien Steele, Heir Apparent, and dozens of others, standing alongside Fates Warning as the grandfathers of progressive power metal. However, with wimpy follow-ups like The Warning, Operation: Mindcrime, and the abysmal Rage For Order, it's clear the band were only to go downhill from here.
Dear God, how the mighty have fallen. In recent years, Queensryche have been best known for putting out some really shitty albums, to the point where hearing that Geoff Tate had been fired from the band might have been the best news since... ever. Horrible cabaret shows, all around terrible music, and downright turning your back on metal. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t about a change in style. Some bands need to try new things and evolve, but I’d probably even defend “Lulu” over the piece of shit “American Soldier.” Ok, maybe not. Regardless, despite the fact that Queensryche’s recent efforts have ranged from sub-par to terrible, and their fan base pretty split, there was time this was a phenomenal power metal group, and despite only being four songs, this short EP may honestly be one of the greatest chunks of US power metal ever.
The album opens with Queen of the Reich, a fast paced track which features Geoff Tate’s amazing vocals wailing over the band. Truly once Geoff Tate had a voice that could hold its own amongst the best in metal, and while not world-changing and showing a little Iron Maiden-gallop influence, Chris DeGarmo absolutely had some great talent. The solo on this song is very speedy, and fits in with the tune very well. This is a time when Queensryche knew not only how to write a goddamn song, but perform one as well. And a metal song at that. It’s unfortunate they’ve fallen from being poised for greatness to being a shitty cabaret rock act.
The Nightrider features a mid paced, or maybe even doomy, series of riffs at the beginning, going into a near speed metal power song. Again, Geoff’s voice impresses us to the point that we should question maybe it was he, and not Paul McCartney, who died in a car accident and was replaced by an actor/clone/aliens (that’s a thing, some something and Google that shit). The song slows down for the beginning of the solo, going back to the intro riff after a bit, all the while an incredibly solo from DeGarmo, before Geoff informs us to beware of the night.
Blinded may be the weak track on here, although at this point a weak Queensryche track was still powerful, like a mighty kick to the testicles. It’s not quite as fast as the previous two, but still above mid paced, and the chorus is quick and catchy, even though I have no fucking idea what he’s saying from the vocal layering. Something about voices calling. The end is just.. strange. But at 3 minutes the song clocks in as the shortest on the disc, and really, it’s pretty good overall.
The. Lady. Wore. Black. Who the hell wrote this. Clearly not Geoff Tate, the asshole responsible for American Soldier could never write this. DeGarmo? If so, why the hell has he resigned himself to flying planes in Seattle. Possibly one of my favorite Power Metal ballads.
And that’s it. Some versions include a bonus track, Prophecy, which I believe is actually an outtake from “The Warning,” and some include a bonus Live show. Which is fine. I own the version with “Prophecy,” I think it fits better on “The Warning” but it’s a fine addition, and the live show is fine. But as far as the main attraction, these four songs are among the best the band composed, which is not at all a bad benchmark, or me cutting down on anything they did after. Well. Until “Empire.” Things sort of fell apart after “Empire.” But at least we have those first five releases. And hey, without Tate, who knows what direction this band could take… no high hopes though.
Compared to the tragic oil spills of creativity the senile Seattle rockers have suffered in more recent times, the eponymous Queensrÿche EP seems like a distant, safe harbor from the storm of years that have rusted and peeled back the once great outfit's hull. A solemn reminder that there was a point at which this quintet had been so far ahead of the pack that they helped write its textbook, and a glimpse at what 'might have been' if the band had not decided, through flawed leadership, to rebuke most of its roots in the 90s and beyond to chase its own tail around in a wasteland of progressive rock and 'modernized' ideas that felt just as trite or dated when they arrived as any conceived perception the band might have feared at the prospect of sustained ass kicking on the metallic circuit...
But come 1982, we didn't have a hell of a lot of bands here in the States quite so advanced as this one, and I'm oft surprised just how much of this formative Queensrÿche survived even through their smash hit albums like Operation: Mindcrime and Empire (note the semblance in the vocals of "The Lady Wore Black" and the band's relentless, redundant radio juggernaut "Silent Lucidity", for example). Iron Maiden and other groups hovering around the birth of the NWOBHM might have predated this by a few years, and you can certainly hear a similarity in the strong fits of melody, riff structures and general airiness of the guitars and vocals, yet I can only think of a handful of American bands, like Riot, who were putting out precursive power metal at this level of polish and charm, and there's simply no downplaying on how influential this group was. Certainly groups like Fates Warning, Lizzy Borden and Liege Lord were paying attention in their youths, as was just about everyone else tuned to hard rock/metal radio in the 80s, which is why they were able to build such a resounding foundation of success that echoed well beyond the stagnation of their second decade.
