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In somnolence sits The Warning and people cry "Metal!" at it or "Power Metal!" Seriously? There's no mighty riffs or sustained aggression and the guitars are in the background, unless it's time for a solo or the vocals pause, which is rare with this band. To be fair, when you have an absolute powerhouse vocalist like Geoff Tate was in those days, why not use him? Long before nightmare Cabarets his range was Halfordian but he spent even more time screaming, just not for vengeance, he's too posh for that. Yet his voice did work well over a guitar sound and style draped in chain mail and wielding a sword. The riffs on the EP were classy yet still heavy and it marked the beginning and the end of this band's metal phase.
Hell, Mötley Crüe wrote more aggressively than any songs on here, although Before the Storm comes close. The chugs in Storm are minor though, used to create urgency underneath downtrodden yet exalted siren wails. The chorus is as catchy as tossing labels around with Tate crying out: 'We watch the sunrise and hope that it won't be our last.' Great lyrics and this is a solid album conceptually as NM 156 is a similar fable to Before the Storm, Matrix-like in its moral not to give too much power to machines. It's got futuristic sound effects/processing, another compelling chorus and the coolest twin guitar harmony that this band has ever played; with an actual killer riff under said harmony! Just why such a subdued guitar sound? Apparently, the final mix was out of the Queensrÿche's hands. They actually wanted the guitars to be more prominent but stylistically this is a Pink Floydish Iron Maiden-lite, with the godforsaken No Sanctuary having the most of Floyd's depressing lethargy. Other songs like the yelping title track features one of the most pedestrian riffs this side of Metallica's Battery, it's original and generic at once. Deliverance shows promise with a couple decent riffs but its overall basicness and whiny chords during a very tired chorus is a bit much. Then everyone goes gaga over Take Hold of the Flame with its arena sing-alongness even though it has no meat, only empty calorie chords; yet it's hype fodder.
Ok, so pussy music isn't wrong but hype is a plague. This music is so weak and relenting yet it has a certain aura, enough to make people cry "Metal!" at Queensrÿche when they were not only sonically distant from that, they secretly wanted to not be considered such a band; pouffy-haired preening as they were in front of the mirror while laughing about umlauts. In the real world no neck has ever been strained to a riff from The Warning or any of their full lengths, for anytime there's a slight bit of stutter in a riff its over before it begins, the guitars preferring mini melodies that aren't real complicated for a supposed prog band. Yet there are prog elements here too: the rhythms are weirdly metered in places, the drums provide interesting fills as the guitars expand with Maidenish trills. These and other elements distract from the mostly tranquilized riff style. A critical analysis of everything reveals a pop band, but not a happy one. The proof is in the constant hooks and catchiness, melody over heaviness, huge choruses, unobtrusive leads and a general "safe" sound. These 'Rÿches understood crossover appeal and how it accompanies hype, being just metal enough to cater to the bullet-belters. They were also smart enough for nerds but with a tameness that pedestrians can enjoy.
Weeeëeell almost, this is sullen after all. Yet by the time they got to Empire they were ready for Lite FM, the pop soul of Queensrÿche fully exposed. Meanwhile, The Warning does have its moments.
Child of Fire has riffs that recall Where Eagles Dare (signature) and Beyond the Realms of Death (2nd chorus), yet it's still of an in-between quality. Not as limp as the flaccid songs but not as good as NM 156, En Force, Before the Storm or the moody saga: Roads to Madness. I cannot praise the lyrics on Roads enough, what with the mind set on a path it just cannot get off of, ultimately realizing the danger of too much knowledge. Choirs and a symphony add dimensions both creepy and sad, as this segues through dynamics with Tate going from rich, gloomy baritones to bright, impassioned tenors. For all his strong projection though he does sound kinda feminine while 'Laying waste in a path recited.' At the 7 and a half-minute mark, after some Rush-like shifting of gears, the backing musicians finally, finally rock out for a bit; in their quiet fashion of course.
For those of you who wish Queensrÿche had stayed metal and continued to advance the sound they had on the EP, check out Dead Calm's No Way Out, which is where they would have wound up if they weren't as false as a Virgin Steele fan that swears he likes chicks. That killer debut is the only thing of theirs worth getting. Avoid all these 'Rÿche's LP's because they're. . .
Boriiiiiiing, boriiiiiiiiiiiing, yeaaaah!!!
For me, it's always a toss up between Promised Land and the Warning for the best Queensryche album. Both are sublime and chock full of enticing melodies and subtle passages, but the Warning is just so much more metal. But this is by no means a loud album; the debut EP was in your face heavy metal, with blistering riffs. The Warning, like Promised Land, is a quiet album, in part due to its low volume and rather odd production, but I've always found Queensryche to be at their best when not being super heavy (although, they do that well too).
