Hail to the Queensryche5/4/2016
Queensryche has been through the ringer the past few years. After a very public and ugly parting of ways between the band and founding lead singer Geoff Tate, the hiring of new frontman Todd La Torre and a bizarre year-and-a-half period where Tate formed his own lineup that he also called Queensryche, 2015 felt like a welcome return to normalcy for the Seattle-area five-piece.
It is no small coincidence that 2015 was also the year the band released “Condition Human,” Queensryche’s second album with La Torre at the mic, and the second straight album to receive overwhelmingly positive reviews after a string of lukewarm albums through the ‘00s.
With 2013’s self-titled release being hailed as a return to the band’s metal roots, “Condition Human” continued in that vein, giving fans more of what they wanted: a hard driving, melodic metal-tinged, old-school Queensryche album.
“This producer (Chris Harris) is a fan of the first five or six albums of Queensryche,” said founding guitarist Michael Wilton. “He wanted to bring back the way that the writing was from that time period but keep it more modern sounding. We had a talk, and that’s basically how it went. As far as getting to the old roots, that part was easy, because that’s us. That’s me and Eddie (Jackson) and Scott (Rockenfield).”
“Queensryche” was hailed as a long-awaited return to form, but “Condition Human” is the closest the band has ever come to reproducing the musical brilliance of 1988’s “Operation: Mindcrime.” To get there, the band spent a lot of time in studio, working with Harris to fine-tune the album, track by track. La Torre’s vocals and lyrical input have helped keep the band from sounding too much like an ‘80s holdover, while the band’s trademark duel lead guitar work remains intact.
“The songwriting goes in all different directions,” Wilton said of writing the guitar sections. “The main riff could be a dual solo, then there could be some little addendum dual solos after. That’s been our signature sound, but you never know how that’s going to go. When you’re talking about double solos, you’re really talking about harmonies. You’re talking about finding ways to blend. A lot of it is based on experience and just knowing how our guitars work together.”
But long-time Queensryche fans know what to expect from Wilton and fellow guitarist Parker Lundgren. Going into the self-titled album, however, it was La Torre that was the unknown component. Not only has he assuaged everyone’s fears with his work on the past two albums, but Wilton says he has helped reinvigorate Queensryche’s live shows as well.
“He was a welcome addition to the band,” Wilton said of La Torre. “We have the energy on stage that the fans are seeing, and it’s bringing back the historic sound of Queensryche. The addition has been totally positive. We’re giving respect to Queensryche with the three original guys, and it’s a new, welcome addition to our sound having Todd’s voice there.”
With the fresh jolt of energy, things are looking up for the band, having recorded some of its best, most complete music in nearly 30 years and bringing a ton of energy to the live shows. Wilton feels like the band still has plenty in the tank and much more to say on future albums.
“When you’re a band again — which we are — the energy flows,” he said. “There’s lots of inspiration. We’re always being inspired to write new music. It’s all about how you build it and evolve. That’s what makes it a fun, exciting time to be in the band.” CV