Personally, the Queensrÿche EP has not possessed the staying power of the three full-lengths that followed it, but like so many other recordings of its period, there's a particular timelessness which seems as fresh and evocative as when I heard it as a Huffy-owning neighborhood whelp. "Queen of the Reich" might not have the stickiest riff-set of all time, but I really admired its driving sense of style that mirrored what Maiden were writing across the Atlantic from about 1982-86. The muscular, harried bass-lines of Eddie Jackson were competitive with Steve Harris; the rhythm guitars, while somewhat muddy in contrast to the vocals, were rife with inspiration, whether they were splayed out in open, atmospheric chords, faster picked verses or the screaming, bulky melodies persistent through a number of the tracks such as "Nightrider" and "Blinded". In addition, Rockenfield's drums felt aggressive and angry to the point where they darkened the mood of most of these songs; even though the guy's never been the most technical skin smasher of his generation, he had a means of placing a great deal of kinetic force into simpler beats, and thus memories of the guy freaking out in his various drum cages are hardly exaggerated.
But what most would have found the most distinctive in the Queensrÿche sound were the wailing vocals of Geoff Tate, one of the most prominent testicular harpies in all 80s metal alongside names like Dickinson, Halford, Dio, Dirkschneider, Osbourne, Arch. While the guy's also capable in a lower, brooding range to which he adds a lot of (sometimes forced) emotion, he definitely stuck to a higher pitch through most of the tunes in this period, and he was quite on point. I always loved how the guy's voice would trail off with this wavering sustenance after delivering a harmonious spike, and it shares the stratosphere of the album quite well alongside the ripping, rugged leads in "Queen of the Reich". The caveat is, as with a lot of works in this time period, they often feel a bit loud and disparate against the instruments, something that in retrospect is easy to understand but, at the time, felt a fraction showy and grating here, though not enough to curb one's appreciation for the music.
While the songs here aren't the first I'd crank during a workout Rÿche-athon alongside "Empire", "Speak" or "Eyes of a Stranger", they're admittedly very consistent, each with functional riffing dynamics and outbursts of melody. Even the power ballad, "The Lady Wore Black" doesn't drag its heels too far behind, its gleaming clean guitars erupting into power chords and gently thundering, simple fills, and the first real example of Tate exploring much of his range within one track. The 1988 bonus track, "Prophecy", which had been written later than this material, sounds a lot more polished due to its bigger budget, and so it tends to stand out from the original EP content, stylistically more in line with Rage for Order (when it was recorded), but despite that it's a solid song no matter where you feel like experiencing it.
I've certainly had a few acquaintances who cite this as the greatest hour of Queensrÿche, and while this is not a sentiment I share in any way (there are certain individual songs on Operation: Mindcrime, for example, that have had more impact on me than the sum of all this material), I can recognize and share in its raw appeal. Ultimately, it might only feel as if it were a few years ahead of its time, since this style seemed to peak here in the States from about 1984-1989, but the lyrics and songwriting were quite solid, and when you consider that it was more or less a demo the band had written as 'The Mob', before Geoff Tate had even joined full time, it was already far more than a humble beginning. Had only the band itself returned to this more often in their personal listening habits through the years, we might not have experienced some of the post-Promised Land abortions that clutter the landscape of their discography.
2012 marks the year this notable Seattle quintet completes three decades of a quite attention-grabbing career (and are touring in order to celebrate it), so I just figured it would be quite right to review some albums they’ve put out, be them just good, bad, masterpieces or utter pieces of excrement, so let’s just get to it before they write another rap song or some asinine hymn about buying shit and I feel compelled enough to give up on them again.
First of all, I must say how, being slightly more used to post-Empire Queensrÿche, it just feels exhilarating to review a CD (In this case, an EP) from these guys that features no such things as filler tracks or experimental, ego-indulging bullshit. There’s something about this particular EP... A certain mindset that I sense Queensrÿche never did revisit (Maybe they did to a slightly lesser extent on Op: Mindcrime), and I don’t exactly mean the youthful energy, but more like the strong focus on the music itself rather than how cerebral and deep the whole thing sounds.
What I mean it’s that there’s no apparent concern to make it all sound grandiose and complex. You can feel these guys just feel like rocking out like there’s no tomorrow, but since they’re goddamn Queensrÿche, they do it the classy way, because that’s the way they roll and, here, they did not let it go over their heads. Every song is straightforward but full of small intricacies, featuring really memorable guitar work, a powerful bass, more than competent drum work and, of course, Geoff Tate’s trained, monstrous vocal pipes, but I’ll get to ‘em shortly.
First, the lyrics here feature none of the band’s forthcoming political critiques and statements, and are more focused on mysterious and vaguely supernatural themes (“The Lady Wore Black” being the most captivating of the bunch), except for maybe Queen of the Reich’s, that shows a Sci-Fi vibe as we can gather from the hilariously cheese-infused 80’s video clip (which I just fucking love and simply cannot get enough of). This approach may scare off Mindcrime or Empire fans looking for something else than the music itself to chew on, but the lyrics are actually pretty well written for a band of such young dudes, showing a sense of flow and mixing well with the music accompanying them instead of being just scribbled bullcrap for the singer to hum along to.
Then we get to the best performance here, belonging to Tate’s sharp voice. As I said before, this is some monstrous stuff. There’s some great technique at work here and he managed to find himself a quite particular, scandalous tone that few can match, and his penchant for constantly belting out the E5 like it was the easiest high note ever constantly steals the spotlight from the stellar guitar riffs and potent, in-your-face bass of “Queen of the Reich”. Later on this would evolve to become one of Tate’s most frequently sung notes, pretty much always used with the same conviction and power.