Here, the only real blistering riff you're going to find is on "NM 156," which is a a heavy, blues driven run that explodes into a gallop after the first verse. Even "Child of Fire," "Before the Storm" and "En Force" have a strong emotional drive to them, due to the minor chords and Geoff Tate's incredible expressive wail. Tate never hit the notes like he did on here again! Whether its a battle cry or the melancholy lines in "Roads of Madness," Tate pulls it off fucking flawlessly, and his phrasing is unique to say the least.
Scott Rockenfield's drumming is all over the place. I remember reading once that Paul Bostaph really likes this album in an old issue of Metal Maniacs (circa 1994), and you can definitely hear some resemblence in their drumming, especially the use of the ride cymbal and fills. Eddie Jackson really sounds like Steve Harris on here, and he's brought out in the mix. Chris DeGarmo and Michael Wilton are slightly buried, perhaps one purpose, and that's what keeps this album feeling "quiet," but their solos and clean guitars have room to breathe. The balladesque "No Sanctuary" and the anthemic "Take Hold of the Flame" really benefit from this, making the melodies instantly memorable. While there is no real flashy shredding, as on Mindcrime, the solos are standouts: you'll remember them as much as the choruses!
The whole album builds to the beautiful closing track, "Roads to Madness." That second riff is pure Sabbath, a doomy, down trodden riff that takes you somewhere empty and hopless. There are so many moods coming and going on this track, enhanced by an orchestra, that it is the definition of an "epic" track. Even Iron Maiden's "Seventh Son of a Seventh Son" didn't work this well. And damn, are those some excellent solos on there.
The Warning is not, however, perferct. Comparisons to Iron Maiden are inenvitable when we consider the dual guitar interplay and more than a few of the riffs. Granted, even on their debut album Queensryche were throwing in some more challenging structures and riffs, The Warning really feels like some progressive NWOBHM album than what Queensryche is more known for. Maybe it was the fact that they recorded this in London, but there is a very, very strong European feeling to the whole thing.
Queensryche are not known for repeating themselves, and they certainly never came out with an album like the Warning again, as they developed their own syle. For what it is, the Warning is nothing short of a fantastic album.
Queensryche’s debut EP got the band’s foot through the door and remains one of their most powerful efforts to date, but its ambitions seemed to suggest a youthful hunger rather than the grandeur that would come to define them later on. Fortunately, the band’s first full-length album was released just a year later and shows some dramatic evolution in the form of expanded sounds and an early attempt at a unifying concept.
While The Warning could still be classified as a heavy metal album overall, this is the first Queensryche album where progressive rock emerges as a truly prominent influence. The songs are longer, the structures are more complex, and tracks like “No Sanctuary” and the closing “Roads To Madness” drop the metal entirely in favor of Floyd-esque textures and building choruses. They even pair some operatic influences up with a Maiden style gallop on “En Force,” resulting the most glorious song that has ever appeared on a Queensryche album.
But even if the more metal tracks still have some odd quirks and tinges of prog in their deliveries, they still manage to quite memorable and occasionally as heavy as the EP. Aside from the previously mentioned “En Force,” “N.M. 156” and “Take Hold Of The Flame” serve as the album’s strongest highlights as the former combines tense vocals during the verses with a fast chorus while the latter serves as one of the band’s more theatrical singles. Also worth noting are “Before The Storm” for its strangely sequenced yet infectiously catchy vocal lines and “Child Of Fire,” which plays out like the successor to Judas Priest’s “Dissident Aggressor” before it goes off on another spacy tangent.
With all the various stylistic experimentations that dominate this album, its frequent risks pay off well and its biggest flaw has more to do with the flow of the overall work rather than its individual components. Much like how Sad Wings of Destiny had its sides switched around at some point, you can tell that The Warning’s track order is rather jumbled compared to its original vision as the title track gets things going in an awkward mid-tempo march where it was meant to start off in a frantic fashion courtesy of “N.M. 156.” Factor in the equally awkward sequencing on “Deliverance” and you have an album that screams to be moved around on your iTunes Playlist.
A few bumps in the road keep this from reaching the consistency of the EP, but there is no denying that Queensryche’s first full-length album offers a more thoroughly rewarding listening experience. Even the weakest songs on here are pretty far from being filler material and the sheer variety involved results in several powerful tracks that only get better with repeated listens. It’s still heavy enough to suggest as a good first purchase and fans of their most successful releases won’t be too out of their element here.
“Take Hold Of The Flame”
“Before The Storm”
Originally published at http://psychicshorts.blogspot.com
The Warning was the album with which Queensrÿche introduced themselves to the metal scene. Being a typical debut compared to their later work, it’s obvious that this album contains many influences from popular bands at that time such as Judas Priest and Iron Maiden, yet Queensrÿche manages to distinct themselves from those bands at the same time. Given that this album is probably the one that resembles the standard 80s metal the most of all Rÿche releases, this doesn’t make it one of the best, but certainly one worth checking out.
