Consider my jaw well and truly dropped. I am a huge Queensryche fan and have been so for twenty years, which is why it had been so heartbreaking to see their star fade to much in recent years thanks to a shift ever further away from the sound that garnered them their legendary status.
Internal turmoil amidst the band came to a head finally with the firing of vocalist Geoff Tate, a split which has resulted in two bands existing with the Queensryche name (this one and a new one fronted by Tate with a new backing band). This album is by the regular Queensryche musicians with their stunning new vocalist, Todd La Torre.
Some would call this version of the band the 'real' Queensryche, and on the strength of this frankly brilliant album, it's pretty hard to argue otherwise. Geoff Tate may have been the recognisable voice of the band, but now La Torre is at the microphone, it is clear that the band has always been about more than just Tate's voice. The music sounds 100% like classic Queensryche while Todd's voice fluctuates between sounding very much like Tate in his heyday and Todd's own style. It's an approach which works absolutely perfectly.
The songs are the best to bear the Queensryche name since the iconic “Operation: Mindcrime” and “Empire” albums. “Where Dreams Go To Die” is an instant classic from the revitalised band, while “Spore”, “In This Light” and “Redemption” carry all of the hallmarks of the band's trademark sound while adding a new and very uplifting dimension.
They genuinely sound like they have been given a new lease of life with the exit of Tate and the addition of La Torre, whose voice is nothing short of stunning. This eponymous album feels like a new beginning, but it also sounds very much like a direct follow-up to “Empire” with a contemporary twist.
Tracks like “A World Without” demonstrate just how much the band is capable of, its dark and dramatic chorus a perfect example of the music of Queensryche both then and now. The theatrical element that has always been a part of their sound is there in spades throughout the first half and latter songs “Don't Look Back” and “Fallout”. The album ends with the epic grandeur of “Open Road”, and while it' a grand song, it comes far too soon.
At just 35 minutes long the album feels too short. Not rushed, just not enough of it. That's the only quibble I have. One edition of the album comes with bonus live tracks, which would help, but it feels like the studio album itself needs one more song to make it truly a masterpiece. That said, even with the short running time, the album is absolutely, utterly essential. A magnificent return to form.