Instrumentally, the little EP also excels, as the DeGarmo/Wilton tandem flesh out really cool NWOBHM inspired old school riffing (and showing their future taste for rich atmospheres in “The Lady wore Black”), made even more vintage-sounding by the slightly fuzzy rhythm tone and a warm, wet lead tone, as Eddie Jackson kicks ass with some furiously thumping bass that gives an absolutely dense feel to the songs. Can you imagine any of these tracks without that power? I just can’t. “Blinded” or Queen of the Reich’s chorus (After “It’s the ending of your precious life”, as it blasts along with the kick drums, complementing the killer main riff) wouldn’t sound nearly as potent. And acting as a backbone for the awesomeness, drummer Scott Rockenfield shows that one can sound both heavy and quite fast without sacrificing groove and/or sounding sloppy (coughLarscough).
It will always be amazing how these young dudes could show such a level of sophistication in their craft. In 1982, Queensrÿche left their mark on both the Seattle scene and in Heavy Metal, and this was the first step of a long, glorious (and strange) road.
Highlights: Every track, damn it.
Queensryche is a band that I have a love/hate relationship with. Although I hate their more recent releases, I am a big fan of their '80s work. In my opinion, their self-titled debut ep is one of their finest works (the only better being Operation: Mindcrime). The production here is better than on most debuts and is good enough to allow the songs to stand with the classic material that later made them famous.
The ep starts off with a bang of a classic song, Queen Of The Reich. From the opening riffs you know that this one is going to be a great. Everything comes together on this song: the solid drumming, the great riffage, and Geoff Tate's soaring vocals. The other perfect track on this release is the closer, The Lady Wore Black. It was this song that a friend used to introduce me to Queensryche. This song is perfect in every single way and every time I hear it the hairs stand up on the back of my neck.
If you are a fan of traditional heavy metal (Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, etc.), I would strongly suggest searching for it. It may be a little hard to find, but the search will be worth it.
This is when it all began. When this music phenomenon called Queensryche first appeared. Though they never did manage to get to the top of metal music, they became one of the most well-known bands and were always very appreciated by the majority of the fans, at least for the most of their career. Their debut release, back in the distant 1983, was just an EP, made up by four tracks, or should I better say, four diamonds? Is it a coincidence that nowadays, 29 years later, only a few original copies remain in the hands of some wise guys who gain upon the expense of some die-hard fans and their eagerness to obtain this small treasure? How can it be possible that a small EP has built a myth around it, while other great full-length albums of better quality lay lower? It’s a question I never was able to answer.
Many of you, who were old enough at the time, were lucky to feel its affect and now it seems like a sweet memory. But fans like me, just five years old then, can only see it as their prime release and compare it with what they did next. It is true that at first it may sound like nothing more than typical, cliché heavy metal of that era. But if you let yourself feel the power it possesses and the magic it can offer you, it suddenly becomes precious. This EP is the most heavy metal stuff that Queensryche have ever written. Their youthful excitement and enthusiasm along with their endless inspiration that characterized them during the first decade, are offering us a very interesting piece of work.
What you notice from the first moment is that this band seems to have found the perfect chemistry since their playing sounds so firm and tight. The rhythm section is very steady and strong, supporting the already powerful compositions. The credits for this go to bassist Eddie Jackson and drummer Scott Rockenfield. My complements! As for the thing that marks more than anything a metal song, the guitars, well they are something else! The guitar duo is made up by two of the best and most skillful guitarists, Chris De Garmo and Michael Wilton. These two do nothing more but let their untamed imagination create beautiful, incredible themes, both melodic and heavy. But, without underestimating the foretold musicians, the main ingredient for this tasteful metal recipe is definitely found in the divine vocals of Geoff Tate. He truly leaves the best impressions with his strong, steady and melodic voice, unfolding his talent, though at a few moments he exaggerates a bit. And just think that he hadn’t yet discovered his real abilities!
As I said earlier on, it is hard to understand that this is their first release and that they have just passed the age of twenty for what they lack in experience they replace it with their passion and energy. And this is clearly shown in the songs, starting with the opener track, the devastating Queen of the Reich. This song has become a trademark for the band and is righteously considered by many, including me, one of their top three moments. The song enters with an explosive guitar riff, fast and heavy and the amazing voice of Tate fills the air. Your heart beats ever faster following the pace of the pounding drum rhythm as we approach the middle of the song and the awesome guitar solo! This song is absolutely breath-taking!
Nightrider is the song that comes next. Its first minute passes quite slowly but suddenly it blasts-off and turns into a metal killer. It features, yet again, fast guitars and a galloping pace but it has a nice break in rhythm at the chorus, quite interesting. As in almost all songs, one may notice clearly the influences by Iron Maiden, processed through the Queensryche filter, thus remaining pleasant and not irritating.
