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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.