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The Beginning - 90%

Stained Glass Assassin, March 22nd, 2019

“Operation: Mindcrime” is often considered Queensryche’s magnum opus, in fact it is often considered one of metal’s grandest albums. Debate aside, prior to this legendary concept album, they already had two solid releases under their belt. Their debut “The Warning” was releases in 1984 and although this would be the beginning of a long and controversial career for Geoff Tate and company, the earliest years were filled with some wonderful music.

The music on “The Warning” is a blend of classic heavy metal with elements of progressive rock and a hint of power metal. Many will point to some obvious Iron Maiden comparisons due to the band’s twin guitar harmonies that they employ, but this is neither a clone nor an album playing worship music. The songwriting on “The Warning” are at times complex, creating song structures that are both sporadic at times, but are so mainly due to the variety of genres the songs are rooted in.

On “The Warning” we get to hear the early workings of the band’s magic. Tate’s vocals are always ranked among the greatest in the business and they show consistently throughout the album. His voice carries a certain pitch that, although may share similarities with the likes of Rob Halford, they are unmistakably unique. His highs are brilliantly clean and on point, while his mid-ranged tone carry a catchy bounce to their tone that give them a trademarked sound that Tate would build his career upon. Michael Wilton and Chris DeGarmo create a dazzling display of lead riffs, catchy rhythms and well executed solos that make it easy to see why they are often compared to Maiden. Not so much because they sound alike, but more, the sheer awesomeness they create while playing such well-timed harmonies. The bass plods along in the background with the twin guitars adding an additional piece to the rhythm section, while the drums provide a poppy sound, playing right along with the guitars and adding some unique fills along the way. The only real downside to the drums would be the lack of power in the form of a bass drum. With a good pair of headphones, you can detect its presence, but otherwise is absence is noticeable. To be honest though, I feel the bass drum would have enhanced the overall sound of the album, but the lack of the bass doesn’t’ necessarily take anything away either.

As for the album itself, the opener “Warning” starts off with a mid-pace tempo that showcases Geoff Tate’s legendary wails. The leads play with a progressive sound, slowly building into a Maiden-esque rhythm section, before shouts of ‘Warning’ echo into the distance. We then switch to a straight up, NWOBHM sounding guitar tandem on the next track “En Force”. The following track, “Deliverance” changes structure once again and plays with a much more up tempo, speed metal sounding power that features catchy leads and a memorable chorus, thanks to Tate’s singing and Wilton and DeGarmo’s harmonious guitar work. Just when you think you might have gotten a handle of the structure of this album as a whole, “No Sanctuary” arrives and the changes the pace of the album, yet again. The song opens with an acoustic guitar and slowly, but progressive builds into a soaring chorus that features Tate’s ability to capture both the mood of the song and of course, of the listener as well. The song carries a very progressive rock tone ala Pink Floyd to its overall sound and delivery. The remaining songs follow a similar pattern of complexity and switching from progressive rock, to speed metal and back again to a NWOBHM Maiden sounding style.

Now, with such a complex stable of songs on hand, the only downside is the actual flow of the album itself. I don’t know if this was how the band intended “The Warning” to sound, but with the interchanging of various genre influences at hand, the album plays more like a collection of songs with not much direction. Personally, this doesn’t take much away from its enjoyabiltiy, as there are a number of handpicked songs that can easily be played and enjoyed on their own, but there is something to be said when and album plays straight through and maintains a consistent ebb and flow of music and emotion.

“The Warning” may not live up to their 1988 masterpiece, but it is a solid debut with plenty of catchy and memorable moments that will leave and 80’s metal and US power metal fan more than satisfied.

Highlights: “Warning” “No Sanctuary” “En Force” “Deliverance”

Into the Abyss of Oblivion