The “worst” song of the EP is probably the next in line by the title Blinded. But how can you describe as bad a song with such an excellent feeling and atmosphere? You simply can’t. It’s just that it is a bit not as perfect as the rest of the compositions and that places it at the bottom of the list. Still, it is very good, worthy of being in such a release that approaches perfection.
Last but definitely not least is another all-time classic ‘Ryche song, the one and only The Lady Wore Black. Half a ballad, half a metal monster, this atmospheric power metal monument possesses a place in all metal fans. The tremendous, numerous breaks create a fantastic atmosphere diverting from serenity to madness. Wilton and DE Garmo deliver some super fine guitar riffs while Tate makes a demonstration of metallic vocal abilities. It is a song of a special kind. You know, the ones that make you wanna go back in time, when metal was still pure and not filled with the bastard offsprings of today. The hell with them!
The Queensryche EP is doomed to remain an everlasting monument in metal. It roused many expectations for this American power metal band with the right-in-your-face heavy metal feeling and songs. Too bad for Queensryche that failed to see what was the best for them. By far, their greatest release.
Queensrÿche were a very unusual band back in 82/83, in a number of respects. Perhaps something a lot of people don’t know is that they were signed to EMI on the strength of this EP alone, without playing any live shows at all. Sure, the members had all gigged extensively in different bands, but with Queensrÿche, they relied on magazines like Kerrang! (yes, they actually did care about real metal once) and the rest of the European press to create a buzz. Thanks to that, they were able to sell 60,000+ copies of this EP independently (on their label 206 Records, which was created for that purpose) and those were numbers even a major label like EMI couldn't ignore. So, how many metal bands can say they had their first demo released as an EP by a major label?
But what was it about Queensrÿche that so captured the attention of metalheads in the first place? Well, an obvious answer is frontman Geoff Tate’s impressive set of pipes. In this day and age, an operatically trained metal singer isn’t too uncommon, but in 1983 it was unheard of. Sure there were vocal giants like Halford and Dickinson and Dio, but despite undeniable natural talent their focus is undoubtedly more on a rock & roll-style raw delivery than the smooth, precise one favored by opera. Tate even predates operatic metal mainstay Messiah Marcolin, whose doom-stomp wasn’t even close enough in 1983 to start glasses of water ominously vibrating. As far as power, range, and emotion go, Tate can rattle the rafters with the upbeat, speedy “Queen of the Reich”, and still lay it on smooth with the power ballad “The Lady Wore Black”. Along with his immediately identifiable tone and a healthy dose of charisma, he quite literally set the standard for the white-collar USPM vocal delivery; while John Arch may have taken a slightly different approach, you can hear Tate’s direct influence in bands like Crimson Glory, Screamer, and Dead Calm, and a little further afield in Helloween and Dream Theater. Simply put, Tate belongs in the same category as the vocal giants I mentioned before; he’s just that good.
But moving on, I feel the instrumental side of the band is often given short shrift, being dubbed simple NWOBHM worship or worse, derivative of the same (albeit everyone still seems to agree it’s good). Frankly, this is a load of crap, as I hear far more Judas Priest on this EP than Iron Maiden, and the Maiden comparison becomes even more suspect when you take into account that this EP was recorded in the late summer of ’82, not even five months after the release of “The Number of the Beast”. Who knows how much earlier the songs were actually written? Beyond that, I simply don’t hear a lot of the rough, exuberant, bouncy Di’Anno-era Maiden in Queensrÿche’s polished, classy sound. Now, I don’t mean to say that NWOBHM played no part at all in ‘Rÿche’s sound, but the elements that do actually factor in are often grossly overstated, not to mention the genuine influence is leavened by a fair amount of Americanisms as well as Queensrÿche’s own ideas. Any idiot can say “this riff sounds a little like that Priest/Maiden riff” or “this dual-guitar lead was influenced by NWOBHM”, but fact of the matter is, the number of songs that went for this overall cumulative effect in 1982/3 can be counted on your fingers; this EP covers four of them. So what is that cumulative effect? Well, it’s essentially what white-collar USPM bands like Crimson Glory (yes, them again) and Queensrÿche themselves would later expand upon; expressions of mental anguish and existential angst, tempered in the lyrics by a healthy dose of traditional metal fantasy and horror (*blank* evil entity is coming for you!!!), which would be replaced on the next album by something more appropriate to the music and mood. NWOBHM did little but dabble in such things.
“Queen of the Reich” is often touted as the best track on this EP, but frankly I find it to be a bit weak compared to the rest. Sure, the opening is fantastic and that main riff slays, and sure the chorus is catchy as fuck; but the song is a little two-dimensional, riding that main riff and catchy chorus a bit too long for comfort. Still, it’s a good song. The two middle tracks, however, step things up a notch, perhaps thanks to being penned by Michael Wilton rather than Chris DeGarmo. Regardless, I tire of neither as I do with the opener, and both hint at greater things to come on The Warning. “Nightrider” sounds like a speedy Judas Priest song with added complexity and a dash of Queensrÿche-brand melancholy, while “Blinded” sounds even less like Priest and more like Queensrÿche themselves, along with an excellent “Murders in the Rue Morgue”-style dual-guitar lead (yes, that’s a bit of Iron Maiden influence I think we’re safe in assuming).
