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*
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.
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:
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.
Queensryche have never done what was expected of them. They pioneered progressive metal with the legendary concept album Operation: Mindcrime but followed it up with the pop-metal blockbuster Empire. Then they followed Empire with the dark, moody Promised Land. They finally released a sequel to Operation: Mindcrime in 2006, and followed that up with American Soldier, a heavy, intense journey into to horrors of war, both physical and emotional, culled from interviews with actual returned servicemen. New album Dedicated To Chaos (Roadrunner) is a complete about-face from American Soldier, a rhythm-driven, kaleidoscopic examination of modern attention spans (or the lack thereof).
Drummer Scott Rockenfield and bass player Eddie Jackson kickstarted the direction of the album when they turned in a series of riffs and jams that were a world away from the guitar-driven darkness of American Soldier. “That’s what makes it interesting and keeps us coming back for more as musicians,” says singer Geoff Tate, down the line at 2am Melbourne time. “In fact, one of the things that drew us together years ago when we first started out was the ability for almost everyone in the band to really communicate their thoughts on music, and to share their musical influences, which are pretty vast. I think if you look at all of our record collections we probably own every record ever made! I personally own seven or eight thousand records!”
After the pervasive darkness of Operation: Mindcrime II and American Soldier, it’s understandable that Queensryche would feel like exploring a lighter vibe on Dedicated To Chaos. Whereas the previous two releases were particularly guitar-driven, Chaos is built around riffs turned in by drummer Scott Rockenfield and bass player Eddie Jackson, and adorned with layers of sound that only seem to reveal themselves on repeated listens.
“Get Started” is a suitably uptempo opener which recalls some of the vibe of 2000′s Q2K, with bright overdriven rhythm guitars and up-front drums, and the quiet verse/loud chorus dynamic is not entirely removed from the structures of Empire. But before long the album moves more into groove-heavy territory. At times sounding like a heavier version of singer Geoff Tate’s 2002 solo album
Recently I had the pleasure of interviewing Geoff Tate, vocalist for Queensryche (who just happen to be one of my favourite bands). Queensryche is about to release a bold new album called Dedicated To Chaos (via Roadrunner), and the ever-eloquent Mr. Tate took some time out to talk about the album’s unique direction and the changing way that listeners consume music.
Here’s a snippet.
Queensrÿche have an extremely varied back catalog – it all sounds like Queensrÿche but no two albums sound like each other.
In our stuff, we’re kind of a difficult band for a lot of people. We try really hard to stay out of categories and genres, and we don’t think of ourselves as anything other than Queensrÿche. We don’t attach ourselves or our thinking or identity to any genre. But the industry is kinda built around selling a genre. So record companies have a difficult time with us because we don’t fit neatly into a little package that they can market. We’re always experimenting with our music and pushing it in different ways, adding our musical influences into our writing. A lot of times people find that frustrating. They don’t see the art in it, which is beyond me, because that’s what I always look for in music. I see music as being strictly art. It’s not a competitive sport.
You can read the full interview here. Dedicated To Chaos is out on June 24 or 28 depending on which territory you’re in.
Queensryche’s new album, Dedicated To Chaos, will be released through Roadrunner/Loud & Proud on June 28. Here’s the cover and tracklisting.
01. Get Started
02. Hot Spot Junkie
03. Got It Bad
04. Around The World
06. Retail Therapy
07. At The Edge
09. Hard Times
11. I Believe
13. Wot We Do
14. I Take You
15. The Lie
16. Big Noize