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[page in the process of being converted from MP3 status to full status]

Class ?

Main Category: Heavy Metal
Also applicable: Prog Rock
Starting Period: The Divided Eighties
Also active in: From Grunge To The Present Day



Disclaimer: this page is not written from the point of view of a Queensryche fanatic and is not generally intended for narrow-perspective Queensryche fanatics. If you are deeply offended by criticism, non-worshipping approach to your favourite artist, or opinions that do not match your own, do not read any further. If you are not, please consult the guidelines for sending your comments before doing so. For information on reviewing principles, please see the introduction. For specific non-comment-related questions, consult the message board.

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Year Of Release: 1984

Power metal has this stupid drastic limitation - it either has to be done exceptionally well (with a big fat emphasis on 'exceptionally'), or better not be done at all. And lemme tell ya, it's dramatically hard to make an "exceptionally good" power metal record: when your guitars get all loud and crunchy and dark dark dark, you can't vary the tone much, and then there's only so much variety in your inventory of riffs and solos as well.

It only goes to show for The Warning: the quintessential power metal style was pretty much set in stone by Iron Maiden over the previous three years, and on here Queensryche's desire to play heavy metal, want it or not, automatically transforms into an implied desire to be Iron Maiden. The Warning actually wasn't their first offering: I haven't heard the debut EP from the previous year, simply titled Queensryche, but many people say that one was even more Maiden-style, so I guess I can imagine the sound of it.

In any case, there's nothing whatsoever that gets me excited about this record. Okay, so they did get Michael Kamen to provide orchestral arrangements for the songs, but these are only a few songs (most notably, the concluding epic 'Roads To Madness'), and I can't even hear the orchestration too well; it's pretty nothing compared to what they would achieve in this respect later. The two guitarists, Chris DeGarmo and Michael Wilton, are professional enough, but something tells me that the lack of flashy lightning-speed solos on this record means the "enough" is not nearly enough - I mean, what kind of a dumbass metal guitarist would refrain from showing off his speedy technique in the Eighties of all decades? Don't tell me these guys are modest or anything. If they were modest, vocalist Geoff Tate would better imitate Michael Stipe instead of trying to capture all the minor details of Bruce Dickinson's vocal style.

The songs themselves are pretty cruddy, too. Generic riffs, uninteresting solos, banal and boring lyrics (granted, I've heard much worse lyrics, from bands like Uriah Heep and so on, but even so, one look at the lyrics sheet was enough for me to never want to bother with Queensryche's apocalyptic blabbering again), and not even enough pure smashin' headbanging power. The melodies actually remind me very much of the bland power-chord-fest of Iron Maiden's Piece Of Mind, unsurprisingly the latest Iron Maiden album these guys must have heard before starting on the recording process. I can't even figure out an outstanding composition that would overshadow the rest - I guess technically it should be 'Roads To Madness', because it's the longest song and the one where you can actually hear the orchestration, but it doesn't really thrill me any more than the rest.

I mean, it's obvious that the guys were obsessed with Gregorian chant, Bach chorals and Rainbow, but excuse me if I say that Geoff Tate's pomposity pretty much spoils everything. Look, I had enough good words to say about Dio, who pretty much invented that type of heavy metal screeching, and I even had a few words to say about Bruce Dickinson, who at least has enough range in his throat to alternate his operatic yelling with a wolf-like aggression, but can I please pour some shit on Mr Tate, whose range is decent but who is eventually not worthy of sucking the big toes of either of those two guys? Thank you. I don't know why, but at times he sounds to me like a Dave Coverdale who's dropped all his dumb macho shit and instead turned to pretentious apocalyptic metal (even if the real Dave could never boast such vocal power).

Okay, I'll have to brace myself and namecheck at least a few of these songs, because otherwise this review will look really strange. Well, I guess 'NM 156' (some kind of Intelligent Anti-Utopian Statement # 86,462) is somewhat cool with its computerized vocals and complex structure. The power ballad 'Take Hold Of The Flame' is very well recorded and actually could be pretty decent with a different singer. And I guess that the riffs on 'En Force', 'Child Of Fire', and 'Before The Storm' aren't half bad per se, but they're really nothing I haven't already heard on any Iron Maiden album. Now don't you worry, these guys would eventually come into their own style, but this uninspired, hugely derivative effort just goes to show how for every decent musical invention, you'll always find a bunch of young and unexperienced dorks to fuck it up in a baaaaaad way. And now all you metalheads can come in and flame me for not noticing the interesting chord change in the second half of 'No Sanctuary' or the earnest passion in Mr Tate's voice as he bellows 'ride swift across the plain, don't you turn back, keep heed in your flame, kings with no mercy, this planet at war, torn from enchantment, this land forevermore'. Yeah, uh-huh, so I heard Uriah Heep described as honest, sincere, and only slightly naive knights of music with a brave flame in their heart. Sorry, I guess I'm immune to that kind of approach.



