An eponymously titled album is somewhat unusual this late into a bands' career and will typically signify that the band in question is, despite all excuses and comments to the contrary, simply out of any new ideas - as reflected in the lack of title along with the lack of songwriting.
This could not be farther from the truth in the case of Queensrÿche - an album containing some of the best music the band has produced in over 15 years.
The drama surrounding the ousting of Geoff Tate is quickly becoming the stuff of legend and is really not worth rehashing here. For the uninitiated, understand that there are currently two bands with the name of Queensrÿche that consumers have to choose from. In one corner, we have a band featuring original vocalist Geoff Tate and a band of well-known seasoned veterans. And in this corner, we have original members Scott Rockenfeld, Michael Wilton and Eddie Jackson with new vocalist Todd La Torre. It's fitting that they have decided to give this album the same name as their debut e.p. released 30 years ago because they sound just as hungry as they did back in 1983.
After a brief instrumental battle cry to set the mood, Queensrÿche storms the gates with "Where Dreams Go To Die", a track that could very easily have been a "look at how awesome our new singer is" with all manner of vocal wankery, but the band is smarter than that, giving us a subtle introduction to La Torre, with a slowly building crescendo. With the level of musicianship Queensrÿche has always shown, they could just have easily rested on their laurels and try to let the name do all the work......
....but there's something to be said for a band that plays like they have something to prove, even when they don't. It's difficult not to draw obvious comparisons here, and while this writer is not above that sort of lazy chicanery (see: all other reviews), the material on this album is so strong and works so well on its own merits, that to do so would be disrespectful to the music.
It would seem that La Torre has given them a new lease on life - his dynamic vocals lend extra heft to the point Queensrÿche is trying to make and long-time fans can rest easy knowing that his vocals are more than equipped to handle the band's substantial back catalog in a live setting.
The production duties have been delegated to James Barton, the man responsible for knobbing* the bands' most celebrated albums, Operation: Mindcrime and Empire. Barton does a great job here - giving the album a rich, vibrant sound that's fully deserving of the material.
Parker Ludgren and Michael Wilton are both firing on all cylinders and you would be hard-pressed to think of a Queensrÿche album where the guitars have sounded more concordant since the DeGarmo days, particularly on tracks like "Spore" and "Redemption".
The battle for the Queensrÿche name rages on in the courts at least until November and in the meantime the court of public opinion appears to be still in session. Over the coming months, one Queensrÿche will be seen as the only original and one will be the doppelgänger. I have made my decision which is which and you will, too.
*a new term I've just invented for the engineering of a record that is already invalid, as it is meant to signify the knobs of an analog soundboard that no longer exist.