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Before I elaborate on anything about this album, there’s just one thing I’ve got to say - Out of all their albums, this one unfortunately has to be the most overlooked one of the lot. Then again, being sandwiched between their debut The Warning and their breakthrough masterpiece Operation Mindcrime is no easy task and this was bound to happen. Even a lot of the die-hard Queensryche fans skip over this album and gravitate towards their more popular works, which is a darn shame. The unique blend of the simple straightforwardness of classic rock along with the more progressive textures that the band occasionally ventures into is exactly what makes this album stand out from the pack. Believe it or not, this album is a lot more unique and effective in its delivery than most people out there would care to admit.
As with a lot of Queensryche albums, people like to whine about the fact that this is ‘inconsistent’ (people mix up that term too much with variety methinks) with too many fillers and whatnot. Well if you go into this album with a closed mind, rest assured you’ll probably feel the same. I mean seriously let’s not even get into that breed of metal-heads who stubbornly claim Queensryche to have only peaked with The Warning while dissing the rest of their discography as pure shit. Now that’s truly the heights of close-mindedness. However no the other hand, if you simply listen to the music for what it is, rather than expecting it to be prog metal or whatever, this album might just end up being one of your favourites. In truth, this album actually builds on the momentum of their debut by adding elements of pop and classic rock into their concoction of prog metal (which was by itself, an unholy marriage of the heavy metal of Judas Priest/Maiden combined with prog rock influences from the 70s). After all these guys along Crimson Glory, Fates Warning and Dream Theater with did bring about the genre of prog metal as we know it today. The pop/classic rock influences are most evident in choice cuts like “I Dream In Infra Red”, “The Whisper” and “London”. “Chemical Youth” has to be the most Iron Maiden influenced track on the album and I obviously mean that in a good way.
Like all great albums, this one opens with one heck of an opener “Walk In The Shadows” a real rollicking heavy metal track with Tate really stretching his vocal chops to the max and a finger-peeling solo to boot. This is exactly how it’s done. No fucking two ways about that. “Neue Regel” with its amazing vocal lines and “The Killing Words“ are also highlight with its beautiful keyboard intro and epic chorus of “Over, over! It's dangerous this game we play”. And contrary to popular expectation they absolutely nail the cover of “I’m Gonna Get Closer To You” adding their own spin to the track. Purists might scoff at the previous sentence, but I really mean it. Pun unbridled emotional hard rocking fun at its best. Then again that description pretty much fits most of the album. And Geoff Tate man. Some would say his star performance in terms of only vocals was on Operation Mindcrime or Empire, but I am of the firm opinion that his zenith was achieved on this album. Of course with the Queensryche of today, his voice has unfortunately deteriorated to an alarming degree, but there’s no way in hell anyone can deny that the guy was on freaking fire during the late 80s and this album only reinforces that fact. Pure energy and class. Only wish the guitars had a bit more bite to them. Lastly “I Will Remember” is hand-down one of the most lush heartfelt ballads I’ve heard in a while with Tate showcasing a different side to his vocals that what most people are used to hearing i.e his high range. Hands down one of their best and most underrated songs.
Depending on which side of the spectrum your tastes in music lie, you’ll either love this album or just treat it with an indifferent shrug i.e. dislike the album, but not that much to induce any feelings of major hate or anything. I for one love this album and actually consider it their second best work of art after Operation Mindcrime and a notch above The Warning. Maybe a bold statement, but man this album is direly underrated with a big fucking U. Get your hands on this transitional masterpiece and give it the attention it deserves already.
Finding itself logjammed between classics like The Warning and Operation: Mindcrime, Rage for Order's ability to make an honest impact is already at a disadvantage. The lack of a cohesive narrative or concept also forces this one onto the shelf more often than it deserves. While it is clearly a disappointment after The Warning, the compact delivery of many of these tracks make Rage for Order one of the easier Queensrÿche albums to just pick up and enjoy without too much effort on the listener's part.
The more mainstream inclinations are obvious, and the band felt the need to dress up like transvestite vampires in an effort to sell the material here. To be honest it doesn't need much help, with bouncy rockers like "Walk in the Shadows" and "Surgical Strike" making strong cases on their own. The addition of darker, more ambient numbers like "Neue Regal" only enhances the appeal. The lack of a full orchestra like on The Warning forced the band to improvise, deferring to synthetic, buzzing keyboard textures instead to deliver the atmosphere. This adds an archaic appeal to otherwise-average songs like "The Killing Words" and "Chemical Youth (We Are Rebellion)".
