Queensryche – Tribe (2003)

In the sports world, there’s a concept called “a rebuilding year”. It’s when your team has fallen apart: the star talent has been traded elsewhere, the new kids from the minors are still learning the ropes, the coaches have all been fired and replaced by third and fourth-tier managers, and the seasoned players are all performing at a sub-par level. But even if the team finishes with a 61-101 record (i.e. the 2008 Seattle Mariners), the fans say it’s a “rebuilding year,” because lessons were being learned, and things will be better next time. Queensryche’s eighth studio album, Tribe, is something I’d consider a “rebuilding album.” It’s not great, but it shows hints of promise, or at least enough for hard-core fans to not completely dismiss the band.

After 1999’s Q2K, we learned that the departed Chris DeGarmo must have been a major contributor to the band’s songwriting success, because things definitely lagged without him penning tunes for the album. This time around, Kelly Gray was given the boot, and the original lineup with DeGarmo returned. It was unclear what DeGarmo’s status was with the band, however. He did co-write four of the ten tracks on the album, but there were no solo shots, and most of the material continues in the same vein as Q2K. Also, DeGarmo did not tour with the band, and it was largely rumored that his appearance was nothing but a session musician publicity stunt to revive the band’s image.

This is the first post-Atlantic studio album by the band; beginning with 2001’s Live Evolution, they moved to Sanctuary Records. Prior to Sanctuary’s absorption into Universal Music Group, they were well-known for releasing new albums by once-popular bands that toured the “where are they now?” bar circuit with half of their original members. The kind of budget involved with such a change in label, plus the band’s decision to self-produce the album, results in a significant drop in production quality over the last few albums. It’s not horrible (that would come later), but it doesn’t have the depth or brilliance that Q2K or HitNF had to them.

The ten tracks, weighing in at an anemic 41:37, don’t wander much from the same formula, which could best be described as “mid-paced introspective look at our world today, with a slight AOR hook”. Any one of those things could work well, and have in the band’s past. (Mid-paced = “Della Brown”; Introspective “Promised Land”; AOR hook = most of Empire.) But there are few surprises here, and no dynamics. With a few minor exceptions, very little stands out in the muddle. “Rhythm of Hope,” “Doin’ Fine,” “Open,” “Tribe”… most of these songs are largely interchangable, and about as interesting as an album of commercial jingles from a 60s Eastern Bloc country. As much as I try to get into this, it’s just a jumble of blah.

I mention a few standout areas. “The Art of Life” hints at the band this once was, and almost sounds like a lost Promised Land track. There are a few good riffs scattered in other songs, but just when something starts to get interesting, it gets repeated ten times and dragged out, like a kid trying to pad a one-page book report into four pages with creative font and margin choices.

Last summer, I saw the Seattle Mariners play the Angels in Anaheim. At the time, the Mariners were something like 30 games behind the Angels in the AL West, and watching a team with a $117-million dollar payroll and the most talented Japanese player to ever come to the US and play get beaten so severely was a lot like thinking back to Empire and then listening to this. Maybe their next album would not be stellar, either; and maybe the 2009 Mariners will still end up 40 games under a .500 record. The one saving grace of a “rebuilding year” is you can keep having them year after year with no marked progress, and at least some of your fans will still come back and hope for something better, eventually.

Rating: 4.5


DC Slater – Altitude (2007)

One of the downsides of doing a lot of album reviews for a zine is that you have to listen to a lot of crap that takes a lot of effort to get through once, let alone enough times to write a thousand words about it. And that job is even harder when it’s crap that follows this season’s crap of the week formula. But one of the huge upsides of the job is when I get a demo or CD that is truly, entirely unique, the kind of album full of melodies that stick in my head and won’t knock loose for years. And from note one of DC Slater’s solo album Altitude, I knew it would be one of those kinds of albums.

Slater’s a music producer, former Berklee student, and all-around guitar hero type, and Altitude is his second album in the solo instrumental guitar vein. And without sounding critical, Slater sounds a LOT like Joe Satriani, I mean, if someone broke out this 11-track album, put it in my CD player, and told me it was an unreleased Satch album from a half-dozen years ago that never left the vault, I would completely believe it. I mean this as a high compliment not only to Slater’s playing, but his songwriting ability. Like Satriani, he doesn’t just go for the constant, full-bore 128th-note arpeggios all over the board, but knows where to mix in some good sustain for emphasis and emotion, to structure together some good harmony when needed. He also knows how to lay down some good base rhythm under his screaming leads, to avoid sounding like yet another Yngwie clone.

If you look at Satch’s stuff in the last decade, he’s wandered off the beaten path a bit with either electronica-influenced experiments or jam-band diversions, neither of which I particularly care about. Slater’s work sounds more like the “classic” Satriani, and sticks to the core concepts that have made him great: incredibly emotional, story-telling instrumental guitar. He’s not formulaic in his song structure or approach, and seems well-versed in the ability to construct a solid number without repetition or formulaic redundancy. A few songs offer a soft and almost ballady approach: “Melodie” is a good example of this. I particularly liked how “Looking Back” worked some well-structured piano riffs off the smooth fuzz guitar. Also, “Reflections” features a start with a ballad approach that blows the doors off with a minute to go in the song. It’s very moving and smooth stuff, with a spot-on execution on every track.

