New Soulbender Album On The Way!

SoulbenderCool! I liked the first one. And any day you get to hear Michael Wilton riffin’ is a good day.
PRESS RELEASE: Formed over a decade ago in Seattle, Washington, “Soulbender” is comprised of Queensrÿche guitarist Michael Wilton, vocalist Nick Pollock (My Sister’s Machine), guitarist Dave Groves (ex-Tin Pan/Fallen Angel) and drummer Wes Hallam (ex-Assault/Fallen Angel). SOULBENDER II contains four all new songs (Turn Anger up, Shoal, Slave To Reality, Seraphim) as well as the ten original tracks (remastered) from the first album (Fix Me, Clockwork and Compass, Rabbit Hole, The American Dream, Samsara, Prime Time, Shoot Poem, This Ocean, Hunger, Three Towers). Michael Wilton describes Soulbender as “a very progressive, hard rock band with very intense musicians and a couple of the members are prodigies”. Official release date for Soulbender is September 30, 2014. Pre-Order Now At: www.ratpakrecords.com/michaelwilton

New Queensryche Song – Where Dreams Go To Die

QueensrycheAah, now this is cool! Check out the video below to hear another new Queensryche song, called Where Dreams Go To Die, which features a classic QR twin-guitar attack, complete with cool clean-toned verses, harmony lines and all that other fun stuff you expect from a Queensryche track. And of course it’s always great to hear Michael Wilton’s heavy rhythm work, but I’m really digging the renewed sense of vigour in Scott Rockenfield’s drumming. Scott Rock has long been one of my favourite drummers and he sounds really free and energised here. Can’t wait to hear the rest of the album! Queensryche’s self-titled album – the first with Todd La Torre on vocals – will be released on June 25. Pre-order it here. Read More …

New Queensryche song – ‘Redemption’

Check out the new song ‘Redemption,’ the first full track released by Queensryche from their forthcoming album in the video below. Just to be clear, that’s the Todd La Torre-fronted version of the band featuring original members Michael Wilton, Scott Rockenfield and Eddie Jackson along with Parker Lundgren. Geoff Tate’s version of Queensryche is also releasing an album soon, but… okay, Geoff, I quite liked both your solo albums, but… preview clips from the Tate version’s forthcoming album Frequency Unknown are available on iTunes, and how do I say this…

no-sir-I-dont-like-it

The Wilton/Rockenfield/Jackson/Lundgren/La Torre version’s new stuff though… well… let’s let it speak for itself. Turn up yer speakers and dig into this:

Queensryche – Tate’s out, Todd’s in.


So by now you’ve probably heard the news: Geoff Tate and Queensryche have parted ways, and the remaining members – briefly known as Rising West for two shows in Seattle recently – will continue as Queensryche with Todd La Torre on vocals.

As a fan of both Tate and Queensryche, I feel both bummed out and excited by the news. I’m sad to see an effective end called to one of my favourite bands. Queensryche always meant a lot to me, especially Promised Land, for many reasons – Tate’s vocals, his lyrical intelligence and creativity, the band’s overall sense of melody, the rhythmic interplay, and of course great guitar work. I always respected the band’s earlier, more metal days, but for me Queensryche were at their best when they were pushing and pulling between their heavier sounds and their more melodic side. Check out the song “Open” on the overlooked Tribe album or “Right Side Of My Mind” from Q2K for examples of what I mean. Yeah, my view on Queensryche is not the popular one (Y’know, “Everything after Mindcrime/Empire/Promised Land/Hear In The Now Frontier [select one depending on which came out when you were still a teenager] sucked”), but as a listener all you can do is respond to what affects you emotionally, and there it is.

But as someone who really liked Geoff Tate’s solo album, I’m also excited by this outcome. Tate will now be free to explore whatever it is he wants to do as a solo artist, without clashing against the idea of what Queensryche is – an idea held by fans, his former bandmates and maybe even Tate himself. There seemed to be a definite disconnect between what Queensryche as a collective wanted to do and what fans would let them do. But now the fans who wanted the older, heavier stuff will be happy, and the fans who followed Tate beyond Operation: Mindcrime into Empire, Promised Land and the like may just find something they can connect with on Tate’s forthcoming solo album (which he has referred to as hard rock with progressive influences). And the rest of the guys will be free to play the heavier stuff and to create new material in that vein. And fans who liked both the earlier heavy material and the later stuff might just have two cool bands to follow now instead of one. I’m certainly looking forward to hearing what Michael Wilton gets up to now that he’s being freed up to write heavier Queensryche material again.