Where Rage for Order begins to fall short is during the obligatory ballads. "I Dream in Infrared" is passable, but lacks the killer chorus present on the band's more impressive crooners like "Another Rainy Night (Without You)". The cover of "Gonna Get Close to You" is another waste of time, coming off as creepy and insincere when transposed through Tate's warbling tone. He still sounds great, but the lack of another "Roads to Madness" forces him to sing well under his skill level.
In typical '80s-AOR fashion, the riffs are buried and a collective afterthought after taking the vocals and surging drums into account. DeGarmo still delivers some decent riffs, like the Iron Maiden-esque opening of "The Whisper" along with most of "Surgical Strike". The approach here honestly isn't too far removed from The Warning, the compositions are just more to-the-point and succinct. All the same, Rage for Order begins to lose it's footing as it nears it's conclusion. "London" is overlong and boring, and "Screaming in Digital" comes off as a dumping ground for the keyboard and vocal effects that wouldn't or couldn't fit elsewhere. "I Will Remember" serves as a decent-enough end cap, but to be blunt nothing else on Rage for Order can hope to match "Walk in the Shadows" in both commercial and melodic appeal.
The concept also gets washed over with a dirty mop, becoming obfuscated by the straightforward efforts at mainstream appeal. To be honest, Queensrÿche's concepts were never their strongest appeal to me anyway. The further the band's modern approach drifts away from their original vision, the more appeal albums like Rage for Order seem to have. It has aged better than I thought it would, and is most definitely one of Queensrÿche's best at the end of the day.
Rage For Order has a rather odd position in Queensryche’s discography. The facts that it was their second full-length album and had the classic lineup at their peak make it an instant classic, yet it is also the first album that showcases several traits that would come to bite the band in the ass on later efforts. The resulting release is strong yet one that has also earned its black sheep reputation.
If there’s one thing that you can say about Rage For Order, it’s that it is one of those albums that only could’ve been made in the 80s. The band had been forced into a mismatched hair metal image, the production had more polish, keyboards are prominent on several songs, a few effects are thrown about to add to the drama, and they even snuck in a few ballads for good measure. These factors and more result in an intensely calculating tone that fits in quite well with its lyrical themes of technological paranoia.
Going along with that, the musical style is much harder to pin point compared to most of their efforts as it deals with a wide variety of influences. There is still a decent amount of metal influence as the band dynamic is still pretty guitar driven and the vocal delivery hasn’t changed much, but the appropriately titled “Surgical Strike” is the only track that ever feels like it could’ve been on the EP or The Warning. The prog ends up taking over in its place though there are also vague influences from post punk and glam among other things.
But when it comes down to it, the songwriting skill is what ultimately sets this album apart from the band’s future genre roulettes and even predicts the radio friendliness that would dominate its immediate successors. Just as songs like the opening “Walk In The Shadows” and “The Whisper” stand out for their upbeat injections, others like “I Dream In Infrared” and “I Will Remember” keep their heads above conventional balladry with their dreamlike atmosphere and sweeping vocals. In addition, tracks like “Neue Regal” and “London” provide some solid theatrics and “Screaming In Digital” remains the most intense song that the band has ever put out.
And while it may not be the strongest track on here, I do have to give some serious props to the cover of Dalbello’s “Gonna Get Close To You” that pops up towards the middle of the album. While the more active tempo and even more dramatic vocals may diminish the Nightmare Fuel that dominates the original version, the band’s skillful execution allows their version to fit the album’s overall vision and the retained paranoid tone keeps it from being another genre swap novelty.
While The Warning remains the strongest release of what I like to call the pre-Mindcrime trilogy, Rage For Order is the most interesting of the lot and just might be their most intriguing release to date. Despite the constant genre jumps and even further experimentation, the songwriting holds everything together and results in a number of classics that should please any fan of the band. The other releases from the band’s peak are easier to recommend to a newcomer but you won’t regret giving this one a chance.