Year Of Release: 1986

You know, I could let this page be another clone of my Kansas/Uriah Heep-style venomous approach, but every time I listen to these goddamn Queensryche records I get the feeling there's a little something about them that doesn't allow me to make a complete laughing stock of the band. Right now I'm a-guessin' it might be the lyrics. I'm positively sure these guys were trying to be lyrically independent from the metal scene or the goth metal scene: it's not that the lyrics are good (well, occasionally they are), it's that they're kind of unusual for a metal band. This here album in particular explores the problem of personal relationships, for instance, relationships that take place not between a medieval princess and a three-headed dragon, and not even between the protagonist and his Alter Ego wielding a bloody scythe, but between, well, man and woman. That's positively "uncool" for a metal album, innit?

In every other respect this record totally sucks dick though. I've heard it called "original" and "weird" and even a "classic", but all I hear is a bunch of simplistic metal tunes which all look alike and are all equally pretentious. Granted, they don't want to sound like Iron Maiden anymore; too bad, because this makes them tone down the speed and "power" aspects and turn... oh gosh no... sentimental on our asses. Big Experimental Thang: there's lotsa keyboards on this album, you know, the Eighties Cheesy kind, and they're not used to carry across a hook, they're used to add Ominous Atmosphere. Wow, how weird.

Above all towers the vomit-inducing singing of Mr Tate, and... Okay, see, I forgot to add a disclaimer here. I forgot to tell you people I really really really really do not not not not like this overall approach. You might find guys like Bob Dylan or John Lennon terrible singers; I find guys like this Tate fella terrible singers. Sheez, sweet Jesus, he just about ruins everything he can ruin with his ridiculous operatic vibrato. Look, if you're going to sing like you belong in Wagner, then sing in Wagner! Or, I dunno, a really really smart complex opera-influenced band like Magma which can really pull off the pretensions. The thing is, Rage For Order is a plain simplistic album for metal standards of the time. Look at Iron Maiden, see how many times they shift signatures on an average epic of theirs, or see how many notes on average their riffs are incorporating. That music might be good or bad, whichever way you like it, but it is at least challenging. Rage For Order presents no challenge - if it does, I don't see where that challenge is. The only challenge I see is for me to be able to overcome the acute desire to evacuate my bowels which comes on harder and harder with every new scream emitted by this guy. Sorry, it's just way beyond me.

I count one interesting song on the entire album - 'Gonna Get Close To You'. That one doesn't sound much like metal in all. It incorporates industrial influences and features a mildly cool Eastern-sounding riff that, I presume, is produced by a guitar, right? With fun stalker lyrics and all, it's the most paranoid song on the album. The unfortunate surprise is that it's the only song not to actually be written by a Queensryche member, even if I have no clue who "Lisa Dal Bello" is.

Everything else is... well, not everything is rote: when you discuss each song on an individual level, there are (predictably) small bits and pieces that can be judged worthy. There are a few hooks here and there - 'Walk In The Shadows', for instance, has a memorable, if extremely corny and Iron Maiden-derivative chorus; and 'London', with just a little work, could be transformed into a really haunting epic. But see, I just don't see any real work at all. All I see is cheesy keyboards augmenting the ever-similar, ever-uninteresting metal riffs which just plain refuse to kick ass - and a metal riff that refuses to kick ass is not worthy of existence. C'mon guys, I know art-metal is a miserably limited genre, but surely there are ways to make the songs stand out from each other?

Oh! Oh yeah! I know why they call this album "weird". It's because 'Screaming In Digital' begins with these overdubbed laser effects and electronic whispering and then this Depeche Mode-like keyboard riff comes on and all the vocals are phased. And I seem to remember that in a couple other places Geoff Tate also used electronic devices to encode his vocals. More power to him - he sounds much more like a real human being with that encoding. But surely that by itself doesn't make the record "weird"? Unusual, yes, for a plain power metal album, but this is "art", right? Oughtn't we expect an inventive surprise in every song?

God, I am totally baffled there are actually people out there who give stuff like this 9 or 10 out of 10 and call it a "masterpiece". I know it's their right and all and they're probably nice people and I'm just a whiner, but I had to spill this out. In terms of adequacy, I'd rate it something like a -10 out of 10. I do acknowledge the goodness of the lyrics, though, otherwise I'd have to give it one star.


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