By the way, Geoff, if you need a guitarist to do a  Promised Land 20th Anniversary tour in 2014… *cough*

Rising West: 4/5 of Queensryche form new band


There have been rumours of dyschord within Queensryche for a while, with reports that the rest of the band aren’t so comfortable with some of the creative decisions of Geoff Tate (the Cabaret tours, cruise ship gigs, Dedicated To Chaos, etc). So it’s no big surprise that four of the band’s members – guitarists Michael Wilton and Parker Lundgren, drummer Scott Rockenfield and bass player Eddie Jackson – have decided to form another band while Tate works on his next solo album. What is a surprise is that the singer they’ve chosen is Todd La Torre of Crimson Glory, who is capable of perhaps the most spot-on Geoff Tate impersonation I’ve ever heard.

See?

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Speaking of cool new ESPs…

So you saw the new ESP stuff in this post? Well here’s another that I really like:

That’s an ESP Eclipse-II in Silver Sparkle finish. And while it’s not completely identical, it rather reminds me of the Eclipse that Queensryche’s Michael Wilton used in this video:

In fact, it’d only really take a few minor inexpensive cosmetic changes – pickup rings, selector switch surround, that sort of thing – to turn this new Eclipse-II into your own version of that super-cool Wilton axe, if you so desired.

And, as we all know, silver burst guitars are more metal than anything else. Even black guitars. So check this out. It’s another Eclipse-II:

NAMM 2012: new ESP models

Lots of cool stuff coming from ESP in 2012, including an entirely new Kirk Hammett signature model shape, ditto for Slayer’s Jeff Hannemann, a Michael Wilton (Queensryche) acoustic, killer sigs for Suicide Silence, Whitechapel and Unearth, and some wild new finishes.

Here are some highlights from ESPguitars.com:

Whitechapel sigs

Nearly everyone in the entire band Whitechapel got new LTD Signature Series models for 2012. The LTD AW-7 (Alex Wade) is a 7-string model based on the M Series, with a neck-thru-body design, alder body with flamed maple top with a Blood Red Sunburst finish. The guitar also features DiMarzio pickups and a fixed bridge with string-thru-body and locking tuners. The LTD BS-7 (Ben Savage) is a 7-string custom version of the MH Series guitar, with a neck-thru-body design, a See Thru Black finish on an alder body with flamed maple top, a teardrop-shaped headstock, maple fingerboard, EMG active pickups, Floyd Rose bridge, and locking tuners. Zach Householderʼs new signature model, the LTD ZH-7, is also a 7-string guitar based on the MH Series. It features a mahogany body with quilted maple top with a See Thru Black Satin finish, large block inlays, EMG active pickups, a Tonepros bridge, and locking tuners. Bassist Gabe Crisp also gets a signature model with the LTD GC-4, a customized Viper bass with neck-thru body design, a mahogany brown finish, ebony fingerboard and an EMG pickup set.

New Kirk Hammett models

Celebrating his 25th year as an ESP player, Metallicaʼs Kirk Hammett has three new models for you. The ESP KH-DC and LTD KH-DC are a brand new double-cutaway body style based on the Eclipse/EC, with a set neck design at 24.75” scale, and an attractive STBC (See Thru Black Cherry) finish on its flamed maple top. Like other EC models, the guitar offers a mahogany body and mahogany neck, with a rosewood fingerboard. The KH-DC features gold hardware, including gold-covered EMG 81 (bridge) and EMG 60 (neck) active pickups, and a Tonepros locking TOM bridge and tailpiece. The ESP version of the new Kirk Hammett model includes Sperzel locking tuners, while the LTD version offers ESP locking tuners.

The limited-edition LTD KH-25 has black distressed finish and graphics designed to emulate Kirkʼs famous KH-2 Vintage model. The KH-25 has bolt-on construction at 25.5″ scale, with a basswood body, maple neck, and a Floyd Rose Special bridge. The guitar also features ESPʼs new ALH-200 active pickups.

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REVIEW: Queensryche – American Soldier

Every time a new Queensryche album is released, the wider rock/metal community asks “Is it as good as Operation: Mindcrime or Empire?” To me this is kind of a futile question: Queensryche have never made the same album twice, and even when they try, as with the recent Operation: Mindcrime II, the results still stand on their own. So there are a lot of things American Soldier is not. It’s not Empire, their 1990 hard rock classic. It’s not Operation: Mindcrime, their 1988 metallic concept masterpiece. It’s not Hear In The Now Frontier, which upon its release in the mid 90s was criticised as being a cynical attempt at appropriating a grunge sound (today it holds up quite well, I might add). But surprisingly, what American Soldier is, is an album which would slip in quite nicely between Empire’s heavier moments and the moody, dark vibe of Promised Land, which happens to be my favourite Queensryche album.