So, as a very first album, what does Queensrÿche sound like? A bit music like Iron Maiden and vocals like Rob Halford, but then they give their own twist to both, which is probably what made this album so notable. Geoff Tate indeed resembles Halford in vocal range, but has an entirely unique way of singing. His wailing voice contains so much emotion, especially in his younger years, and every time I hear it I get struck by it again. On this album he sometimes goes sky high and still keeps his voice balanced, like on “Roads to Madness” for example. Tate is truly the highlight of this album, with only one downside: he almost never uses his lower range vocals, which doesn’t have to be a downside, but sometimes I get the feeling he swallowed helium or so. He sounds like a siren at times. The other band members work great together as well, although it sometimes seems as if there is a strong reverb added to the music as a whole, and sometimes they tend to sound uninspired, like in the unnoted “Child of Fire”.
The music sounds a bit Maiden-influenced, as said before, but also on this area Queensrÿche manages to differ from the Brits. Where Maiden would go into galloping rhythms, Queensrÿche chooses an alternative, such as the staccato rhythms on “N M 156” or the powerchord-based accompaniment on “Deliverance”. Where Queensrÿche goes totally into their own sound, is for example on “En Force”. Both guitars are playing some licks on the background, which forms the unique riff, the drummer is playing wild with his double bass drums and the combination of this with Tate’s voice creates the early trademark Rÿche sound: energetic metal that is not very catchy at first, but it grows on you. Another difference you’ll find with early Iron Maiden is the appearance of power ballads on the album. “No Sanctuary” and the epic “Roads to Madness” for example both begin with arpeggiated chords as the intro and the verses, but explode into a powerful chorus, full of emotional vocals and epic riffs. “No Sanctuary” also features a gentle interlude instead of a solo, which adds a lot more to the suddenly returning chorus. The other, “Roads to Madness” will feature a very spectacular guitar solo, with the whole song speeding up at the end as a last treat. Furthermore, although the band is Maiden-influenced, it totally has its own sound. The arrangements, the way the drums accompany the riffs, the structure of the riffs, it’s all less catchy then Maiden, but after a few listens it easily beats Maiden riffs. That’s what Queensrÿche is all about, the band is a grower.
So, in fact we have a pretty good debut album here. With singer Geoff Tate as the primary attraction and good songwriting as a good backup, The Warning is well worth your money. The REAL treat, however, starts on their next album Rage for Order, where they have really adopted their own sounds. Still I’d highly recommend this to any fan of 80s metal or Queensrÿche.
Strongest tracks: “No Sanctuary”, “Take Hold of the Flame” and “Roads to Madness”.
Fillers: “Child of Fire” and “Before the Storm”.
Imagine if you will, a time in which Seattle's Queensrÿche did not suck. I promise you, not only did this time exist, but it actually culminated in the masterpiece that was Operation: Mindcrime. Yes, the 'rÿche was once a metal band of some lordly caliber, and before Mindcrime produced an EP and two full-lengths of reasonable quality. The Warning was the first of these full-lengths, a tidy affair with all the groundwork being laid for the sadly short-lived, melodic power of their finest hours. Like the later Mindcrime, this album is a concept (environmentalism), but somewhat looser in its execution.
"Warning" is a suitable kick-off track, the vocals of Geoff Tate cutting through a sequence of well-laid chords like a knife. As with all the best work of this band, the melody is catchy and engaging while retaining a core simplicity. Graceful fills and powerful chords resound in fist pumping anthem after anthem. "En Force" is even better, with a fantastic intro that conjures a morose glory. The verse riffs are excellent Maiden-esque melodies, and this track alone is certainly better than anything the band recorded post-1988. "Deliverance" is EVEN BETTER, and here the band is channeling that narrative pulse that drives Operation: Mindcrime. "No Sanctuary" opens with mellow tones of acoustic guitar and overarching melodies, but before you can scream "Silent Lucidity" 3x the power kicks in. "NM 156" is another driving anthem. "Take Hold of the Flame" is similar to "No Sanctuary" though the intro has a great swell of Tate's vocals. "Before the Storm" and "Child of Fire" are both engaging spikes of classic 80s melodic metal, with resolute choice in chords and soaring vocal hooks. "Roads to Madness" is the epic finale, almost 10 minutes of blissful prog metal with orchestral touches (orchestration on the album is conducted by Michael Kamen).
The Warning is not nearly as perfect or powerful as its successors. Rage for Order is far more virulent and Operation: Mindcrime is...well, unsurpassed. But it's a mirror into an age when certain bands embraced the metal: big hair, big hooks, and drum cages. Even in 1984, Queensrÿche was espousing their thoughtful diatribe into concept albums that were far more interesting than the 'HAIL METAL SOLDIERS' ethos of the period, and they were quick to earn the 'thinking man's metal' tag post- their fairly average s/t EP. It's a damned shame metal music, which earned the band its place in the spotlight to begin with, is no longer important to this band.