Finally we have the power ballad “The Lady Wore Black”, which showcases Tate’s softer side to great effect. The clean intro crafts the haunting, otherworldly mood perfectly, setting the stage for Tate’s tale of a man’s hopeless, cursed love for the ghost of a woman. Of course it gets nice and heavy under the chorus with a great riff, but unfortunately this DeGarmo track suffers the same problem as the last DeGarmo track; its otherwise good ideas are spread just a tad too thinly. However, the strong atmosphere and emotional delivery do alleviate this problem somewhat.
Overall these are four very strong songs with just a couple of flaws holding the EP back from being a definite classic. The first and last tracks are a bit simplistic, but of course by The Warning all such complaints disappear. Back in ’83 it simply blew metalheads away, and despite only showing inklings of the power/prog of the next release, I can say without a doubt that this was one of the most historically important metal recordings of the early '80s. Who would’ve guessed that after getting signed to a major label so quickly, their first full-length on it would be less accessible, and what’s more, even better?
The 2003 remaster of Queensryche’s debut EP is a curious creature. Added to the original four tracks are ten live recordings originating from the ‘Live in Tokyo’ VHS. The result is a record that feels more like a live album with the EP thrown in as a bonus than the other way around.
The live tracks are a real surprise, sounding much better than they have any right to for their age. The performance took place shortly before the release of debut full length The Warning. Hence the set list consists of the four EP tracks, the previously rare non-album song ‘Prophecy’, plus a solid dose of The Warning.
How Queensryche keeps pulling these old live recordings out of the ether is beyond me, but at this quality I’m not complaining. Everything about this album speaks to the tremendous youthful creativity and energy of a band who are not yet established and desperately trying to make a name for themselves.
Back in the day, Geoff Tate had a set of pipes to rival Halford in his prime. The drumming is decent, DeGarmo’s solos are outright decimating in their effortless awesomeness and the whole band generally plays so well as a unit that it becomes more than the sum of its parts. On the live tracks, the audience interaction is top notch and feeds back into the energy of the performance.
Stylistically, the studio tracks here sound like the missing link between 70’s era Judas Priest and Megadeth, though leaning more towards the former. While Nightrider is above average speed metal and Queen of the Reich is legendary for a reason, the highlights for me were Blinded and The Lady Wore Black.
The latter of these songs is quite simply one of the greatest heavy metal ballads I’ve had the pleasure of hearing. Reminiscent of Beyond the Realms of Death (again with the 70’s Priest) although never copying it, this song combines beauty and emotion with heaviness and power, intermingled so beautifully as to leave me in awe. Remember Tomorrow by Iron Maiden is another comparison that springs to mind.
The real surprise packet for me however was Blinded. With its chugging riffs straight into an “I could play better than you with half my fingers missing” solo, this is for all intents and purposes an early thrash song.
Okay, so you’d need to add a lot of distortion and aggression, but the basics are there. This is where the Megadeth comparison comes in. With some different vocals this song wouldn’t sound out of place on Peace Sells or Rust in Peace. Not bad for ’83.
In case I haven’t made this clear already, you need this album. The EP is brilliant, and the chance to hear a live set from the days before every concert became a slab of Mindcrime with a side order of Empire is too good to pass up. It’s not for everyone (What is?) but fans of early Judas Priest, early thrash or classic metal in general would do well to give it a listen.
Well, this is different! When I first got into prog metal, circa early 2006, everyone and their mom (well not really,) said I should check out Operation: Mindcrime. What came of it was a waste of time, money and frankly I was perplexed as to why that was the best prog metal album ever (but that's another review.) Long story short, I stayed away from Queensryche.
A few weeks ago, I walked into the record store and saw this EP. Since it was cheap ($7!), I decided to buy it figuring I had nothing to lose. It's safe to say that I was blown away. Now THIS is the Queensryche I imagined, lots of potent USPM riffs, Tate's remarkable "animals-whine-when-I-sing-this-high" shrieks, and some nice solos from DeGarmo and Wilton!
Okay, the album starts of with the undeniable heavy metal classic, "Queen of the Reich." This is basically Iron Maiden with better vox (eat shit, Dickinson!) and given a little USPM twist. Hell, how can you not enjoy the ultra ridiculous middle part where the guys trade solos and that's without even mentioning the riff! The main riff of "Queen of the Reich" is total speed metal, pure and simple. You can't listen to it without banging your head. Seriously, try it. It's that good! Also Geoff Fuckin' Tate is the man, especially when he sings "Queen of the REEEEIIIIICH!!! *squeezes balls*" Oh yeah, the drums and bass do their thing while all this majesty is happening and sadly they don't stand out.
Next song, "Nightrider," is more power metal mania. This one's faster than the one before, it's kinda speed metal but not quite. Regardless it's still an awesome song, stand outs are, again, Tate and the guitarists. The drums and bass do little to wow you, at least they're solid so I can't really complain. The riffs are great and the solo's nice too. Tate is just about godlike when the chorus comes. "The nightrider saaaaaaails aWAAAAAY!" damn, I'm sad they don't make power metal like they used to.
