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Queensryche's Transition Album - 90%

Dead_As_A_Door_Nail, March 7th, 2003

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 The lyrics in this album, though at times a bit outdated, are thought-provoking, intelligent and at times, bold.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”.