Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Queensryche - "Queensryche" (LP Review)

This one goes out to my HS friend Robert Gordick, the person who originally introduced me to Queensryche when the self-titled EP came out in 1983. He had it on vinyl and I had a tape copy of it (which I probably still have somewhere).

Most people probably didn't know much about Queensryche prior to their 1988 LP "Operation: Mindcrime" or their 1990 LP "Empire" and the singles from that LP, "Silent Lucidity" and "Jet City Woman". By then they had firmly established themselves in the prog metal genre; aspiring to be a sort of a metal version of Pink Floyd. But back in 1983, their sound was firmly rooted in the speed metal / NWBOHM and they had an almost Spinal Tap level of cliches: heavy metal umlaut? Check. Stylized, neo-gothic font? Check. Nazi-exploitation reference? Check. D&D / Manichean themed lyrics? Check. All those things seem silly in 2009 but boy, were they cool in 1983. We wore out our respective copies of this EP.

The production is high-quality (for the time, and especially for a low budget first release) and the songs are very heavy -- much heavier than their later material. In retrospect, "The Lady Wore Black" is an indication of their future sound, but at the time I just thought it was a really heavy power ballad, similar to Metallica's "Fade to Black". And how about the first 30-40 seconds of "Queen of the Reich"?! Great stuff. Of course, the lyrics then begin with "In the dead of night / She'll come and take you away / Searing beams of light and thunder / Over blackened plains / She will find her way". You can't help but think of Marty DiBergi quoting the review of "Intravenous de Milo": "...they are treading water in a sea of retarded sexuality and bad poetry."

In 1984, Queensryche's first full-length LP, "The Warning", came out and it was good (I bought the cassette of that), but it was clearly moving away from the NWOBHM sound and toward prog metal. Although it was not as heavy as their first EP, it was still pretty good. Then "Rage for Order" came out in 1986 (I still have that on vinyl) and it **sucked**. Whew, it was a-w-f-u-l. And that was pretty much the end of my Queensryche era. I recognized that "Operation: Mindcrime" and "Empire" were decent LPs, but I was done with them. However, I'd be lying if I said I didn't still enjoy "Queensryche".

Standout tracks: "Queen of the Reich", "Nightrider", "Blinded", "The Lady Wore Black".

Skip 'em tracks: none. (Note: when the EP was reissued in 1989, a "Rage for Order" outtake, "Prophecy" was included, but there were no skip 'em tracks on the original four song version.)

Final score: 9/10. In the mid 80s, I would have given this a 10/10. I still think it rawks, but I don't think it is ground-breaking enough to deserve top marks.

(Anti-)Bonus Links: There are official videos for "Queen of the Reich" and "Nightrider". I don't recall these videos from back in the day -- or perhaps I've just blacked out that memory. The videos are terrible, and I'm pretty sure I would have even thought they were terrible in 1983. You will regret watching them.

1 comment:

  1. Michael, you're the man! Thanks for a wonderful article.

    I remember long ago finding that 1st Queensryche EP in the Metal section of Mother's record store in the Coliseum Mall (Newport News, VA). It only had 4 songs on it and was cheap ($3.50?)! I didn't have much cash on me and on a whim, I bought it. Who would have known it was to be one of the best impulse-buy's I would ever succumb to...

    This band and maybe Def Leppard (On through the Night and High & Dry) were my gateway bands to heavier groups notably Metallica, Dio, Priest and my all time favorite - Iron Maiden (Up the Irons!!!). Mike opened my eyes to many other great bands like The Blood, Motorhead, and Black Sabbath.

    Back to Queensryche... Geoff Tate's souring vocals coupled with Chris DeGarmo and Jack Wilton's dual Iron Maiden-like guitar solos made a huge impression on me. I still, to this day, consider Queenryche's on-stage performance as one of the best I've ever seen. Geoff sounds as good in concert as he does on vinyl.

    It's too bad that their first video appearance was so... um... bad, lol. It had an 80's cheese-factor that rivaled many other glam-hair bands. Note that Geoff's hair back then was NOT meant for this genre! I was glad when he decided to just shave it all off as it was a much better look for him.

    Thanks, again, Mike for the trip down memory lane!