“Walk In The Shadows”
“Gonna Get Close To You”
“I Will Remember”
Originally published at http://psychicshorts.blogspot.com
For me, this is the point when Queensrÿche’s career started getting very ropey. With The Warning being a rather premature artistic peak (it strikes me as a little unusual that they delivered such a mature, confident album as a debut), the band decided to play up their “thinking man’s metal” credentials in a very forced and obvious manner. Whereas The Warning was a stunningly realised piece, Rage for Order is an album that spends (read: wastes) a great deal of its running time with ‘clever’ little experiments. If Queensrÿche’s prior output was highly unique and certainly not your run-of-the-mill heavy metal, what with all its subtly progressive touches, then Rage for Order was an album that forsakes such subtlety and constantly reminds you of just how incredibly clever and adult it is. That’s right, this is the ‘rÿche’s descent into “adult contemporary metal” – that’s metal music that wears a suit, puts its hair in a pony tail and has a well-stocked wine cellar – and in making such a song and dance about flexing their artistic muscles, in a “look at all the funny little synths we have!” kinda way, they actually compromised a lot of the key elements which made their previous two releases so great.
Again, I can’t help but feel horribly let down with this album in comparison to The Warning. If the said debut was a rather polished affair then Rage for Order is just really slick to the point at which seems a little greasy. It’s got a lot of that same confidence but it seems like they just have a lot of misguided bravado as if they think they can try their hand at anything and pull it off. It’s pretty much “yuppie metal” and it spends a lot of time preening but never really breaks a sweat lest it come off as, you know, passionate. For me, it’s rather surprising how much this band did lose in comparatively short time (and with no major overhauls in the band’s line-up, that might have explained such a considerable drop in quality). However, not all is lost, the interplay between the two guitarists is still good (on the comparatively rare moments where they actually decide to let rip and show us that this is still supposedly a heavy metal band and not an AOR band with inexplicably heavy moments scattered here and there) and Geoff Tate’s vocal lines are still good. After all, he wouldn’t learn the fine art of being actively annoying until the band’s next bloated “masterpiece” Operation: Mindcrime (or “how we learnt how to write Big Dumb Hooks and lame concepts about Doctor Bad Guy and people called Nikki”)… so I can say, yes, Geoff’s still the main attraction here, even if he’s certainly not concerned about bringing anything as stirring as ‘Roads to Madness’ to the table.
I can only really say that there’s one track I genuinely enjoy on this album, and perhaps unsurprisingly, it’s the album’s most direct number, ‘Walk in the Shadows’. It seems to be a forerunner to stuff like ‘Jet City Woman’, as it seems so obviously sleek and commercial. But let’s be fair, it’s still a good song, a pop song in metal clothing, perhaps, but still an effective number. Alas, it seems to be the well-known ruse of putting a direct, catchy song as an opener on an album that’s otherwise too busying spending its time hunched-over, red-in-the-face, furiously polishing those… ugh… “artistic guns” rather than worrying about, you know, good songwriting. But yeah, it’s got some catchy riffs, a spirited vocal performance and some real passion to it… things that are sorely missing from the rest of Rage for Order. Honestly, I feel like this album is full of wasted opportunities and missed chances and perhaps that’s somewhat appropriate given the amount of promise Queensrÿche showed early on in their career, only to squander it. Take ‘I Dream in Infra Red’ after an excellent intro, it settles into a rather dull ballad. It’s not an awful song by any stretch, but it really can’t stand up to ‘Take Hold of the Flame’ or ‘Lady in Black’ now, can it?
And yet, for some bizarre reason, Queensrÿche develop a keyboard fetish on this album… and it’s really rather annoying. It sounds like they wanted to make the most dated, garishly 1980s keyboard-driven AOR possible on ‘Gonna Get Close to You’ and ‘Screaming in Digital’ really doesn’t fair much better. Honestly, I can’t really fathom why they choose such an obnoxious keyboard sound, it sounds like a five-year-old dicking around on a £10 Casio model that he got for Christmas (this said child, would probably have the keyboard’s batteries taken out after his parents realised just how annoying cheap keyboards can be). For 1986, it’s very ‘contemporary’, just like shoulder pads, mullets and legwarmers, if you get me. Honestly, the tracks plagued by keys seem like excuses for the band to flaunt how they don’t need to write guitar-driven music. They’re different, get it!?
There’s a fair bit of debate as to where Queensrÿche started to suck and, for me, this is it. It’s not outright terrible for the most part. But why bother when this record is so frustratingly inconsistent and irritatingly ‘different’? They really did go from a very unique and excellent band, to a band who so hopelessly wanted to assert just how “intelligent”, “progressive” and “special” they were. This sort of stuff really does mean nothing to me. Maybe it’s worth hearing once or twice to hear just how Queensrÿche fucked up, but that's it as far as replay value goes. At least they burned so bright on those first two albums, and for that, I must say their career has often seemed like a frustrating waste of talent.