Queensrÿche are often hailed as the founders of progressive metal, mostly on the strength of 1988’s Operation: Mindcrime, which is also generally considered the band’s masterpiece. Taking a look at the attention given to their releases, a casual observer might think Queensrÿche went right from their debut EP to Operation: Mindcrime and then promptly sold out (the prog rock crowd especially tends to overlook or downplay the significance of their earlier material). Of course most serious fans of metal are aware of The Warning, but unlike Rage for Order and Queensrÿche’s post-Operation: Mindcrime material this album doesn’t deserve in the least its position in the shadow of that ponderous prog opus. By 1988 they may have moved on, but back in 1984 Queensrÿche were still clearly pioneering the sound of white-collar USPM, along with comrades Fates Warning. Sure, touches of prog influence peek through and quite a few individual elements point back towards their NWOBHM roots (in what ways I’ll get to later), but their context, as with Fates Warning, Crimson Glory, and numerous similar bands, was within a distinctly power metal framework. In my review for Omen’s Battle Cry (also released in 1984) I touched on what white-collar USPM is about; here, I will elaborate.
As esoteric as the distinction between blue- and white-collar USPM may seem to some, many differences are immediately obvious; just put on a good example of the former, like Battle Cry, and follow it with The Warning. Right from the get-go you’ll notice the difference in vocal styles, with one being gruff, aggressive, and primal, while the other is clean, precise, and full of complex emotion. The overall mood of the music follows suit; blue is fast, aggressive, and violent, while white is slower, more melodic, and contemplative. Something that becomes clear after a bit more time is that the former tends to depend more heavily on riffs and percussive rhythms, while the latter de-emphasizes those somewhat in favor of vocals and guitar leads (though these tendencies are by no means without exception). Still, some bands mix these characteristics up, and it’s important to remember that blue- and white-collar USPM are not two separate categories, but rather two ends of the same spectrum, two sides to the same coin. With that in mind, it becomes clear that many of their aesthetic differences stem from a difference in approach to what is essentially the same subject, namely freedom and the constraint thereof, which of course includes many things but is ultimately always death (that may seem self-evident as those are two major themes of metal, but if you dig deeply enough into any subgenre’s ideology you will always find one or more of them; the differences spring from how these archetypes are dealt with). But, while blue-collar USPM focuses on freedom attained in fantasy, and death as a finish line to be fearlessly sprinted across in as glorious a fashion as possible, white-collar USPM focuses on the lack of freedom present in our society, with death as a premature end to an unfulfilled (and under the circumstances, perhaps unfulfillable) life. So, with little freedom and a death that comes too soon, is it any wonder that these angst-filled white-collar types often crack under the pressure and go mad by album’s end? Aside from this one, both of Crimson Glory’s first two wind up walking the road to madness in their final tracks, and I’m sure diligent metalheads could find more examples. Others seek hope in the possibility of an afterlife, but as John Arch finds in “The Apparition”, it is not Heaven or Valhalla but only nothingness that awaits. There are actually a surprising number of parallels to be made to Sturm und Drang (“Storm and Stress”), the German artistic movement of the 18th century that sprung up as a backlash against the rigid rationality of the Enlightenment. It focused on the introspective exploration of emotional extremes; literary characters were often violent, either towards others or themselves (Schiller’s Die Räuber provides numerous examples of both). Without going too far off on a tangent (feel free to read more about S&D, there are many more similarities in addition to those I touched upon), suffice to say that white-collar USPM is most similar in that it portrays these extremes of emotion in response to constraint, without any kind of solution in sight, other than perhaps escape into madness or death. Like in Orwell’s 1984, revolution is discussed in The Warning but doesn’t ever appear to bring about any results other than more senseless, inglorious bloodshed. Crushed beneath oppression’s heel, feelings of helplessness pervade the album, and there’s no light at the end of the tunnel. Anyone who thinks art always ought to have some constructive positive message can fuck right off. As O’Brien says, “if you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face...forever.”
While The Warning is not a concept album in the strictest sense, it is nonetheless clear that this is more than a mere collection of unrelated songs; the whole album was inspired by Orwell’s 1984 (the coincidence of the release date is one of those fun quirks of metal history), and there is a definite arrangement of the track order. Little touches serve to make that transition between songs smoother, such as the lead-in to “Child of Fire” which starts at the end of “Before the Storm”, and the expository opening and epic, sweeping finale certainly wouldn’t fit anywhere else. The album also seems to flow as far as its mood goes too, so while it may not narrate a coherent story, it certainly feels like it does if you’re not following the lyrics.
