I feel like I need to make something clear right off the bat. I am NOT in the Geoff Tate camp. He has released a couple of records since being toppled and bundled off from Queensryche. Between the two of them, there might be five songs that I would consider good. I don't want to make it a point to bash the guy, but it's hard to ignore the factious legal battles when you're reviewing a Queensryche album. In 2013, the remaining core band members officially moved on, releasing a self-titled affair that was met with mostly encomiastic flattery. I thought it was a step in the right direction. I mean, it didn't drive me wild, but I dug it alright. Last year's Condition Human, on the other hand, has been driving me wild since I (finally) bought it a few weeks back.
From my vantage point, it seems that they were merely gearing up with Queensryche, not to censure it altogether. This is the grand opus that longtime fans have been waiting to hear since 1988's Operation: Mindcrime. No, it's not a lofty concept piece that tells an intricate story, and I certainly don't want to oversell it. I simply love what the Q boys (not to be confused with my hair metal group Q*Boyz) are doing here musically. They have been designated as a progressive rock outfit since 1990's Empire, but this ragtime right here is metal. Even the more "commercial" tunes have a metallic backbone. Scott Rockenfield's drumwork is busier, the dual leads reek of Iron Maiden and vocal powerhouse Todd La Torre draws out a Halford-esque shriek every once in awhile.
Speaking of which, can we drop the comparisons to Tate? Too many standpat reactionaries wrote him off as a clone. I'm sorry, but the lead singer of Queensryche should pass for the lead singer of Queensryche. Besides, he isn't an exact replica. He does have his own kinks and vagaries. His melodies are infectious, and I fancy the way he tackles verses. That's an oddly specific thing to praise, I know. I won't fucking apologize for it! Michael Wilton and Parker Lundgren trade solos with artistry. The extended lead break in "Selfish Lives" is a ginormous wedge of sweetness. I kid you not, the tactful shredding in "Hellfire" brings Chuck Schuldiner to mind. DeGarmo? Who the hell is that?
'Twas just a joke. I'm a DeGarmo fan. Anyway, Condition Human is stacked with dynamics. "Arrow of Time" and "All There Was" will serve as your uptempo rippers for the evening. "Guardian" is - dare I say - heavy in a modern sense. It's not a fucking deathcore song, but it packs a number of headbob moments that will test your neck muscles. "Bulletproof" is a compelling ballad with a killer chorus. If the world were fair, that shit would be on the radio. The title track could be the best cut, but I can't decide, for there are dizzying contenders. Overall, Condition Human is a landmark release for a band free to retrace their steps back to a style that befits them, while also nudging their sound forward in an organic fashion. In other words, it's awesome!
Posted by Dom Coccaro at 8:46 PM