"Blinded" comes next. This is probably the weakest song out of the four. It's kind of slow-ish but it's not horribly slow. Then again it's not as great as the previous two or the following song. Still, it's not a bad song, it's just sandwiched between 3 better songs. The riffs are decent and Tate is great, as always.
Last song on the original release is "The Lady Wore Black." Now folks, what we have here is the DEFINITIVE PM ballad. It's got riffs, a terrific singer and the softer parts and heavier actually gel together! It's sad that most power metal bands forget this. Most of the time they just strum a chord or two, add a few half-assed riffs and write cheesy as fuck lyrics and call it a day. But Queensryche said no, we're going to put effort into making a ballad. You know what? It works! There's nothing to dislike about this ballad. I am also rather fond of the way Tate sings "The lady wore BLAAAAACK!"
Right then. The production is typical 80s metal. Guitars are crunchy, the vocals have some weird effect at times, the bass is audible but slightly buried, and the drums are rather echo-y. The guitars and vocals are pulled forward but they don't overpower the other instruments.
There are two re-releases available. One with an absurd number of live bonus tracks (it's from a live album I think, not sure though,) and the other with "Prophecy." "Prophecy" is a nice little PM ditty that's essentially a much better "Blinded." Well, it's not EXACTLY the same, but you get the idea. I suppose this EP would get 90 and above if they had released it with "Prophecy," but they hadn't recorded that one yet.
So here it is, the EP that launched a little known Seattle band's career. Sadly though, they don't play like this anymore with only The Warning and this EP as a reminder of what could have been. Essential USPM, people! This one is not to be missed. Get the one with live for more bang for your buck, but the 5 song edition is just as good.
The first release of Washington progressive metal pioneers Queensrÿche fails to predict the innovative style the band would later be associated with, similar to how the first album of their genre contemporaries Dream Theater sounds like just another inferior clone of Rush. This self-titled E.P., originally of four tracks but later amended to five, is considered by many to be the band’s most consistent work, despite being entirely derivative of the NWOBHM (New Wave of British Heavy Metal) explosion. Lacking the prog rock and glam influences that would later define the band’s most commercially successful period, the songs on this 1983 release can be very easily attributed to the two English leaders of the afore-mentioned movement; to apply a rough and admittedly crude formula, tracks one and four are very similar to Iron Maiden, while the middle two sound a lot like Judas Priest. Then again, even at this early stage the band chooses to spell its name with an umlaut over the ÿ; perhaps foreshadowing their later flamboyant tendencies.
Singer Geoff Tate, possessing a background in opera, expertly adopts the falsetto wails of Bruce Dickinson particularly, and Rob Halford to a lesser extent, and develops a unique style that is instantly recognisable. Tate’s high vocals certainly tend to overpower the listening experience, especially for listeners not accustomed to the style, but are at least matched by the really excellent twin guitar leads across all the songs, especially impressive in the solo sections and easily comparable to their mentors (the same thing happens, to a far more ridiculous degree, with the excellent but overpowered musicianship of any band featuring King Diamond). The dual guitar assault is most prevalent in the relatively short ‘Blinded,’ dominating the latter half of that song before Tate once again takes centre stage for the record’s obligatory ballad.
The four (or five) songs here are recognised Queensrÿche classics, and the evident decision never to incorporate the material into any ‘proper’ studio albums preserves the vitality of this first release as a vital purchase for all fans, rather than a mere rare collectable. Opener ‘Queen of the Reich’ would become the most well-known song on this release, giving the band its peculiar name and nowadays, apparently featured in the latest ‘Grand Theft Auto’ video game. A slow build up subsequently unveils a nice riff and Tate’s almost-so-high-only-dogs-and-bats-can-hear scream and the Iron Maidenesque song kicks in, sounding very similar to the faster songs being performed by that band in this period but lacking some of the power of the guitar riffs. This is remedied in the next two songs, which receive a Judas Priest style ‘speed metal’ kick, and Tate’s more measured performance allows the band to work together more cohesively, producing two great and perfectly short fast metal songs.
The final song on the original release, ‘The Lady Wore Black’ is noticeably different, but only in the way that ‘Strange World’ was different from the rest of the songs on the first Iron Maiden album, the most comparable near-ballad to this piece. At six minutes it unfortunately drags on a little with the repetition at the end, unlike the previous songs which all remain powerfully to-the-point, but the clanging acoustic guitar and Tate’s eerie, sorrowful singing create an excellent atmosphere, enhanced by wind sound effects that remain understated, but are still perhaps a little gimmicky. Nevertheless, the diversification of style makes this the most memorable song on the album, as does the catchy chorus, also present in ‘Queen of the Reich.’ Later releases of the E.P. conclude with a fifth track, which provides a less resonant ending but is another nice piece of early Queensrÿche, possessing the polished production of the later ‘Rage for Order’ sessions from whence it came, but still suitably riff-oriented to fit into the rawer style of this first offering. The band seems to gel together far better on this track, but the corresponding lack of one-upmanship contests between the singing and the guitar melodies means the song loses a little something.
