REVIEW: QUEENSRŸCHE – “The Verdict”
Queensrÿche’s long career is full of ups and downs, being for a period of time one of the best heavy/prog bands in the world and later on becoming a true shitfest thanks to a lot of wrong choices. Well, Geoff Tate is no longer a factor and longtime brothers Eddie Jackson (bass), Scott Rockenfield (drums, currently absent from the band) and Michael Wilton (guitars) recruited a healthier, younger mini-Tate in Todd La Torre (I know that he’s much more than that, don’t worry) and got back on their feet to do quality music once again since their “comeback” in 2013. Third album since these significant changes, ‘The Verdict’ will come out via Century Media Records on March 1st, 2019.
Well, that which falls can rise again, so I’m glad to say that if you’ve been missing the memos, Queensrÿche is good once more. Opener “Blood of the Levant” showcases the consolidation of a newly born band bringing some of the Seattle natives’ classic twin guitars, a properly cadenced and proggy kitchen and thunderous vocals by La Torre. The chorus changes pace marvelously and the whole track is a welcome mat.
“Man the Machine” speeds up things a bit, though not enough to lose that characteristic late 80’s Queensrÿche vibe, and offers some of the best vocal lines in the album. While it plays similarly to their new mix of sounding old and new at the same time, it feels organic and fresh.
“Light-years” and “Inside Out” borrow from the more prog-oriented side of the group and will please the ‘Promised Land’-era fans. Both have a good amount of quality between them, but it’s not until their choruses that they truly shine. Antagonizing those is “Propaganda Fashion”, which starts strong but loses steam in the bridge and chorus. The lyrics are acid and full of criticism, but the overall package is just not strong enough here.
The middle portion of the album holds the more emotional and epic tunes, making for a pretty well-balanced experience. “Dark Reverie” could be portrayed as a semi-ballad, but saying that could deceive the true nature of the song, which is very somber and…well, dark; this features the best solo in the effort and is also one of the few times that they make use of keyboards. This is a really good song.
Follow-up “Bent” continues the semi-ballad trend and, while less gloomy and more cheesy, provides solid ground and cool instrumental, especially with the duo Wilton- Parker Lundgren going at it in the guitar work.
The final part starting with “Inner Unrest” surprised me a bit, mainly in a good way. This particular track is probably an epitome of what Queensrÿche does best today in terms of songwriting and allying melodic heavy lines to their prog metal DNA. It’s intricate and intelligent, but unfortunately an acquired taste, as it doesn’t feature any sort of climax or catchy passages.
“Launder the Conscience” is somewhat more of the same, but once again pretty cool to listen to, but closer “Portrait” feels a little detached from the atmosphere built around the album. This is the true ballad of the album, and the bass-centered approach is interesting, but it just feels like a weird way to finish a decently energetic record.
These old dudes are packing quite a punch since they exorcised the bald ghost haunting them. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVED the band’s heydays with Tate – for god’s sake, I even have the band logo tattooed on my back – but something had to be done since they started playing crappy music in 1997. Gladly, this is the new Queensrÿche – a band that once again is playing from the heart and writing organic, pleasant music. So, all in all, what’s “The Verdict” here?
Well, ‘The Verdict’ is further proof that Queensrÿche is pretty much alive and kickin’ it, with some really strong, memorable moments. Like the other two efforts before, though, it has a few flaws here and there, which is completely normal for a band trying to regain prestige and confidence after almost 15 years of stumbling on themselves. This is quite similar to their self-titled album (2013) and ‘Condition Hüman’ (2015), but slightly superior quality-wise in my opinion; safe to say, then, that ‘The Verdict’ is their best album since ‘Promised Land’ (1994). Recommended.