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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.