When I first heard Queensrÿche in 1983, I thought they were going to be the new reigning heavy metal band for the ’80s. I was living in Portland, Ore., and the new Seattle band were playing their second public performance at the Paramount Theater, opening for the Zeppelin-esque trio, Zebra. They did indeed go on to be one of the greatest metal bands of the decade.
This past year, the band has experienced an antagonistic and rather public split, with the three remaining founding instrumentalists sacking lead singer and chief songwriter, Geoff Tate.
Without going into all the ugly details, claims and counter claims, I’ll just say that a judge has allowed both entities to continue recording and performing under the Queensrÿche banner for about a year, until a decision is made.
In the meantime, Queensrÿche fans will get a double dose of what has been called thinking man’s metal. Tate and a slightly revolving band of backing musicians are touring in support of “Frequency Unknown” (as Queensrÿche) an album released a few months ago. The other three original members, guitarist Michael Wilton, bassist Eddie Jackson and drummer Scott Rockenfield, plus second guitarist Parker Lundgren (Tate’s former son-in-law; born three years after the first Queensrÿche release!), have recruited former Crimson Glory vocalist Todd LaTorre to sing in Tate’s place. That lineup is releasing its eponymously titled album next Tuesday, June 25.
To the good fortune of Billings and regional metal fans, this three-fifths version of Queensrÿche is headlining Rockin’ the Railroad, a day-long festival show in Sheridan, Wyo., this Saturday, June 22. Also on the bill are fellow ’80s metal bands Great White and Slaughter, plus four relatively unknown regional bands.
Most longtime Queensrÿche fans will agree that the band’s greatest material can be found on their debut EP and the five albums that followed: “Warning,” “Rage for Order,” “Operation: Mindcrime,” “Empire” and “Promised Land.” These albums all shared three essential things: They all preceded the Seattle grunge revolution; they all featured all five original members; and they all were predominantly written or co-written by original guitar player Chris DeGarmo.
While Tate was working on his second solo album – last year’s mediocre “Kings and Thieves” - the other guys decided to put together a side project with LaTorre called “Rising West,” which played songs from the initial Queensrÿche albums listed above. When the Tate mutiny occurred, they essentially continued performing under the Queensrÿche moniker. Tate hastily put together a fine bunch of metal musicians himself and tried to re-establish himself as heir apparent to the Ryche (incidentally, Heir Apparent was a Queensrÿche -inspired Seattle band in the late ’80s).
The jury is out in more ways than one. The judge is still hearing oral arguments.
I have listened to the 90-second samples of all the songs of Tate-rche a few times and even though it has guest appearances by the likes of K.K. Downing (Judas Priest) and Ty Tabor (Kings X), it sounded a lot like the Queensrÿche albums of the past two decades: uninspired.
I have listened to a pre-release download of the Todd-rche album, and it sounds like classic Queensrÿche of the late-’80s. LaTorre sounds so much like the younger Tate, that if I was told the songs were outtakes from either “Empire” or “Promised Land,” I would have believed it. I say outtakes, because while the performance is exciting and the production excellent, the songs lack some of the hooks that made so many of the songs from that era memorable.
But, according to LaTorre, whom I spoke with last week, all five band members contributed to the writing on this new album, which was a most enjoyable experience. He did mention that the songs might take a few listens to really make their full impression, so perhaps I will have to listen to it a few more times this week.
In fairness, I should do the same for Tate. But I will say that the Todd-ryche album is the first one that’s really impressed me since “Promised Land.”
Tickets for the show are $49. But in addition to three top ’80s metal bands, there will be Bombay Black, Quitters Anonymous, Tango Down, and 3oT7. Google ’em.
Expect to hear all the hits, fan favorites, and a few new songs. Based on the YouTube clips, fans should not even notice anything has changed but the set list. It should be a great show.
The show will be held at Trail’s End Concert Park in Sheridan, behind Trail’s End Hotel. For more info, go to TrailsEndConcertPark.com. Then go bang your head.