Inspired by a conversation with his father, singer Geoff Tate researched the album by interviewing veterans of various wars the US has been involved in, from World War II up to the current skirmish in Iraq and Afghanistan. The result is a thoroughly researched, painfully up-close look at the experience of war, spoken through Tate’s interpretations and through snippets of the actual interview recordings. Writing about war is certainly not new to hard rock or metal, but while we’re used to bands writing something Slayeresque about battle after maybe watching Saving Private Ryan, the music and delivery of American Soldier is much more personal: you’re hearing these stories from people who actually did it, from the soldiers who actually survived it. And that’s a pretty powerful thing, even for Queensryche who are used to making strong statements.

The Jason Slater-produced (with Kelly Gray) CD opens with ‘Sliver,’ which brings to mind elements of Promised Land. A snaking unison bass/guitar riff and a huge harmonised chorus appear quite early into the song, throwing the listener deep into the thick of the album’s overall vibe almost from the very beginning. It’s no doubt designed to introduce the listener to the album musically as well as thematically, and to reassure the listener that the medium (kickass rock) won’t be overshadowed by the message. In fact there’s a great push-pull between riff-based and chord-based songs on the album.

Track two, ‘Unafraid,’ is one of the album highlights for me, and a continuation of some of the musical concepts the band attempted on its Tribe album. There are a few riffs which may remind some listeners of Dream Theater, while sole guitarist Michael Wilton lets rip with one of his best solos since the Empire days. ‘Hundred Mile Stare’ is more chordal than riffy, and again sounds kinda like something from Tribe. It’s indicative of about half the music on the album, where the music hangs back a bit to serve the telling of the story.

Perhaps my favourite song on the album from a musical perspective is the crushing ‘A Dead Man’s Words,’ which really plays up the Promised Land comparisons. The seductive middle-eastern riffs and scales play in the background while Tate layers his vocals and even throws in a saxophone solo. Parts of this song may also remind some listeners of the band’s Seattle neighbours Alice In Chains.

By the way, check out the cool harmonized solo in ‘The Killer,’ a track which is not too far removed from ‘Flood,’ the opening track of Tate’s self-titled solo album. Wilton does a great job of shifting the emphasis between the high and low harmonies in this solo, recalling Queensryche’s earlier sound and providing a moment of satisfaction for those who just wish the band would stick with its Mindcrime sound.

The single ‘If I Were King’ has thrown some listeners, but in the context and pacing of the album it works well. It may not have been my choice for first single but I can understand why it was selected: while it’s not overly indicative of the musical style of the album as a whole, it’s a good thematic introduction. And although this puts me at odds with some QR fans, I really liked their Q2K album and this track is a bit of a reminder of that sound (and it’s no coincidence, given that American Solider includes production and guitar contributions from Gray, who was with the band for Q2K). But once again, those who may be put off the album by the sound of this single needn’t worry: American Soldier is more riffy, dark and intense than this one track would indicate. 

‘If I Were King’ is followed by the powerful and very very loud ‘Man Down!’ which has a huge drum sound and a bed of evolving, churning guitars. There’s also another harmonized Wilton solo which once again recalls the Mindcrime sound without directly copying it.

In ‘Home Again,’ Tate plays the role of a father who is overseas on duty, while his 10-year-old daughter Emily Tate voices the little girl at home, missing her dad. The song is played out as letters back and forth between father and daughter, both saying pretty much the same things to each other while thousands of miles apart. I’m sure that somewhere not too far below the surface the two Tates are drawing parallels between Geoff being off on tour, and a parent being away at war. Emily’s naïve voice expresses the song’s central sentiment in a realistic and naturalistic way which cuts through in a way that perhaps a more theatrical vocalist couldn’t. Finally, American Soldier is capped off with ‘The Voice,’ which includes recordings of Tate’s own father talking about his experiences at war. Musically it’s another strong song, but thematically it’s devastating: a wounded soldier is laying wounded, thinking what may be a dialog with a higher power, or their conscience, or perhaps the distant ghost of comforting memories.

American Soldier may very well be Queensryche’s best moment since Promised Land, and the way the band is handling the marketing of the album is very sensitive and true to the message. Those looking for another Empire may be disappointed, but those with an open mind who are looking to be moved and rocked will have their heart torn by the narrative, and their butts thoroughly kicked by the music.

CLICK HERE to buy American Soldier from Amazon.com

Photos (c) Greg Watermann