In the thirty five years since their debut album was released, Queensryche have had string of successful records and enough turmoil within the band to garner their own episode of Behind the Music. Line up changes and lawsuits over the band name and catalog have shaken this group to the core, including the departure of legendary vocalist Geoff Tate. But with their latest record, The Verdict, Queensryche prove that they can maintain their classic sound with this new iteration of the band.
The Verdict is the third studio album with Todd La Torre on vocals and the fourth studio album with Parker Lundgren on guitar, replacing longtime vocalist Geoff Tate and lead guitarist Chris DeGarmo. Often, lineup changes like the ones Queensryche endure would kill a band or simply divide the fan base. Fortunately, this iteration of the band returns to their signature sound of radio friendly progressive hard rock, similar to their classic album, Empire.
Opening with the blistering “Blood of the Levant,” the first half of the album is reminiscent of the band’s self titled debut record, with speed and ferocity exploding from my stereo’s speakers. In fact, songs like “Man the Machine” sounded so much like early Queensryche that I found myself listening to the “Queen of the Reich” from the debut album just to compare the similarities between the two eras, despite being three decades apart. Special attention needs to be paid to Todd La Torre’s performance on this record. He sounds so much like Geoff Tate, that I had trouble discerning between the two singers when comparing their songs side by side. The only glaring difference between La Torre’s and Tate’s vocals would be their high pitched falsettos that each singer utilizes. La Torre isn’t able to reach the higher octaves like Tate can, but this doesn’t detract from the recognizable feel of the band’s sound. This familiarity can als be credited to the remaining original members; bassist Eddie Jackson, drummer Scott Rockenfield, and guitarist Michael Witton, who transitioned from rhythm guitar to lead after DeGarmo’s departure. It’s clear that these guys were the heart of the band, and their ability to recreate their signature sound without DeGarmo and Tate is a testament to their talent and creativity.
Though The Verdict kicks off with a fast and intense feel, the second half of the album is what Queensryche fans need to listen to. Featuring powerful, mid tempo rockers like “Dark Reverie,” “Bent,” and “Portrait” recall the sound of the band’s best selling and most popular albums, Operation: Mindcrime and Empire. Soaring guitar solos interspersed with thundering drum patterns and melodic choruses, this second half of the album showcases each member’s individual talents within the collective without ever overshadowing one another. It’s clear that these five musicians love playing music with each other and set out to make the best album that they could.
Though not perfect, The Verdict continues the evolution of this new era of Queensryche and proves that like ACDC and Van Halen did, a band can change core members and still create amazing music under the same name without sacrificing the band’s legacy. And if this is the quality of the work that this new era of Queensryche is capable of, I can’t wait wait to see what else this band has in store for the next thirty years of their career.