Queensrÿche - The Verdict

Queensrÿche The Verdict cover
The Verdict
Century Media Records
I will admit that when Queensrÿche released their second eponymous Todd LaTorre EP, the mere shock of listening to a different Queensrÿche, made me feel like the sun was rising West... and had me brushing aside the fact that it was a pretty cool and concentrated effort that rocked, missing the elusive “mega-hit” for the Todd era, something that still eludes the band – ie a huge signature Todd-tune, but being rather solid and enjoyable otherwise. “Condition Human” got things a bit too prog and murky making it a rather difficult album and a hard pill to swallow. For a band this far into their career and 3 albums with precariously little touring this side of the Atlantic, something had to give… enter “The Verdict”…
Is the verdict, what I was hoping to hear from the “new” Queensrÿche… ? Yes and no. Firstly, it the first release I feel, in which LaTorre really is comfortable to be himself, by often doing his own thing in the lower-mid/high registers, which differentiates him quite a bit from Tate golden era. He’s definitely a lot more metallic, but doesn’t lose his melodic side. If you’ve heard his own “solo material” that used to be on the net – while he was still in Crimson Glory, it’s also evident he’s really involved in the music, which has given it a new flavor. Musically, this album is probably consistent with the “new” era releases with small moments of genius that hint at different “old” eras styles, without sounding like cheap copies.
“Blood of the Levant” lands instantly with a heavy and hypnotic groove and a very critical lyric to the “war on terror / for oil” that isn’t afraid to even use lyrics in Arabic to get it’s point across, a bold move that differentiates “Ryche” from other bands – proving they’re still a thinking man’s band and not afraid to make a statement.
“Man the Machine” is another urgent, heavy but yet melodic track that could have been the Todd era “hit” that the band needs badly; it reaches up to a great bridge, breaks for a short lead, reaches a second critical point and then delivers a really nice chorus, but one that isn’t what would elevate the song to a new “Chemical Youth (We are Rebellion)”… it gets so close, but marginally fails to be that signature tune.
“Light-Years” is the reverse, a still heavy tune, with verses that don’t really make a mark and a spectacular, if not too melodic chorus. The solos don’t flow in that naturally, but they too are quite spectacular. Almost great, but not the whole cigar.
“Inside Out” had me think, Annihilator’s “Allison Hell” for two seconds, before going very “Promised Land” for a bit, then even becoming a bit more power-metal oriented, almost like a palindrome between “Promised Land” and “Empire”… it’s a little wonky, but I likey…
“Propaganda Fashion” is more modern sounding and experimental, a postmodern “Operation” wannabe that actually, does manage to sound quite sophisticated. It’s a bit too alt-for my old school tastes, but at least I get what they were trying to achieve.
Dark Reverie” is a sorrowful prog ballad, with Latorre lamenting and it’s about being down on your luck and drunk (making me think that this might or might not have been inspired by the late Midnight – could have been some personal experience or it could be fantasy as well). It’s one of the more sensational songs Queensrÿche have written during Todd’s era and it would have been perfect, if the guitar production didn’t fuzz it up a bit more than it should have.
Bent” gets things heavier and experiments with moods, part eastern, part heavy, part modern, always socially conscious. It veers off for a while at almost six minutes and doesn’t quite get all its ducks in a row, but it gets most (solo, chorus and more parts).
“Inner Unrest” begins in a very percussive and unusual way, but as soon as the riffage begins, it starts to make more sense, while it has a nice basis, it then seems to get stuck on a repetitive chorus that doesn’t quite cut it, thus undercutting itself.
“Launder the Conscience” seems Latorre, almost responding to his own lines, probably the only song where some phrasing of his reminded me of Tate’s enunciation. It’s a song that would have fit in a hypothetical “Operation: wecan’tsay-Mindcrime part 3” without being a hit, but neither would it have been a miss. Interesting, I think is an apt enough description. And it has this weird coda at the end that’s quite Theateresque, without bothering to be “that” technical, which leads it into “Portrait” an interesting, introspective song… not quite a ballad, but a sorrowful song that echoes the feeling of loss… it makes for a nice closes.
So, my verdict on “The Verdict”? The most valiant and worthy effort of Queensrÿche, since “Promised Land”. On par with “OM2” and “Tribe” but with a different slant. Queensrÿche is grand again (almost!) or at least starting to be truly relevant again.
They’ll need a bagful of choruses to really get close to their former magnificence and a slightly better production, but it’s nice to see they’re reaching a similar point as they did in the past. Their next album could really be a pivotal one! Until then, “The Verdict” is an album I will gladly dig out time and again.