Queensryche is set to release ‘The Verdict’ on March 1 on Century Media. This will be the third release with Todd La Torre on vocals after dropping ‘Queensryche’ (2013) and ‘Condition Human’ (2015). Fans never like to see an original member, especially the singer, split from a band. The fallout can be unpredictable and replacing Geoff Tate’s unique vocal sound would have seemed difficult. The music gods shined down onto the band when La Torre was given the microphone. He is a powerhouse vocalist that has been able to embody the legacy and sound of Queensryche. ‘The Verdict’ is sonic proof of just that. Handling the production and mixing duties once again was Chris ‘Zeuss’ Harris (Hatebreed, Rob Zombie.) He did the last release for the band as well. An interesting caveat to the album is that La Torre also provided the drums as Scott Rockenfield, the original drummer, continues his leave from the band.
The thought that came to my mind as I journeyed through this ten-track album was “this is my Queensryche.” From the opening moments I flashbacked to putting my ‘Rage For Order’ cassette into my boombox and being blown away. It was not metal, not quite hard rock or progressive, it was simply “Queensryche.” The cool rock kids understood there would be a revolution calling against the mainstream sound that was taking over MTV. That made the band even cooler!
The first song, “Blood Of The Levant,” is brilliant. The riff along with the vocals is intense and falls right into the classic Queensryche sound. At the same time, it doesn’t feel rehashed or done before. Maybe it’s the production or just the overall delivery but the song feels really fresh, modern, and relevant. “Man The Machine” contains an infectious riff in the verses with a lead guitar piece that soars above it.
“Light Years” has it all. The pulverizing riff carries the song through the verses until a harmonizing chorus gives the song a momentary uplifting feeling. Add in one of La Torres’s towering vocal screams, harmonized guitar parts, and a bass section that grooves and the result are pretty special. The eastern feel intro of “Inside Out” keeps things haunting and mellow before it breaks ground. Just like the previous song, it packs different elements and textures throughout the song that keeps things interesting.
We’ve dug halfway through the album when we reach “Propaganda Fashion” and if you’re looking for a weak spot, this is not the place. This song has a gripping melody and pace that swirls around your head. “Dark Reverie” showcases La Torres’s vocals. The emotion along with his power brings this song alive and it reaches out and touches you. It’s a darker song and that trend continues with “Bent” but with a more up-tempo attack. There are sections in this one that do take you back to that “Rage for Order” era stuff. “Inner Unrest” hits with a memorable hook and the guitar solo has a melodic hypnotizing flavor to it. “Launder The Conscience,” continues to display the harder edge of the band while the closer “Portrait” revels in its atmospheric approach. The song is one of the slowest tracks and offers a completely different experience than anything else on the album.
The hardest thing for a band that has an extensive catalog and established sound, like Queensryche, is stay true to your legacy but also not sound dated. ‘The Verdict’ is a perfect blend of connecting to the past and bringing it forward with a modern sound and production. Throughout the album you will hear pieces that take you back to ‘Empire,’ ‘Promise Land,’ and ‘Rage For Order’ but everything sounds new and big. It feels there was a focus to get more up-tempo songs on this album than the last release and it allows each song to stand out more with the different pacing of the songs. The guitars provided by Michael Wilton and Parker Lundgren are dynamic and Eddie Jackson is as steady as always on the bass. Go out and pick this one up. The album cover is fantastic so treat yourself and grab the physical copy, but if you feel need to go MP3 and “scream in digital,” by all means go right ahead.