Rage for Order was about the time that Queensrÿche really started to earn that 'progressive metal' tag that they've worn for decades, since it shows a clear stretch towards more experimentation and rock structures than either of the earlier releases. That's not to posit that the band had suddenly become 'brainy' or anything, or started to sound like a group of Yes acolytes (though I hear a good deal of Rush in cuts like "I Dream in Infrared"), but clearly there was a difference in the songwriting here than on the eponymous EP or The Warning, where emphasis on speed and flashiness took a back seat to the script of functional riffs, clarity in production and further highlight Geoff Tate's impressive prowess as a vocal force fit to rival the best in the entire business, if not entirely dominate them...
Contrary to The Warning or its brilliant successor Operation: Mindcrime, Rage for Order is not so much a unified, narrative concept album as it is an exploration of certain themes, one of which seems to be the technological awakening of civilization and the onset of the Information Age. Titles like "I Dream in Infrared", "Screaming In Digital" and "Surgical Strike" are all obvious hints, but what I appreciate is how the lyrics explore these ideas from a more personal standpoint. This isn't the Terminator saga, or the Matrix trilogy, frightening us with cautionary tales of machine rebellion, but more of a direct line into a believable future as it splays open like a blossoming flower, and the lyrics to tracks like "Screaming in Digital" and "Neue Regel" seem to enforce this theme. That said, it's still consistent enough in its message that I doubt the term 'concept album' entirely evades it. What's most interesting is just how 'relevant' its conversations remain today, despite the fact that the level of technology we're dealing with has grown by leaps and bounds from guided missile arrays, Star Wars and personal computers to handheld devices, cloud tech and other advancements.
But my favorite elements of this record have always been its smooth contours, simplistic and creative rhythms organized into more complex textures, and the fact that it's a wonderful transition into an album that remains one of my favorites of all time in the metal genre. The leads and choruses here might not be quite so mercilessly sticky as those of Operation: Mindcrime, the rhythm guitars not quite so workmanlike and airy sounding, but I don't think there's any argument that the next album was more or less a better reworking of the compositional level placed in this one. In fact, tunes like "Neue Regel", "London" and the cover of Lisa Dalbello's "Gonna Get Close to You" place Rage for Order into a near pop environment. The guitars aren't heavily distorted, the drumming is super polished to a Phil Collins level, there are a lot of dated sounding synthesizers coursing across its soundscape, and in several cases the arrangements of the vocals prove the only overpowering aspect of its creation.
Tate is the master of this work, reaching new heights of perfection in the chorus of "Walk in the Shadows" or "The Killing Words", and they did a great job of multi tracking him to create this soothing atmosphere that creates a jubilant explosion within the ears. Though most of the riffing patterns are actually quite minimal if you break them down, they never feel that way thanks to the weight of everything else happening, and I love how DeGarmo and Wilton occasional use them almost like slices of melodic percussion knifing through a piece like "Screaming in Digital". Queensrÿche fully embraced its progressive tendencies here, and unlike another LP of the same year, Judas Priest's Turbo, they pulled off all the keys and mechanistic leanings of their experimentation with far more seriousness. I might still enjoy that other album for its cheese factor, but Rage for Order is never so tongue in cheek, even where it most distances itself from the raucous metallic roots of the debut EP.
Though I like the production of this album for the time it was released, I definitely feel that this is the most 'dated' sounding of all the Queensrÿche works of the 80s, and that's in part due to the general thinness of the guitar tone and its poppy permutations. In addition, some of the more dramatic tracks like "I Will Remember" have never ranked among my favorites, though they once again serve as forebears to the great commercial success the band would see with Empire. The clean guitars through the album definitely feel similar to how they were used in other USPM acts of the time like Fifth Angel's debut, but the note progressions are not all that memorable and leave too much up to Tate's voice alone. 1986 was also a year in which more aggressive albums like Reign in Blood, Peace Sells..., Zombie Attack, Darkness Descends and Master of Puppets were ruling the roost of my attention span, and despite the anger implied in its title, Rage for Order is admittedly quite wimpy by comparison, so it didn't stand out all that much in the crowd.
That aside, though, this was a clear step forward into a more creative territory, and one that I've continued to appreciate down through the years. Queensrÿche was far from a 'first' band in either the heavy metal or progressive rock spectra, but their ideas always felt slightly ahead of the game, polished and accessible but still willing to challenge a listener's imagination and expectations. Rage for Order was never as rewarding for me as the following album which perfects its fundamentals, but it was nonetheless compelling and distinctive among all the thrash, speed and later NWOBHM I was enamored with at the time.
