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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."