Queensryche
American Soldier

Queensryche has taken something of a beating over the last several years amongst Metal fans. The band once revered for unquestionable Metal classics like The Warning and Operation: Mindcrime has been branded something of a washout on the backs of albums like Tribe and Q2K. Some fans blame the band’s perceived decline on the departure of founding member Chris DeGarmo back in the 1990’s, but if they remember correctly, many of them hated his last album with the band, Hear In The Now Frontier, as well. So, what is it? Is it a loss of talent? Is it the absence of a key band member? Honestly, I don’t think its either of these things. I think it’s the case of a band becoming something that a lot of fans just aren’t able to follow. If we look back at Queensryche’s entire catalog, we can see/hear that no two albums are really that much alike. The closest two would be the self-titled EP and The Warning. But from then on, the band never really did the same thing twice. When a band changes that much, they’re bound to eventually change a bit too much for some of the original audience. The one commonality amongst the band’s earlier work, however, was something they seem to have let go of at some point…intensity.

All of this brings us to the band’s current album, American Soldier. Once again a conceptual offering, this time the band takes on the lives and events of the people who make up the US Armed Forces. Tate took on the daunting task of interviewing several veterans from several different conflicts to get their stories and then transform them into song. Now, this is both an interesting and admirable undertaking. What could/should be a more intense listen than the plight of a war veteran? On the surface it seems to have the potential to be a masterful epic. What we get, however, is something other. The first 2 tracks, “Sliver” and “Unafraid”, are quite honestly boring and weak. Both sound like b-side or box-set material. They do not set the tone for the record, the way opening tracks should. The first has the shouting “drill sergeant” voice-over which, honestly, sounds dumb. And with lyrics like “it’s time to sack up and let go of your mothers”, it becomes almost laughable. I get it, I just don’t like it. Then the second basically replaces verses with interview sound-bytes (apparently from Tate’s interviews with the soldiers). No verses, just talking over the music then the chorus which, honestly, has a decent hook.

Things don’t begin to show signs of life until “Hundred Mile Stare” comes around. This begins to show that the band we all remember is still in there somewhere (yet never really gets going) while the next track, “At 30,000 Ft.”, is a perfect example of what the band could be in this day and age. It’s got great mood and intensity and that classic, dark Tate vocal delivery. There are a couple more instances of this scattered throughout the record, like on “Remember Me” (a haunting, moody track ala “Spool” or “Someone Else”), “Man Down” (which has vintage Queensryche guitar harmonies and Tate even blending in the high notes), and “A Dead Man’s Words” (showing glimpses of that old spark of intensity). Sadly, a large portion of the album seems to sort of run together and just lay there with only a few tiny rays of light breaking through the grey monotony. Even the choice for first single, “If I Were King”, is just kind of flat and lifeless.

So, here we are with another Queensryche album…another album that many of the early fans will no doubt dislike immensely. And, while there’s not a lot on this album that will keep me coming back, there are hints of what made Queensryche great…but sometimes hints aren’t enough. It’s not quite as bad as the haters will try to convince you it is, but it’s also nothing to write home about.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Shawn Pelata
April 1st, 2009

Comments

  1. Commented by: gabaghoul

    so sad… last thing I enjoyed by these guys was Promised Land, and even that was a 50/50 album.

    great review though, I may even listen to Mindcrime for my morning commute now.


  2. Commented by: Jobby

    They’ve been basing their reputation on Operation Mindcrime for how many years now?

    Surely it’s time for them to put the band to rest and go do something else.


  3. Commented by: krustster

    Yeah, this one was a big letdown. Given the concept I was expecting something…a lot less boring. ZZZZZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz


  4. Commented by: Vance

    Once upon a time I would spank it to Queensryche… now I can’t think of another band out there other that maybe Def Leppard that sucks as hard, yet continues to think that they rock and put out albums. ENOUGH ALREADY!!!!


  5. Commented by: ceno

    I’m far from being impressed with AS as a whole, but it does have some decent songs, and I’m grateful to Tate for influencing so many vocalists in other greater prog metal bands.


  6. Commented by: NM156

    I am fairly new to Queensryche (9yrs)and have caught up with all their music, so I don’t have this DeGarmo fixation or how heavy metal QR used to be. They hooked me with ‘Silent Lucidity’ and that is what led me to acknowledge the rest of their music from ‘EP’ up until now with ‘American Soldier’ which is a MASTERPIECE. As far as Queensryche “basing their reputation on Operation Mindcrime” Jobby, that is only what “so called fans” left over from the 80’s still expect from QR not what QR clings to. Queensryche is a constantly evolving band and I appreciate them for the great music they always turn out.
    I have listened to ‘American Soldier’ and rank it right up there with Mindcrime,Empire,RFO and Promised Land. If this CD doesn’t tug at your heart, especially with ‘Home Again’ than I would have to say you probably don’t have one.


  7. Commented by: Shane

    As usual people will not give this more than a casual listen in their car before posting tripe about “their last best album”. I disagree with the critique here and think this album is really good. Put on your Bose, turn out the lights, kick back and let the narrative take you. Excellent as a whole that actually made me swell with gratitude for our defenders.


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