Queensrÿche's superlative Rage for Order has the joy of being chronologically stuck between their metallic debut The Warning, and of course the incredible Operation: Mindcrime. Thus, I feel Rage for Order is somewhat overlooked; criminally overlooked for that matter. Now make no mistake about it, their debut and of course Mindcrime are masterpieces, but if you were to ask me my favorite 'Rÿche album, I'd answer Rage for Order without the slightest hint of hesitation.
Rage for fucking Order, man, a gleaming jewel in the crown of one of 80's premier acts. Sure, the band pictures were as queer as they come, and an ill advised cover of "Gonna Get Close to You" didn't help reinforce the steel. Still, hardly reason to ignore this absolute gem of an album, and for any Queensrÿche fan who might have given this a miss; shame on you. Rage for Order is a collection of driving, intelligent, emotional heavy metal, blending US power metal with Rush style progressive rock. The album is essentially your proto-prog metal album, dream-like keys are subtly intertwined with counter-point guitar riffs, and washed over a dark soundscape, with a ever-so-slight gothic tint.
Everything from the songs to the performances are superb, with the production also being particularly great. Clarity is perfect across the album, although if I wanted to nit-pick I think the guitar tone could have been a little meatier, and also, I have an original pressing which, common of albums from the 80's sounds a little quieter. No biggie, though. Harking back to the performances, Geoff Tate absolutely steals the show as per usual, delivering some of his finest vocal work to date (see "The Killing Words" or even "Walk in the Shadows"). However as much as Mr. Tate takes names, we have the guitar dream team of Chris DeGarmo and Michael Wilton, giving him a run for his money rocking damn hard throughout. Their counterpoint riffs and guitar trade-offs never fail to provide the utmost in entertainment, and of course lets not forget the rhythm section; Scott Rockenfield and Eddie Jackson, say no more.
From the opening salvo of "Walk in the Shadows" to the closing notes of "I Will Remember" Rage for Order is a tour de force in Queensrÿche magic. Not only my favorite Queensrÿche album, but amongst my favorites of all time. The album boasts a feel and atmosphere I believe is completely unique, however I will admit that the album did take a certain amount of time to grow. Time well spent as far as I'm concerned though, a mandatory listen for any fan of progressive music, give this the time it deserves and you'll wonder how you lived without it.
This is an album that marks somewhat of a departure from Queensrÿche's original sound. This change, coupled with their costume-clad, makeup-faced album shots caused a lot of pissed fans to label them glam sellouts. Luckily, that isn't really the case (or maybe it was just Tate's pompadour that had them up in arms, after all). However, though Rage for Order still holds traces of The Warning's essentially white collar USPM sound (Crimson Glory, early Fates Warning, etc.), as a whole the album is softer and more rock-based, with more emphasis on the vocals and keyboards (which play lots of dumb effects, too), and less on the riffs. That's not to say the riffs are universally bad or just plain gone, as I certainly wouldn't enjoy the album at all if that were the case, but on Rage for Order Geoff Tate is undoubtedly the star. Thankfully, his performance is fantastic. He remains one of the best singers in metal, both in terms of sheer technical ability and delivery; his emotional sincerity is especially noteworthy, as despite tackling quite a number of cliche angsty/whiny subjects ("I Dream in Infrared", "London", etc.) he never makes me squirm. Compared to The Warning, there is also a lot more multi-tracking in the vocal department, with choirs of mini-Tates popping up in the background from time to time. Never fear, though, as the guitars are never buried under Helloween-style mountains of fluff. Anyway, down to brass tacks.
"Walk in the Shadows" is, despite the recurring counterpoint rock-riffing courtesy of the left-channel guitar, a song that could fit right in on the previous album. It's catchy, fun, doesn't outstay its welcome; no complaints here. "I Dream in Infrared" however marks the first obvious departure; it's about a relationship, it's softer (basically a ballad), and though it's still good, it's weaker than the first both in terms of muscle and quality. "The Whisper" gets us back on track though, as despite keyboard effects and relatively softer riffing it's still a metal song at heart, and the recurring dual-guitar lead is excellent.
