I’ve been a fan of Queensryche since I was old enough to stand. Some of my earliest memories musically involve the prog-quintet from Bellevue, including listening to a beaten-up cassette copy of Empire on my TalkBoy.
Their 2012 split and undeniably confusing re-branding has left me empty for what the future holds, but recently I have given a listen to what the future of Queensryche sounds like, which is honestly just as confusing as their ego-drenched collapse. We now have TWO (2) Queensyrche’s: One fronted by Geoff Tate and one fronted by Todd La Torre. Since both sideshows have albums coming out this summer (coincidentally? <— sarcasm), both have put out some promotional material, which my ears have taken in and my brain has digested. I must say, my experience with these tracks has provided some interesting conclusions.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with the band, I strongly suggest taking a listen. If you don’t feel like forking over cash to get the records yet (they are an acquired taste for some), YouTube has most of their music.
Queensryche with Geoff Tate
Geoff Tate — Vocals
Kelly Gray — Lead and Rhythm Guitars (formerly Myth, Queensryche)
Robert Sarzo — Lead and Rhythm Guitars (formerly Quiet Riot, Hurricane)
Rudy Sarzo — Bass (formerly Quiet Riot, Ozzy Osbourne, Whitesnake, Dio)
Randy Gane — Keyboards (formerly Myth)
Simon Wright — Drums (formerly AC/DC, Dio, UFO)
I’m not going to downplay the band — hell, Tate put together an amazing lineup, which is basically Myth, if you think about it — but from a musical standpoint, this doesn’t sound like Queensryche at all. At least during the band’s WTF?! Phase (2007 — 2012), there was still a glimmer of the band’s signature sound on each track.
The above track, “Cold”, is gritty, much like Queensryche’s controversial sound of the last decade or so. It’s harder and seething, oozing with animosity toward the other guys. You can hear how pissed Tate is about the situation and listening to the lyrics tells me this is definitely a classic rock “diss” track. Oh, Geoff. Why?
I am a fan of the “grittier” Queensryche sound, when it’s done well. That has been one of the biggest criticisms of the band, not just from me, but from many fans. So, with that being the musical direction Tate decided to take (which makes sense), it just doesn’t fit the profile of what I think the band should sound like. If he were to re-brand this as Myth then I think it would fare better. Tate is kind of the villain in these fisticuffs after all, so with the name being the source of most of this drama, a simple change would cool the fire down.
Queensryche with Todd La Torre
Todd La Torre — Vocals (formerly Crimson Glory)
Michael Wilton — Lead and Rhythm Guitars
Parker Lundgren — Lead and Rhythm Guitars (formerly Sledgeback, Queensryche)
Eddie Jackson — Bass
Scott Rockenfield — Drums
Who the fuck is Todd La Torre and why the hell does he sound like Tate did in his prime? Upon further research (thank you Wikipedia), this dude has been slaving in the Tampa music scene for almost 25 years. He’s also a drummer and guitarist, and has been attached to projects fronted by Jon Oliva (Savatage, Trans-Siberian Orchestra). He apparently met Michael Wilton just before the Tate Incident.
Who’s Parker Lundgren? Aside of the fact he’s young (aged 26 — no one in Queensryche has been 26 since the mid-80’s), he’s also notably the ex-husband of Geoff Tate’s daughter, Miranda, and has been a member of Queensryche since 2009. Yeah, sit on that for a moment.
I’m not going to lie, I like this track. It feels more like Queensryche should, granted a bit heavier than the Operatic Phase (1982 — 1991). This song does feel like it could have been composed during the Empire years, maybe as a prototype to what would appear on Hear in the Now Frontier (their most under-rated album). It feels impassioned, inspired; like the band found that spark they had been missing since Q2K. It actually sounds like Queensryche.
Beyond Tate’s vocals, the sound of the band was just as important. What set Queensryche apart from many, many of their peers was how Tate’s vocals wove through the guitar work of Chris DeGarmo and Michael Wilton, Eddie Jackson’s bass, and Scott Rockenfield’s mathematical percussion. I think that’s what makes this really difficult. On top of the fact that Todd La Torre is trying to sound like Tate (even though he already kind of did in the first place), it’s always been kind of difficult to absorb the Queensryche’s sound since Chris DeGarmo left the band in 1998.
So, what’s my verdict? Well, as much as I would like to fall behind Geoff Tate, I feel that I side with the others. I knew that a lot of the weird shit Queensryche had been creating in the last decade or so has been Tate’s influence, so the fact Queensryche with Todd La Torre reverted to a sound reminiscent of the early 1990’s is definitely a breath of fresh air from a band that had become stagnant and had started undercutting their own strengths. The band was always really good at creating a fuzzy, ambient sound with off-time percussion, and the identity with Todd La Torre plays that same card and I think, shows the talents of not only Parker Lundgren, but what Wilton, Jackson, and Rockenfield have historically had together. As much as Queensryche has been lauded for vocal tenacity, the real strength of the band, to me, has always been how those vocals mixed with the music, and with Todd La Torre and Parker Lundgren, Queensryche finally sounds like Queensryche.