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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.