The band’s follow-up album ‘Warning’ began to incorporate the progressive elements that have earned the band a place in metal history, but not until 1988’s classic ‘Operation: Mindcrime’ would Queensrÿche achieve something as wholly enjoyable as this little piece of competently derivative heavy metal. This E.P. should reasonably be enjoyed by anyone fond of the bands mentioned earlier, and a certain degree of tolerance is advised when confronting Geoff Tate’s womanly vocals, rivalling the most effeminate of modern power metal frontmen. Guitarists Chris DeGarmo and Michael Wilton, the latter of whom is still in the band today, really make this release stand strong with their excellent melodic breaks, solos and more restrained riffs in the verses.
Meanwhile, other long-serving band members Eddie Jackson and Scott Rockenfield keep things grounded by providing bass guitar and drums, I guess. They don’t make quite the lasting impression that their fellow musicians manage, but I’m sure a bass player or drummer would disagree. I’ve spent so long tuning my ears to discern the screams of Geoff Tate that the bass range is becoming lost to me.
Somewhere locked away from the rest of the west coast metal scene of the early 80s was this band, whom in their beginnings essentially took a more faithful approach to emulating the NWOBHM than most of their fellow American metal outfits. Queensryche came from pretty humble beginnings, as this EP was entirely self-produced and put together on a fairly modest budget, quite comparable to the metal forefathers Black Sabbath in many respects. Ironically, this EP is probably the most widely respected release that they have put out, and for good reason too.
Much like their Orwellian concept album “The Warning”, this release puts most of the emphasis on solid riffing and moves quite a bit faster than their later material. “Nightrider” and “Blinded” are both solid riff monsters that pay homage to the more aggressive side of Judas Priest. “Queen of the Reich” is a bit slower but kicks out a signature speed riff and a downright wicked sounding vocal performance on the part of Geoff Tate, whose background in Opera and Classical music serve him well as he rivals Rob Halford with his wide range.
“The Lady Wore Black” is my personal favorite from the mix, mostly because of the calmer atmosphere that allows Tate’s vocal performance to be more exposed. It has a charmingly dark and gloomy atmosphere to it, upstaging Maiden ballads such as “Children of the Damned” and “Strange World”. “Prophecy” is a bonus track that appeared on my 1988 copy, which I was able to purchase for a rather significantly reduced price on CD. Unfortunately this forgotten classic got shelved during the writing sessions for “The Warning” and never saw the light of day until 1988, when the older style of NWOBHM was falling out of favor. It is quite similar to the material found on the EP, but enjoys the slick production of the “Rage for Order” album, which unfortunately did not come off as great as other works. Its true home ultimately is on “The Warning”, where it rivals all the other tracks and makes the listening experience of that album all the more perfect.
In short, EPs are a dime a dozen, but some bands have created a few that are definitely worth taking the time to track down. The benefit of this one is that it doesn’t have any weak spots, which can cripple a shorter release. If you are curious as to where the beginnings of Progressive Metal can be found, you need look no further than this band, which like Fates Warning began by importing the best elements of the NWOBHM and then later marrying them to various elements of 70s Prog ala Rush and company.
Though "Queensryche's" best full-length would be "Operation:Mindcrime", this EP has some songs that just flat out butcher anything Queensryche have ever released. It's surprising the band never re-used these songs in some of their later as all the songs here are at the least average. This is where the "Ryche" were a young band and despite hailing from America, they play a style that’s more akin to NWOBHM than anything.
Musically, everyone's performance is SOLID here. Geoff Tate sings has always has a distinct voice with a mix of both a British and American accent. He sings at an amazingly high-pitch here sometimes unlike the low tones he sings in on “Ryche's” latest releases. Michael Wilton and Chris DeGramo are awesome guitarists, especially Chris whom they sadly lost after Hear in the New Frontier. Scott Rockenfield is a really energetic drummer and Eddie Jackson performs just what's necessary.
"Queen of the Reich" starts off the album on a very high note as this song is "Queensryche's" BEST song ever. Really, Geoff Tate's performance sounds like Bruce Dickinson with a bit of an American accent hitting really high notes. The twin leads are just spectacular. Dare I say it? Yes, this is the closest anybody has come in topping Maiden in their own trade (twin lead). A thick, brilliant galloping riff and the song makes it to my top 10 favorite list quite easily. Nightrider is pure speed metal and never gets attention at all but is one of "Ryche's" best songs. "Blinded" has a really awesome solo in it and is a very enjoyable song. "The Lady Wore Black" is the key song of the album. Clocking in at 6:14, this one is an excellently melodic and emotional ballad. Not quite Queensryche's best ballad (Eyes of a Stranger is their best ballad) but an awesome song with an awesome performance by Tate, Wilton and Chris. "Prophecy" is an instantly catchy song with more awesome lead work.