"Gonna Get Close to You" is unfortunately a cover of a song by Canadian singer/songwriter Lisa Dal Bello. The misleadingly sappy song title and the fact that it was released as a single undoubtedly contributed to the cries of "sellout", but luckily it's not a horrible song. Though the title implies otherwise, it's actually lyrically from the perspective of a stalker as he's "gonna get close to" his prey. This carries over into the creepy atmosphere of the song; overall it's entertaining enough while it lasts, but frankly I don't think it really fits Queensrÿche (or more precisely, it fits somewhat into Rage for Order, but if the album were better it wouldn't). "The Killing Words" continues this by being fairly weak, like "I Dream in Infrared" but worse. Thankfully, "Surgical Strike" picks us back up again, with a brisk 3-minute metal romp, but "Neue Regel" is like the whole album in miniature: sections of great melody and riffing are interspersed with softer, boring, effects-laden sections. As with the album, however, the good outweighs the bad, and "Neue Regel" is on the whole quite worthwhile.
"Chemical Youth (We Are Rebellion)" is filler; doesn't really go anywhere, boring section at the end. "London" is yet another ballad, and it isn't bad, but almost in filler territory yet again and it just goes on for too long. "Screaming in Digital" harks back to the sci-fi themes of The Warning, but unfortunately though the vocal melodies are good the guitars are practically non-existent throughout the song. Filler! Apparently Queensrÿche thought "more ballads + more keyboard effects + bland = more intelligent," whereas it actually equals filler city.
Finally we have "I Will Remember", which is yet another ballad, but luckily this one is quite good. It never gets heavy, but it's very dream-like and mournful, reminding me strongly of "Lost Reflection", the album-closer of Crimson Glory's debut from earlier the same year.
On the whole, despite too many fillers (I count at least four, with a borderline fifth), I still enjoy this album. The highs are quite high, and even the lows aren't unlistenably bad or agonizingly boring (in this regard it's very similar to Operation: Mindcrime, though that album's marriage to its concept both necessitates and partially excuses filler). Also, with the obvious exception of the cover, the overall atmosphere of the album is very strong; its sci-fi tinged existential angst (and yes, relationship troubles), though ponderous, are more serious than on The Warning (despite that album being stronger overall). It's conveyed in a way that strikes me as sincere, unpretentious, and believable. Frankly I think the best overall comparison to Rage for Order's atmosphere is, strangely enough, the film Blade Runner. If only the album hadn't had so many fillers, it might've also been comparable to that film in quality as well. Really, I can feel the power of Rage for Order's overall vision strongly enough that I honestly felt rather bad about having to give it a relatively lower score, but unfortunately Queensrÿche bit off more than they could chew when it came to living up to that vision.
"The possibilities were becoming apparent. The machines could speak. They just needed our soul. A fascination with technology and living a nocturnal existence where sleep is an option that one weighs against the norm. Rage for Order was conceived in a blur of the bullet trains of Japan, the 24-hour hash bars of Amsterdam and the Vampire/SM clubs of Prague. Closed my eyes in London, woke up in Tokyo. Blink, Helsinki, sleep? Never."
During the 80s there was a sort of rivalry between Queensryche and Fates Warning that was 100% created by the critical field and bore no connection with reality. Although they share a common influence in that of Rush, the directions in which they took were quite different, as John Arch’s lyrics were more in the vain of the arcane teller of tales and lore, while Geoff Tate and the others of Seattle based Prog. Metal outfit were interested in emulating George Orwell. The 2 albums that most accurately depict the complete myth that these two bands were comparable by any standard were the ones that came about in 1986, of which this album is clearly the weaker of the two.
Although this album features some rather intricate songwriting at times, as well as some inspired riffs and solos, it has some inconsistencies that need to be addressed. The most obvious one being the cover “Gonna Get Close to You”, which is a bit out of place amongst the other songs on here. Geoff Tate gives a dramatic vocal performance, but beyond this there isn’t really much to the song, mostly due to the dry musical lines that were penned by the one who originally wrote it.
Another issue on here is the over-emphasis on sound effects over the necessary meat and potatoes, the guitar lines. Tracks such as “The Killing Words”, “Neue Regel” and “I will remember” are a bit too keyboard drenched at times and some of the acoustic lines seem to supplant the metal edge that is otherwise present. Although these songs don’t really qualify as being lackluster, they sound a bit confused amongst other tracks that have a more traditional NWOBHM tinge to them.
Amongst the more metal driven tracks on here are the straight-forward rocker “Walk in the Shadows”, the agitated quasi-electronic cooker “Screaming in Digital” and the angst ridden anthem “Chemical Youth (We are Rebellion)”. These songs are a bit more reminiscent of better moments on the original EP and the full length debut “Warning”. Other solid rockers that have a bit more progressive overtones include “London” and “The Whisper”.
