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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”.