Lead off track ‘In Extremis’ with its monstrously catchy chorus and memorable lead guitar lines is a solid slab of infectious timeless metal. Setting a high bar for the remainder of the record, the song is especially notable in that Todd La Torre’s powerful power-metal-esque vocal performance has as little to do with aping his predecessor as it ever has.
The band, now consisting of La Torre along with original members Michael Wilton (guitar) and Eddie Jackson (bass), reinstated guitarist Mike Stone, and newcomer Casey Grillo (drums), are firing on all cylinders on this record. From the skintight groove of ‘Lost in Sorrow’ to the atmospheric mid-tempo riffage of ‘Nocturnal Light,’ they do an admiral job of injecting fresh ideas without straying too far from their roots. The modern in-your-face production can be fatiguing but works overall and contributes to the record’s contemporary edge.
While not a concept record per se, ‘Digital Noise Alliance’ was written and assembled in the shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic. Lyrically as such, it taps into feelings brought on by what Wilton calls “being left to your inner abandons.” The narrative focus is on the plight of modern man in an almost dystopian society that struggles to keep up with technology, with the introspective feelings of fear and loneliness, and the fight to find meaning in the chaos.
The gentle ‘Forest’ taps into the ethereal, classic rock-influenced sound perfected on ‘Silent Lucidity. While La Torre turns in an excellent performance, it becomes clear that his lower register is an altogether different animal than Geoff Tate’s, and highlights how crucial Tate’s croon was to some of the band’s biggest hits. An unusual choice for a single, the song and it’s sentimental “I’m not crying, you’re crying” music video are unexpected successes.
Queensrÿche Mark II’s ability to interject modern flourishes into their classic sound is their secret weapon on Digital Noise Alliance. ‘Chapters,’ a song that balances classic harmonized lead guitars with dark and “grungy” vocal harmonies, stands as a clear example of this effective amalgam of influences.
Elsewhere, the moody “noire” synth textures of ‘Sicdeth’s’ intro give way to aggressive riffage reminiscent of the band’s first EP. The aggressive vocal delivery of the verses is balanced by solid chorus melodies, a memorable guitar break, and a hazy mid-song breakdown. And the progressive ‘Behind the Walls’ combines NWOBHM grooves and harmonized guitars with 70s referencing interludes thick with Moog synths, and the stuttering riffs of a shout-along chorus.
‘Digital Noise Alliance’ is a worthy successor to Queensrÿche’s highly regarded predecessor, 2019’s ‘The Verdict.’ They took full advantage of the long break in the touring cycle to craft a progressive and introspective record reminiscent of some of their strongest classic works.