If you’re new to the genre, or have been living under a rock, or are simply looking for another perspective, I’ll take the time to describe the main elements of Queensrÿche’s sound on The Warning. At the forefront is incomparable frontman Geoff Tate in all his operatic glory; if you thought he was good on the EP, he’s even better here, with an even more emotionally charged performance and a much more extensive and effective use of vocal multi-tracking. Almost every chorus has something neat going on, from the simple harmony of the title track to the rumbling repetition of the title beneath the main vocal line on “Before the Storm”. The melodies themselves, while certainly great and emotional on their own, are just taken to the next level by Tate’s delivery; take for example “NM 156”, with its transition from a robotically clipped delivery (“punch, punch, punch the data into code”) to the anguished cries of the chorus (“Have we come too far to turn around?”). Or how about the incredibly dark intro to “Take Hold of the Flame” that is followed by its chorus, perhaps the most hopeful and exultant part of the whole album? Along with “Deliverance”, that chorus is one of the very few bright spots on an otherwise unremittingly dark and oppressive album, a contrast that only emphasizes the latter quality (after all, what is fear of hell without hope of heaven?). Let’s not even get into the multi-part, choir-accented tour-de-force that is the epic closer. Seriously, no one equaled Tate’s range of emotion in metal back then, and even today you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone able to pull off such variation; the man can pretty much do anything he wants to with his voice, which luckily for us is powerful and complex emotion on this album. Later he’d descend into syrupy-sweet cliché (like “Silent Lucidity”, ugh), but here there is none of that. Despite sharing similar general compositional elements and an emphasis on melody over aggression and speed, it is this emotional complexity that fundamentally separates white-collar USPM from happy mindless flower schlock like Keepers-era Helloween or Rhapsody.
Instrumentally, things become a bit more difficult to succinctly describe. On the one hand there’s the obvious Judas Priest/NWOBHM influence, especially evident in the dual-guitar leads, though by this point even those NWOBHM trademarks were starting to seem more evolved than ever before; I certainly never heard Diamond Head or Iron Maiden even come close to the complexity of that lengthy twin lead masterpiece in “NM 156”. Listen to the range of emotions it flows through, how much of an integral component of the song it is, and then laugh at Helloween’s flashy but insubstantial power metal leads that have about the same emotional impact as a pie hitting a clown in the face. Anyway, listen to “NM 156” and you’ll hear what inspired Crimson Glory’s love of leads. On the other hand, some things have become a bit more difficult to identify. Naysayers love to claim that early Queensrÿche material is almost totally derivative of Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Diamond Head, and even Def Leppard, citing individual riffs or melodies as “evidence”, but while elements do resemble older British models and compared to the EP or later material, The Warning does have more Iron Maiden influence, it’s like Queensrÿche took a bunch of castle Legos and used them to build a spaceship; a lot of the same building blocks are visible, but the context and result are totally new. Predecessors at best showed glimpses of Queensrÿche’s sound, but none actually put out an album focusing on it. Upon close listens it becomes clear prog rock was also an influence, though more a spiritual than a musical one, and not in the sense that “prog” has come to mean “harder to play”. Pink Floyd producer James Guthrie was chosen for The Warning, and while not a direct example this certainly supports my point. Less concrete but more conclusive is the album’s de-emphasis on riffs that I mentioned earlier; while there are certainly plenty of riffs of high quality, they’re more subtle and “behind the scenes” compositionally, rather than in your face as is usual for metal. As far as the identity of the songs go, they’re much more reliant on vocals than guitars; the latter do lay an essential foundation which peeks through at times, though, quite obviously on the title track with its marching main riff or the tension/release of the off-kilter one on “Before the Storm”. For the most part, though, they contribute more on a subconscious than a conscious level, and there are plenty of excellent clean sections without any riffs at all. Queensrÿche are almost in Manilla Road territory on this album in terms of their ability to write superb clean-picked guitar melodies. Any good metal band can write good heavy parts, but it takes a truly great one to maintain that quality and metal aesthetic without any heaviness, speed, or aggression to back them up.
One recurring element of the songwriting that bears mentioning is the little descending noodly bit Queensrÿche throw in at the end of a phrase with the guitars or bass; it’s present on just about every song if you listen for it. While I can’t say either band invented it, think the bass licks at the end of the main riff in “Children of the Sea” or the part in between repetitions of the riff in the fast part of “Hallowed Be Thy Name” for a few easy examples of precedent (maybe there’s some special term for it, but if there is I don’t know it). Iron Maiden really got their money’s worth out of the technique, and it is a good solid example of their influence on this album, though obviously here it’s within a much different framework. An interesting result is that the transition between riffs (or riff repetitions) is often more complex than the riffs themselves, a fact Queensrÿche are clearly aware of and even exploit, notably on “Before the Storm” where they accent the stop/start and tension/release with simplicity/complexity.
A final couple of points that bear quick mention are the drums and various effects. The former are truly excellent, and Scott Rockenfield really puts on a great show. His performance is interesting and varied, accenting the music at key points, but he does all that subtly, without getting overbearing or showing off to the point of being distracting or irritating. Needless to say I’m no drummer, but you can imagine how much ass he must really kick for even a layman like me to have noticed. The various sound and keyboard effects are another definite asset to The Warning, with little touches and flashes accenting just about every track. But don’t worry, they aren’t overbearing either, and live versions still hold up well without them. You can tell Queensrÿche had a giant fucking recording budget compared to most metal bands and made full use of the London studio EMI put at their disposal. From the obvious effects of “NM 156” to the subtler bells in “En Force”, to the barely noticeable but still effective addition of Tate screaming way in the background of the opening of “Deliverance”, it’s safe to say the album wouldn’t be the same without those touches. No, this is no rough gem here, but one which was expertly cut and polished with all the skill and resources money could buy; having gotten signed to EMI on the strength of the independent sales of their EP, I guess the label wisely decided to not try to fix what wasn’t broken in the first place, and let the band do its own thing.
