QUEENSRYCHE GET YOUR SH*T TOGETHER
It’s not fair to count Queensryche among the great, horrible post-fame implosions like Metallica or Eddie Murphy; the Seattle band’s descent into crumminess was far less cataclysmic, more akin to a weather-beaten house’s piece-by-piece collapse than the toppling of a high rise by a C4 fireball. But the sad fact remains that post-1993 Queensryche is a patience-testing proposition; albums seem tired and tend to implicate their authors as out of love with the creation of music.
Hey, it’s understandable if for no other reason than their grueling tour for 1990’s triple-platinum Empire. Shows numbered in excess of 150 over 18 months, and each 2.5 hour show opened with an mini-set of mostly Empire stuff, then Operation: Mindcrime in its Tate-exhausting entirety, plus two encores. That’s enough worldwide grinding to snuff out inspiration in even the most prolific, expressive songwriter, of which Queensryche soon found themselves one short following the 1997 departure of guitarist Chris DeGarmo. By that point, Queensryche was sounding downright ragged and, evidently, uninterested in quality sonics.
Then came a 2004 announcement of work on a sequel to Operation: Mindcrime, news which was sure to induce groans even amid the last holdouts for an against-all-odds Queensryche turnaround. Surely, desperation had struck and the unimpeachable O:M was about to become collateral damage. Then 2006 brought actual release of Operation: Mindcrime II, and fans were met not with a marathon of bad theater, instead with a taut, modern Queensryche odyssey built on wise personnel choices: Composition duties fell mostly to producer Jason Slater and DeGarmo’s second replacement, Mike Stone, while Dr. X got a singing voice courtesy of a sporting Ronnie James Dio — all signs of a realistic, invested Queensryche. Even so, my first (and unwilling) listen didn’t come until a car trip and I was tirelessly told to shut up as I spent O:M II’s hour repeating in disbelief “This … is … good! This! Is good! This? Is good?” Yay Queensryche.
Sure, the album’s complexion might not have allowed fans to herald an According-to-Hoyle return of Queensryche, but one could consider it a carefully-measured broad jump in the right direction. Yes, Queensryche affairs looked promising for a second there! But, alas, look all ye in despair on what followed: the farty, lifeless live double Mindcrime at the Moore; an inessential best-of collection and cynical covers album (Geoff Tate + “For What It’s Worth” = motherfuck life!); and finally, 2009’s ear-shredding American Soldier, which sees O:M’s ostensible agitators for socio-political reform succumb to Kid Rock-esque pro-grunt grandstanding. Not barfing yet? Well, don’t forget Geoff Tate’s wines (Insania is right), the drafting of Tate’s son-in-law on guitar (so long, last shreds of live chemistry!), and the queasy Queensryche Caberet tour (so long, last shreds of dignity!).
Queensryche get your shit together!