Queen of the Reich 10/10
The Lady Wore 9/10
Total = | 46.5 | = 93%
When most people think of Queensryche, they think Operation: Mindcrime, and they think of progressive metal. What most don't know is before Queensryche turned "artsy" they were helping pioneer a more traditional/power metal style of music. They were probably one of the first popular American bands to draw inspiration from the NWOBHM, and Iron Maiden in particular. I've always heard the production on the original album is pretty bad, but I can assure you that the production on the remastered version sounds just fine, it actually sounds quite good to tell you the truth.
The album kicks off with "Queen of the Reich" and this easily one of the best heavy metal songs ever. A fast and energetic rocker, with an almost thrashy, speed metal riff. Aggressive drumming, and absolutely stellar vocals. Geoff Tate has such a high vocal range, he never has to really do an all out falsetto, but it's still very high. The lyrics are awesome, the solo's are kick ass. This song is 4 minutes of heavy metal perfection. "Your soul slipped away....It belongs...Queen of the REEEEEEEIIIIIIIICH!!"
Next up is "Nightrider" and this is total Iron Maiden worship, when the song kicks in at about 1 minute it reminds me of a slightly slower version of "Murders in the Rue Morgue". This isn't a bad thing, this is a killer song. Pretty fast and aggressive for 1983. The solo is pretty impressive too, and I love that ending, "Beware of the NIGHT!"
"Blinded" follows, it starts out with some nice shredding, and kicks in at probably an even faster tempo than the first 2 songs. Short and to the point, the only thing I really don't like is the chanting at the end of the song. A pretty long solo with some nice melodies here and there.
"The Lady Wore Black" is the other well known song off the album, and for good reason. This is probably one of the best heavy metal "ballads" ever penned. A real atmospheric song, Tate's vocals sound creepy and dark. And the shrieking he does before the chorus is classic, I have no clue what he says but it sounds really awesome. The chorus is simple, but heavy and effective. The solo is emotional and to the point, they knew not to over-do it. Awesome song.
"Prophecy" is only found on the re-issued version, which is what I'm sure most people have anyways. Really catchy, you can tell this was recorded during the Rage For Order sessions, it obviously has that sound. I think if this had been releasd on RFO it would have been the best song on there. Sometimes you wonder why bands choose to ditch such awesome songs. This one is a catchy head banger, with some of the best lead work on the album.
An awesome first album, and since there's only 5 songs, you can rest assure there is no filler to be found. Definitely worth a purchase, any fan of old school heavy metal should love this album. Oh and I love the Queensryche logo on the cover, I don't know why they didn't keep that logo.
First strike and they get it right! Queensryche nailed it on their self-titled EP, landing some extraordinary progressive metal. The EP features four songs, two of them being Queensyrche hits (Queen of the Reich and The Lady Wore Black). The other songs are good too, just not necessarily hits. The re-released version shapes up some of the bad production and also includes a bonus song Prophecy.
Queen of the Reich, the opening song, blasts out right away with a great riff and a well sustained vocal performance from Geoff Tate. This song deal out a lot of cool riffs and the solo is well written and commanded. The other good song is the semi-ballad The Lady Wore Black. The ballad part sounds a lot like a Def Leppard song, but trust me it has its metal moments. These two songs are worth getting the EP alone. Geoff Tate in his youth hits all the points and the riffs show that Queensryche would rise in the metal scene.
The other two songs are Nightrider and Blinded, which might take awhile to grow on some metal heads. The beginning of Nightrider has a very weak scream by Tate, at least compared to the song Queen of the Reich. The riffs are very good in this song, sounding a lot like Iron Maiden (the beat is also very Iron Maiden like). The guitars do a lot of harmonizing in this song, which is pretty decent. Blinded is an alright song, it has a decent chorus riff, but other than that its just another Queensryche song.
Queensryche really put out a killer EP with this one. While the original has some bad production, you can easily pick up the re-released version (I think it has been done over a couple of times actually). All the songs are good, or at least worth listening to. I guess the first strike for Queensryche ended up deadly!!!
Best EP ever. Period, There's no if, ands or buts about it, end of story, that's all she wrote. This is the king of all EPs right here. There are some damn classic songs in here, some of the best power metal ever made this side of Helloween's Keeper II. "Queen Of The Reich" is a great, roaring start and gives you one of the best examples of heavy/power metal done right. "Nightrider" is a bit faster, same furious musicianship of the first song and you gotta love that chrous! "The Nightrider Saaaaiiills awaaay...." I love singing along to that part. "Blinded" is the weakest song here, and is basically an average version of "Nightrider", it's alright, but it just lacks a little punch. "The Lady Wore Black" is a good, if a bit overlong ballad that all in all gets the job done. Nice,cool, melancholy atmosphere throught it. "Prophecy"...wow. What a song. Some GREAT melodic power metal to be found here, people. Great, infectious little number and it's a hidden treasure, undeservingly overlooked.
Queensryche started with their progressive metal direction with the next album after this one, their full-length debut, "The Warning", but still keeping enough of their power metal elements. Of course Queensryche eventually became full on progressive rock and became the butt of many a metalhead's harsh criticism, and yes, i'm still a fan (except for Q2K, man did that ever suck, but that's a different review...), but for those wishing for Queensryche to get back to the heavy stuff, or for those who are looking for a quick fix of brilliant power metal, look no further.