I could go on for pages more about this album, and in fact I haven’t even delved into individual track analysis yet (suffice to say, they’re all excellent). But as with a city, I can talk about its history and culture and landmarks, but after a certain point the only thing left to do is just visit the damn place (or re-visit, as the case may be) and see it for yourself. With that impending trip in mind, I’ll just provide you with one last tidbit of information that will smooth the journey: it’s important to remember when approaching The Warning that it has a very specific mood, and as such requires a specific mood of the listener. Though dark and oppressive it isn’t really aggressive or quick at all, so if you’re looking for driving music or something to headbang to, keep looking. Though emotionally and ideologically complex it isn’t really technical or progressive, so if you want to listen to something that makes you feel smart, with time signatures and song structures like mathematical equations, pick something else. If, however, you’re in a pensive mood, ready to sit down and calmly give The Warning your full attention as it works its magic, you will be greatly rewarded.
Queensrÿche's first EP made big waves in the metal community, mainly because it was a dynamic, energetic, powerful little piece, an authentic heavy metal classic. Songs like “Queen of the Reich” or “Blinded” were fast, catchy, addictive and most of all, straight forward.
I bet that all the Queensrÿche fans that went to the stores in order to buy “The Warning” felt surprised when listening to the record for the first time. “The Warning” is a completely different album compared to the band's first EP. Gone are the fast riffage and soloing, since the band adopted a more midpaced sound, adding some progressive elements it. Queensrÿche is also constantly labeled as one of the bands that created the progressive metal sub-genre and although the band's sound contains a lot of prog elements, I wouldn't dare to call them a true progressive metal act. This has nothing to do with Fates Warning or old Dream Theather, hell, I even think that Metallica's “...And Justice for All” is more progressive than the majority of the Queensrÿche's albums. Even their magnum opus, the acclaimed “Operation: Mindcrime”, isn't a 100% progressive album. But ok, that's another story, let's talk about other things.
Perhaps the most distinctive characteristic of Queensrÿche's sound is the amazing and emotional vocal approach of the fantastic Geoff Tate, who was trained as an opera singer before he joined the band. His range is absolutely fantastic and he can do almost anything he wants with his voice. He can sound melancholic (the bonus track, “The Lady Wore Black” is an example), energic and dynamic (“The Warning”), sad (outro of “Deliverance”), etc. What can I say? He is an absolutely spectacular singer, that's for sure, even though he doesn't deliver his best performance here (check out “Operation: Mindcrime” for his best one).
“The Warning” is also a concept album, speaking about George Orwell's ideas. This is definitely a plus, at least for me, since I'm a huge fan of his work: books like “The Animal Farm” and “1984” are timeless classics for me. I appreciate a lot of his ideas about collectivism, communism and such, and some of those ideas are partially present on the lyrics of some songs. The tracklisting is also all wrong, the first song should be “NM-156” instead of “The Warning”, with the latter placed between “Child of Fire” and the closer “Roads to Madness”.
About the songs, they are all, as I've already said, midpaced and featuring some nice guitar solos. The drumming is also pretty nice, one thousand times better than the simplified approach displayed on “Operation: Mindcrime”. The title track is one example of that, with the constant use of ghost notes and complex beats. It also is one of the best songs of the bunch, featuring a fantastic, sing-along chorus. “En Force” is another high point of the album, the chorus is again pretty catchy and its outro is absolutely godly, Scott Rockenfield softly hitting the snare, calm guitar work accompanying him and the emotional vocals of an inpired Tate being the cream of the crop. “Deliverance” is probably the only song that is reminiscent of the band's first EP, with its straight forward structure. “Child of Fire” is another personal favourite, featuring an awesome breakdown. The epic “Roads to Madness” is like a beta version of “Suite Sister Mary” and despite the latter runs circles around it, it still is a very good song. The best part of it is the heavier part, near the end, where a great riff picks up and drives the song to madness (no pun intended).
About the production, it is very clear and all the instruments sound pretty good. The only flaw of it is the fact that the bass drums are almost inaudible, which it's shame. Anyways, an interesting fact is that the production was handled by a famous Pink Floyd producer (I can't remember his name right now, damn), and it still is a mistery if Queensrÿche began adding more progressive elements to their sound because of him.
Anyways, “The Warning” is an enjoyable and very consistent album after all. Definitely worth listening if you are looking to a nice heavy/prog metal listening experience. It's not one of my favourite albums ever though, still a one that I like.
