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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.