My picks for the highlights on this album are the two remaining tracks, both of which carry some elements that would later appear on their 3rd effort “Operation: Mindcrime”. “Surgical Strike” is a slightly more progressive version of “The Needle Lies”, carrying a similar set of minimalist riffs, an up tempo beat, and a solid vocal delivery. “I Dream in Infra Red” carries the melancholy spirit in the lyrics that defines the characters of the next album, while musically it bears some comparison with “Breaking the Silence”, “Waiting for 22” and a couple other tracks from Mindcrime.
In conclusion, this is a mixed bag, it’s a good album but at times it tries a bit too hard to vary itself and comes off as somewhat forced. There is a solid collection of songs on here that fans of Queensryche’s follow up “Mindcrime” can enjoy, but nothing that is quite spectacular. I can recommend this album to fans of Dream Theatre and other bands that have a more Prog. in their sound and a tad bit less metal. It’s decent, but it doesn’t shack up to The Warning or Mindcrime.
While better than Iron Maiden's "Somewhere in Time" or Judas Priest's "Turbo" of the same year, Queensryche improve their playing techniques and experiment with sounds and textures rather than bother to improve upon their songwriting abilities on this follow up to "The Warning".
On the whole, it's pretty much more of the same but a bit better and more experimental - the same Priest/Maiden riffs, vocals and guitar lines are re-used, with snippets of Marillion, (Dio) Sabbath and Diamond Head. The songs themselves are utterly unmemorable - although razor sharp in execution and imaginative in detail.
This sharpness in execution and production, it must be remembered, was de-rigeur for most metal bands of this time - even the thrash metal bands were polishing up their acts, as evidenced by "Reign in Blood" and "Master of Puppets" - both infinitely more progressive in terms of songwriting and technique development, the latter being a fully-fledged Prog Metal album in all but acceptance by the Prog Metal crowd.
It's easy to hear all manner of details that still underpin Prog Metal in this album, however - from the drumming style, and "complex" rhythms deployed in tracks like "The Killing Words" - for while the album has a kind of samey quality to it all the way through, it does develop in terms of rhythmic and textural experimentation over the course of what is side 1 on the vinyl album - although someone should have told them that the keyboard "orchestra hit" sound has never been cool. Can anyone remember "Reflex" by Duran Duran?
Lyrically, this owes much to "Script for a Jester's Tear" in terms of the content - the subject matter mainly appears to be about failed relationships - but also to Priest and Maiden; "Gonna Get Close To You" reminds me of "Prowler" somewhat. However, there's a nice bit of computer paranoia in the last two songs - a touch of irony, perhaps, given the addition of a "computer" to the list of instruments...
One of the main problems with this album is the lack of any real harmonic development - everything hangs off a couple of chords and excessive use of what are known in musical circles as pedals - by which I don't mean the boxes made by Taurus, but a single held bass note over which music flows more or less freely. This technique lends a spacey feel to the music, and helps it feel "big", but ultimately prevents it from feeling dramatic or satisfying.
All these criticisms are merely to illustrate why this is not really progressive, despite the patina and the skill in execution; not to say that this is a bad album in any way.
On the contrary, it's well worth a listen for any metal fan - follow it up with "Stained Class", "Heaven and Hell" or "Script for a Jester's Tear", and compare real raw, unadulterated, progressive songwriting with what is essentially poor songwriting compensated for by technical exploration and experimentation, that makes for an intriguing listen a few times and a worthy place in the Prog Metal history books.
Stand out tracks "Neue Regel", "Screaming in Digital" (if you can ignore the lyrics...).
Everyone who knows me should know by now how much I love this band and that I hold them in very high regard. They truly are “the thinking man’s metal band”, it’s not just another nickname. The lyrics in this album, though at times a bit outdated, are thought-provoking, intelligent and at times, bold. Chris DeGarmo (the principle songwriter for the band) does a great job with the lyrics and song arrangements, and after looking back and listening to this album again just makes me even more excited over the fact that Chris DeGarmo has just re-joined Queensryche for their new, not-yet-titled album, after leaving in 1997, months after the release of Queensryche’s only average effort, “Hear In The Now Frontier”. This is the album where Queensryche finally flexes their artsy, progressive muscle after showing hints of it on the album before this one, “The Warning”. They break out the keyboards, synthesizers, acoustic guitars, complex arrangements along with more time changes more than they ever have before. The production is very well done, as are most of Queensryche’s albums, and succeed in being crisp, clear and clean without being overly sleek and polished. Of course, it goes without saying, that Geoff Tate’s high-pitched, operatic vocal delivery is top-notch and among the best in metal. DeGarmo and Wilton both shine on the guitar and as usual, kick ass with the dual guitar harmonies. Scott Rockenfield’s drumming is simple, but above average and shows that you don’t always have to be complex in order to be a great drummer. According to the band, the album is represented by three tiers that represent the idea of “rage for order”: love, politics and technology, which makes sense, since those subjects make up the subject matter for the entire album.
