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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.