One last note to the remastered version to this album, which I recommend you to get. It features a nice booklet with liner notes by Geoff Tate and some nice bonus tracks, like the unreleased “Prophecy” ( a song also present on the remastered version of Queensrÿche's first EP) and, most of all, a live version of the ballad “The Lady Wore Black” which absolutely BLOWS AWAY the original version. A great great live performance, really.
Best Moments of the CD:
-the outro of “En Force”.
-the beginning of “The Warning”.
-the breakdown of “The Child of Fire”.
The historical origin of progressive metal is tied heavily to the revolutionary style pioneered by 70s rock outfit Rush. Musically it tends away from traditional structures, and goes both down the road of virtuoso musicianship and heavily varied progressions. Lyrically there is even less attentiveness to conventional approaches, as sci-fi and fantasy concepts, social and political awareness; and the twisted realm of introspective storytelling (often dealing with madness) are only some of the many subjects that are open to the writer.
Although much credit should also be given to Black Sabbath and several members of the NWOBHM for paving the way for the merging of Rush’s progressive innovations with heavier music, the advent of Progressive Metal first shows itself on this album, Queensryche’s “The Warning”. Like every pioneering effort, this album does not conform to the genre that it spurred, but instead is a hybrid of many potential outcomes. This album carries as many Power Metal elements musically as it does Progressive elements in its lyrical subject matter, and listens more as a Power/Prog. Hybrid than the more Rush oriented Prog Metal style of acts such as Ayreon and Dream Theatre.
The music on here carries a heavy amount of NWOBHM influences. The title track, “Before the Storm”, and “Deliverance” all could pass for songs put out by Judas Priest/Iron Maiden, save Geoff Tate’s remarkably distinctive vocal style. “En Force” and “NM 156” are a bit more progressive, carrying some tasteful keyboard use and odd time beats. “Take Hold of the Flame” and “No Sanctuary” carry some inspired acoustic/clean guitar devices, yet keep the metal edge nicely with triumphant choruses to contrast the darker quiet sections.
My two picks for musical highlights on this album are the closing 2 tracks, which are about as different as night and day. “Child of Fire” is pure metal, from start to finish, in the vain of Iron Maiden. The driving main section of the song and the contrasting slow section are highly reminiscent of such classic Maiden songs as “22 Acacia Avenue” and “The Drifter”. By contrast, “Roads to Madness” is a progressive magnum opus that takes its cues from both the Sabbath Bloody Sabbath/Sabotage era of Ozzy Osbourne Sabbath and the Ronnie Dio era. Structurally the contrasting sections carry some similarities to such tracks as Megalomania and The Writ, although in terms of riffs and melodies it has similarities with Heaven and Hell.
Lyrically this album is pretty much a concept album, although in the sense of an overall theme connecting all the songs, rather than a specific storyline. Mostly this album deals with social awareness through Sci-Fi and Drama based metaphors, although the closing track reveals a more philosophical tendency that is reminiscent of transcendental idealism. From start to finish the lyrics are thought provoking, yet simultaneously dark and lacking in optimism, save perhaps the more uplifting words of “Take Hold of the Flame”.
It is here that we see a separation between Queensryche and Rush, as the socio-political themes of this album are highly collectivistic, which clashes with Neil Peart’s advocacy of Ayn Rand’s philosophy of rational egoism. The result is a musical rehash of the politics of George Orwell, whom was an apologist for collectivism, yet simultaneously a critic of its inevitable results when they came to light. Although his books, like this music, are highly entertaining and thoughtful, philosophically they carry little significance for someone seeking answers to the questions that these works pose. It does not take away from the value of the art work, but it does shine the light of perspective upon the inequality between the different philosophical viewpoints that are championed by various artists.
In conclusion, this is a piece of metal history that ought to be considered by anyone who loves NWOBHM, Power Metal, Progressive Metal, or any other style that seeks to break down barriers. It is the greatest full length work ever put out by this band. It has a top notch production and has aged better than many other albums that were recorded during 1984.
And so it came to pass; the full length debut of Queensrÿche. The Warning does not disappoint as a debut and wastes no time in kicking off their thoughtful, journeying musical and lyrical ideals which would eventually gain them the status of one of the most respected progressive metal bands around. In a nutshell, this album is somewhat Iron Maiden styled metal with a much darker, more socially aware, and sometimes futuristic twist. There is good twin guitar work with a lot of leads, simple but effective drum playing with a small trace of double bass, and the superb operatic vocals of Geoff Tate, but rather then concentrating on a riff/solo/instrumental splendour kind of approach, Queensrÿche typically aims for overall song melody and atmosphere on The Warning, and usually comes away with excellent results.
Lyrically, the album deals with an array of cold, darkly tinted subjects including the dangers of computer technology (a'la Blade Runner or the Terminator movies), futuristic prophecy and war, and madness. The often menacing feeling, and coldly dark vibe of the music - sometimes enhanced by tasteful clean guitar parts within quieter passages - brings out the lyrical ideas perfectly and vice versa, showing that Queensrÿche were masters of the songwriting craft even early on.