We begin the album with the straight-up metal number, “Walk In The Shadows”, showing that although Queensryche has taken a more artistic approach, they haven’t forgotten their pure metal roots. Geoff’s vocals are the highlight in this song, howling and wailing away, but with style. The main riff melody as well as the chorus are both very infectious and will stay with you for some time. “I Dream In Infrared” includes a nice mid-tempo groove, which is nicely complimented with a cool keyboard and simple, but effective drumming. This could be classified as a ballad, I guess, but I consider it more a mid-tempo song, but nevertheless, it’s a very good tune. “I Dream In Infrared” is immediately followed by the very Iron Maiden-esque “The Whisper”. This is a great traditional style metal song that stays with mid-pace throughout. The keyboards that pop up occasionally in this song adds a little flair to the song, as does Chris DeGarmo and Michael Wilton’s dual harmonies. That song is followed by my personal favorite from the album and quite possibly one of my all-time Queensryche favorites, “Gonna Get Close To You”. This is a very dark song about a man stalking a woman he loves. Not only are the lyrics disturbing and quite eerie, but the mountain of keyboards in this song as well as Geoff’s vocal delivery add to the dark atmosphere. This song is also quite catchy! “The Killing Words” is a very sorrow-filled ballad with some nice-sounding keyboards that chime in at times, and a good chorus. This song win the “most commercial sounding” award, as this has mid-80's rock radio written all over it and wouldn’t sound out of place in a Dokken or Fifth Angel album, but it’s still a good sound, if a bit cheesy-sounding.
Next up is “Surgical Strike”. This is another Iron Maiden- influenced tune, but this time, no keyboards except in the middle for a very brief period, but other than that, just balls-out metal. “Neue Regal” follows, and this is probably the most complex song on the album. This song has all the tricks in their: keyboards, synthesizers, acoustic guitars, electric giutars, catchy chorus, top-notch operatic vocals that is digitized in the beginning, a few time changes...the works, and all in 4 minutes and 55 seconds! Next is “Chemical Youth (We Are Rebellion)”, which, once again, reminds the listeners that the band have not forgotten their straight-up metal roots. This is a nasty rocker that will make you black and blue all over after listening to it. There are no keyboards, no synthesizers, no acoustic guitars, just blistering metal, and that is very refreshing after all the artsy material. One of my favorites. This awesome rocker is followed by the ballad, “London”, which carries a very melancholy atmosphere throughout, and it’s really a very good song. You can feel the sadness in Geoff’s Voice on this one, as well as the music itself. It sends chills down my spine. This is also not nearly as commercial sounding as “The Killing Words”, either. Next up in the album is “Screaming In Digital”. This is a very weird, but very interesting song that oddly conveys the subject of the song through the music, I mean the music really compliments the song’s lyrics about technology taking over. I sort of see this song as a weirded out version of Queensryche’s other song about technology nightmares, “NM 156" (which can be found on the album, “The Warning”). This song also has an awesome intro that I go back to time and time again. And finally the album ends with the tranquil acoustic ballad, “I Will Remember”. This song sounds like the precursor to Queensryche’s mega-hit ballad from 1990's “Empire” album, of course I’m talking about “Silent Lucidity”. As much as I love “Silent Lucidity”, I sort of favor this song just a little. Why, I don’t know. The guitar work here is incredible, I just love the Spanish-flavored solo, played acoustically, like the rest of the rest of the song, it just gets me every time. This is a very sad, but haunting song that always makes me come back for more.
This album marked a turning point in Queensryche’s sound, but somehow, as dramatic as the change may have been, it seemed like a very natural change. They still had elements of the traditional, Judas Priest, Iron Maiden style that they started out with, so it’s wasn’t like abandoned it, they just dressed it with artsy, progressive Rush and Pink Floyd, influences thrown in. This album also set the stage very well for the band’s next release after this one and one of my all-time favorite albums ever...”Operation: Mindcrime”.