I don’t want any of you Metal Legions to tell me that you didn’t see this one coming. What’s that? You didn’t? Well okay, I guess I should believe you when you tell me that you never expected that Geoff Tate would eventually announce the formation of his own Queensryche and start to map out his touring plans after being fired as the singer for the original Queensryche. Maybe I am just still shocked about that particular case scenario.
Title: “Q2K” (remaster)
Label: Rhino Entertainment
Release Date: 8/29/2006
Genre: Progressive Rock
In 1999 Queensryche would find themselves in a bit of a bind for not only did they lose the label they had for much of their career but co-founder Chris DeGarmo would also choose to move on and pursue other interests in life. Musically this would not be a release that many Queensryche fans would embrace very openly; but upon listening to the remastered and expanded edition some seven years – I can safely say that there is some enjoyable stuff on it and necessary as part of the complete Queensryche catalog. The best way to enjoy this one is to skate around the tracks and find the most acceptable ones such as “Sacred Ground” and “One Life” which show a different Queensryche from the band you grew up remembering. I think the initial problem fell in the expectations of the fan base as well as the bands quest to keep themselves relevant during a difficult musical point in time. They were no longer Progressive Metal and had instead become a style of harder Progressive Rock that used their typical strong melodic sense mixed in throughout their songs. Technically, they remained the same and sounded fine, as the band did not aim for high levels of avant-garde musical exploration as the bands that came after them (I speak especially of Dream Theater and Fates Warning). DeGarmo’s spot in the band would be temporarily filled by Kelly Gray (now of Slave To The System) while the rest remained the originals (Tate, Rockenfield, Wilton and Jackson). Gray was good but perhaps did not receive any level of compliment based on fans refusing to let go of the fact that Chris had left the lineup. The remaster includes several additional tracks and “Until there Was you” is a perfect ballad for the group while “Howl” is a rocker from top to bottom. Maybe their inclusion to the original release would have helped it along but now we have them on the re-issue so its no longer a problem. The original album tracks of “Breakdown”, “Right Side Of My Mind” and “Liquid Sky” are quite good as well and could have carried the release forward but perhaps its lack of an overall theme and instead just built as straight songs caused this additional grief. To be honest, I remember finding myself uninterested in it when it first hit the shelves but cannot recall what kept me from it back then.
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Artist: Slave To The System
Title: “Slave To The System”
Label: Spitfire Records
Release Date: 2/21/2006
Genre: Hard Rock
What do you get if you combine the forces of talent that have worked with both Queensryche and Brother Cane? Well, the answer is very simply “Slave To The System” a Hard Rock combo that brings drummer Scott Rockenfield together with Damon Johnson, Roman Glick and Kelly Gray. Gray worked in Queensryche for one album and tour while Johnson and Glick were members of the powerhouse Brother Cane. Two entirely different aspects of the musical spectrum with one being a Progressive Rock side while the other mainstream Hard Rock. The result is a very pleasing Hard Rock journey that has some serious radio potential on its debut and self-titled release. Damon Johnson has a great voice and it shows throughout the record that he has not lost his touch in the years since Brother Cane ended. Rockenfield is an established drumming presence, yet on this album he lays back a little and delivers solid Rock and Roll time, a nice change to see that he can adapt and make his level of play work with a totally different type of band. Gray seems to do well here more so than he did during his brief tenure with Queensryche. I admit to not enjoying his working with the band, but this is since he immediately followed the absence of DeGarmo so like most fans I was jaded going in. Glick holds it all together on bass while his Cane partner belts them out. In Slave To The System the whole unit works together very well, and it serves to prove that Hard Rock is not as boring as commercial terrestrial radio would have you believe. While there might be “hit makers” on it nothing really gives that push or the drive lately to remind you that Rock is very simply supposed to Rock. STTS makes sure to remind us of this fact and with tracks like their namesake, “Rudy Wednesday” and “Stigmata” there is plenty of proof that the band means business in this area. It’s a welcome change to the existing supply.
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Title: “Live Evolution”
Label: Sanctuary Records
Release Date: 9/25/2001
Genre: Progressive Metal
With “Live Evolution”, Queensryche has given their fans the type of album that other artists would be smart to release. The album is not only a killer live recording, it is also a career expansive journey into each of their albums and features songs from the self-titled EP all the way up until “Q2K”. A companion DVD was released at the same time, which offers you the full visual of being present at a Queensryche show. I admit, I preferred watching as opposed to listening, since The Ryche is such a great band in concert. As on the DVD, the group sets the album up in sections that cover specific ranges of their releases. CD1 is the better of the two, in my opinion, as that is the earliest stuff from the self-titled EP until “Operation Mindcrime”. Given that it includes nine tracks from that album alone, you’ll find a nice comparison of how the band sounds several years after the recording of “Operation: Live Crime”. By that point in Queensryche’s career, the band had lost guitarist Chris DeGarmo. He was replaced with Kelly Gray. who did a fine job on the material. The rest of the original lineup remained strong with Tate, Rockenfield, Wilton and Jackson. CD2 is only half strong, as it includes music from “Empire” and “Promised Land” (their last decent studio release, in my opinion). The remainder of the disc features tracks from “Hear In The Now Frontier” as well as the dismal “Q2K” which was met with critical lambasting.
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