Tuesday 19 March 2019

Album Review: QUEENSRŸCHE - The Verdict

01. Blood Of The Levant
02. Man The Machine
03. Light-Years
04. Inside Out
05. Propaganda Fashion
06. Dark Reverie
07. Bent
08. Inner Unrest
09. Launder The Conscience
10. Portrait

The Verdict is the third Queensrÿche studio album to feature lead singer Todd La Torre, and more notably the first without drummer Scott Rockenfield, leaving guitarist Michael Wilton and bassist Eddie Jackson as the only original band members on this release. Loads of bands have major line-up changes, especially ones that have been around as long as Queensrÿche. However, the highly publicised firing of original singer Geoff Tate and the real-time circus that followed for what felt like a lifetime, shrouded this band in drama. The mystery surrounding Scott's place in the band and who the new drummer is, seemed to create more online debate regarding the authenticity of this version of Queensrÿche. This appeared to overshadow any hype for the music. Days before the album's release it was revealed that Scott is still officially a band member but is taking time away from the band, and the drums were played by lead singer Todd La Torre.

I think it's easy to forget how shit Queensrÿche had become since the mid-nineties. When the original guitarist Chris DeGarmo quit in 1997, everything went tits up. Most of the classic Queensrÿche songs that made them an international success were written by Chris DeGarmo and Geoff Tate, so his departure had a marked effect on the band's output. Geoff Tate appeared to have taken the role of band dictator, publicly talked down the band's early and much-loved Metal released, and steered them into a more alternative direction. In all honesty, they lost their way and their albums just weren't very good.

After the nasty divorce, the addition of Todd La Torre really breathed new life into the band. Admittedly, Todd sounds a lot like Geoff did back in the 80's, but the difference is that Todd can sing the back catalogue and make it look easy, while Geoff's voice has clearly suffered over time. Queensrÿche also went back to their Metal roots, bringing back some sorely missed early classics to the live set, and releasing new material in a similar vein. They gave the majority of their fans what they wanted, and it paid dividends.

The Verdict carries on the same path as the previous two records. It's modern, progressive, technical and has a similar spirit to the early and much loved Queensrÿche albums. What makes it a little different is that The Verdict is the heaviest Queensrÿche album so far, making it sound more contemporary.

The playing is top-level as always, and Todd's vocals are something else. Those high notes he hits on the opener Blood of the Levant quickly banishes his critics and proves that Todd is easily one of the best Metal singers in the world right now. His drumming is pretty damn good too!

The whole band sounds revitalised on The Verdict. It's a technical slab of modern Progressive Metal that keeps Queensrÿche on the top of the pile. I wouldn't say that there are any particular stand-out tracks, but there certainly aren't any bad ones either. The whole opus works very well from start to finish as a body of work.

My only real criticism of this La Torre era of the band is that they don't really have any anthemic commercial singles. There's nothing that's as insanely catchy as classics such as Eyes Of A Stranger, Jet City Woman or Walk In The Shadows. They're certainly going in the right direction, and this is just a minor gripe. A few years ago, I thought I'd never bother buying a new Queensrÿche album again, so the last three studio albums have been welcomed with open arms.


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