Most of the songs here are pretty enthralling and show a good sense of variation for the most part, though mainly sticking to the band's meat-and-potatoes metal roots. The opening title track jumps out at you with Geoff's melodic half-shout of "Warning!" putting reverb to good use as the band opens up with a mid/slow paced crunch, showcasing creative drumwork and a solid backbone for the vocal and bass drum driven chorus. Deliverance and En Force are both good, albeit somewhat generic melodic metal songs - though the Rÿchean creativity still shines a bit in the closing soft outro of the latter. It's with the album's lone ballady piece, No Sanctuary (an old favorite of Maiden's Steve Harris while on tour with the Rÿche, for you trivia buffs) that the album starts getting well above average. The clean guitar and drum work conjures a classy, dark ambience topped by the intense vocals. Tate's voice shows slight non completion in the delivery department on some of The Warning, but not in No Sanctuary, as his flawless combination of dramatic flair and opera-esque technique drive the sad ballad home, especially in the huge chorus, the song serving as an excellent blueprint statement of the band's individual style of songwriting. NM 156 follows as one of the strongest and also the most progressive song on the album, from Geoff Tate's robotic sounding opening line, "Machines have no conscience.", the frantic, paranoid pace of the song and the unique, mechanical sounding vocal structure is completely gripping from beginning to end. The lyrical idea of man being assimilated into machine by a one-government order is brilliantly conveyed - especially in 1984 when The Warning was released - with lines like "One world government has outlawed war among nations/Now social control requires population termination." and the chorus, "Have we come too far to turn around/Does emotion hold the key/Is logic just a synonym for this savagery/Disguised in forgotten lost memory". Amazing song. Take Hold of the Flame follows, and is another one of the best the album has to offer, doubling as a live favorite. The opening clean riff is haunting, as is Tate's absolutely flawless singing in the lower to high ranges, which propels the song into an early climax leading into the anthemic, uplifting verses and choruses. Before the Storm and Child of Fire slow the album down a bit, however, tending to be mixtures of filler and flashes of excellence, before album closer Roads to Madness. Roads to Madness is the longest song on The Warning at 9 minutes and deals deeply with Geoff Tate's personal experience with mental illness with well arranged parts such as, "Most of this is memory now/I've gone too far to turn back around/I'm not quite what I thought I was/But
then again.. I'm maybe more" and "I'm a fool in search of wisdom/And I'm on the road to madness", the latter being part of the soaring second chorus that paves the way for a series of instrumental breakdowns that are more than competant, but sometimes a bit sloppy. Guest conductor Michael Kamen arranges the strings and orchestral parts on the song, but unfortunately with their minimal use they don't seem to reach their potential or enhance the song by much, which is a shame.
As it goes with full length debuts, there usually seem to be a fair amount of kinks still to be worked out within the band's music, but Queensrÿche has less then most on The Warning. The band flexes their visionary muscles a decent deal on this average at worst, chilling and inspiring at best release. Very nice, and just a hint of things to come for the group.
Okay, so this is where progressive metal started. So before I'd begin this review, I'd like to say "Fuck you, Queensrÿche, it's all your fault that Dream Theater and all their even more boring imitators are plaguing the metal landscape. Burn in hell."
Then again, inspiring the kickass Symphony X may very well alleviate the majority of those Musical Masturbation snoozefests.
Back to the review. 'The Warning,' compared to later Queensrÿche, is much more raw and sharp; by later Queensrÿche, I mean 'Rage For Order'-'Promised Land.' Soy milk is more raw and sharp than the following musical abortions. Anyway, this album is a pretty heavy example of prog metal at its least retarded - complicated and overblown, but not to the point of just plain showing off. Instead, the pretension makes the songs a lot more interesting than the NWOBHM it somewhat resembles.
Closer "Roads To Madness" is the top track, epic and winding but keeping it interesting the whole time by switching between melodic verses, flowing, heavy interludes, and a fast and intricate breakdown in the middle. "Take Hold of the Flame" is nearly as good; killer vocals, one of those you-must-headbang-to-this riffs, and...is that double bass I hear? Yeah, it's there and it kicks ass.
The first few tracks of the album are decent but forgettable; it really picks up around "NM 156," something of a prelude to the style of 'Rage' but with a more power metal feel to the chorus. Besides the two mentioned above, "Child of Fire" and "Before the Storm" are very good riff-heavy songs with Geoff Tate using his impressive vocal capabilities to their full extent.
It's odd how an entire musical genre more or less sprang out of this single album, and to a lesser extent the following two Queensrÿche releases. Despite the crappiness of certain of this album's bastard children, the original prog-metal release remains a solid and entertaining album. Of course, there are certain amounts of cheese, but anyone who can't deal with corniness should NOT be listening to metal in the first place.