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Queen gets royal treatment from prog metal kings - 92%

Pfuntner, June 9th, 2009

Well isn’t this a pleasant surprise! I had thought that the only metal bands that were allowed to cover Queen were power metal bands looking for a way to satisfy their addiction to densely layered vocal parts and dramatic guitar solos. Even then, the only exception I can think of is Metallica’s cover of “Stone Cold Crazy” which, like everything else Metallica did during the 90’s, is pretty cringe worthy.

But I was wrong, for here we are with a trio of Queen covers done by none other than progressive metal giants Dream Theater. For a band that seems to have been trying to court the metal side of their fan base for the past few years (see The Dark Eternal Night and Constant Motion for reference) this is a pretty ballsy move. Of course they’ve averted most of the backlash by staying away from Queen’s poppier synth oriented later period (although I’m sure DT fans would love Innuendo). Instead they’ve chosen a song cycle from the band’s heavier and more progressive early period.

Anyone with even a passing awareness with Dream Theater’s music probably won’t be surprised to find that these songs are even more grandiose than the original recordings. Tenement Funster, originally a relaxed acoustic track, is pumped up into a rock anthem, the chorus riff especially grooves like a motherfucker and ends up sounding more akin to Black Sabbath than to Queen. Mike Portnoy’s backup vocals, which on their own are decent but nothing special, sound bizarrely anachronistic when put against such an aggressive and modern setting.

If Tenement Funster is an anthem, than Flick of the Wrist is an absolute monster. Already heavy by Queen standards, the song is transformed into a menacing and snarling beast. Petrucci’s smaller guitar fills add to unnerving atmosphere by taking Brian May’s already impressive guitar playing and adding an eastern twist. Portnoy also goes absolutely bonkers with the double bass near the end.

Closing off the medley is Lily of the Valley, a piano and vocal number. James LaBrie is a very hit and miss vocalist, but in this case he knocks it out of the park. All of Freddie Mercury’s trills and high notes are replicated perfectly, although this version lacks the lush backing vocals of the original. This is easily the strongest cover of the bunch so far, and I would highly recommend it to DT fans, Queen fans, and prog fans in general.