And it’s not all slow, moody stuff. One way that DC Slater pulls away from Joe is his ability to lay in some heaviness and speed. “Rebel Jam” shows a good metal edge and some quick chops. But his best example is “Pendulum”, which mixes some mythical spookiness with an all-out high-viscosity thickness that slaps on some low-end power for a decent payoff. And don’t think this is just another “really fast or really slow” album, because Slater does dance around other areas, be it the bluesy “Black Bandana” or “December Dawn” to the poppy “Miles Away”. A lot of ground is covered in the 41:55 total time of this album.

Aside from the guitar and songwriting, one of the truly satisfying aspects of the album is the production. I didn’t have any liner notes on the lineup of musicians behind this album other than Slater, so I don’t know if it’s a group of buddies, session hired hands, or if he covered the bases himself. But the bass, drums, and occasional keys all fit well into the overall mix. And what’s even better is that it’s not always the SAME drums. From track to track, there are variations in sound and setup, giving each number its own feel. There’s not the tiniest trace of self-production crud evident anywhere here – it’s all very much a pro job from start to finish, with a very seamless sound and credible mix. I’d like to hear some of the other bands Slater has produced to see if his work rings as true on other albums.

I feel bad making so many comparisons between this artist and Joe Satriani, though. He has such a truly unique sound, and I don’t mean to imply that he’s just a rip-off, like the endless number of 14-year-old kids you see hanging out at Guitar Center playing “Eruption” note-for-note. It’s not that I see his music as following Satriani’s; it’s like he took it from a certain point, maybe around Blue Dream or so, and improved it, drove it even further in a different direction. It’s like one of those speculative fiction pulp novels where the US never went into World War I and now we’re all living on a colony on Mars because the time-space continuum was altered in some odd way. I listen to this album and feel like the guitar world went through a wormhole in 1990 and when we all came out, it was easy to find stuff this cool.

Enough of my babbling. Head over to and check this one out. I hope we hear more from this guy in the near future.

Rating: 9.25


Queensryche – Operation: Mindcrime (1988)

Who killed Mary? That’s the takeaway on probably the finest concept album ever created by a prog-metal band. Before Queensryche’s third album, the band already had an impressive collection of unique metal material, but Operation: Mindcrime not only progressed their sound and voice, but added the element of a timely and complex plot that tied together the 15 tracks on this epic album.

The album tells this story, in a nutshell: It starts with a guy in a hospital bed, who is piecing together everything that happened to him recently. His name’s Nikki, and he’s sedated and in some type of prison/insane asylum, and a TV news broadcast about his crime snaps him back to the beginning. He was a junkie in New York City (this was the pre-Disnified NYC, I guess – he wasn’t a hipster doofus heroin addict in Williamsburg or anything) and he got pulled into this secret society planning a revolution, run by a guy named Doctor X. This X guy uses the heroin’s influence to train Nikki ala The Manchurian Candidate to kill people when he calls him on the phone and says “Mindcrime.” Nikki hooks up with Sister Mary, a former whore who is also brainwashed and is now a nun for a guy named Father William, a sort of archetype for all of the bad televangelism going on back in the late 80s. His relationship with Mary starts to snap Nikki out of the mind control funk. Doctor X sees the threat and commands Nikki to kill Mary and the priest. He offs the priest, but can’t kill Mary, and the two of them decide to split from this whole Mindcrime mess. X isn’t cool with this, and Mary ends up killed (this isn’t explained, more in second.) Nikki goes insane, is arrested by the police for the murder of Mary, and hauled off to the padded cell. By the end of the album, he leaves his catatonia and all of this rushes back to him, in a powerful conclusion.

The reason this really works is that it’s a timely message: televangelists ripping off old ladies; politicians ripping off the people; corporations ripping off the government. It’s every late-eighties demon from the Reaganomics era wrapped up in a nice little package. But unlike the metaphorical one-song stories of earlier albums, this one is set in present-day, and directly follows a protagonist. It doesn’t preach like later albums, which is a minor complaint I’ve had about Tate’s lyrics since Mindcrime. It’s the old Creative Writing 101 first lesson (and a song by Rush): show, don’t tell. If you write a song that says “the federal government doesn’t like black people” (“Empire,” sort of), it isn’t interesting. When you pull me through a story of a heroin junkie turned mind control puppet assassin, I get it.

Okay, so who killed Mary? This is left ambiguous, with at least three possibilities: One is that Nikki killed her, while in a trance. Another is that Doctor X or another mindcrime zombie killed her, and Nikki was set up to take the fall. Or, maybe Mary killed herself, either to get out of the futile situation, or because Doctor X commanded her to while she was in a trance. The lyrics of the album don’t make this clear, although (to ruin it for you), on the 2004 tour when the album was played in its entirety, it was made very clear that X called her and told her to shoot herself, and she complied. But for years, this wasn’t clear, and people micro-analyzed the lyrics like people micro-analyze the bible to find quotes that support video games and hybrid cars as being evil. (Check out this for a well-done example of this.) This was further confused by the Video: Mindcrime collection, which people also overanalyzed for clues. I remember following the metal usenet newsgroups back in the early 90s, and there was still an ongoing debate about this well after Empire was released. That drove me batshit at the time, but I have to admit it was somewhat genius to leave this ambiguous, and it’s a minor letdown to actually know the answer now.

(Another story line that is more ambiguous than you might think is whether Nikki and Mary were actually sexually involved, or just pals. For some reason, I always assumed they were, but as the site above mentions, it’s not explicitly mentioned in the lyrics. It’s one of those things like how you can read between the lines in the bible and see whether or not Adam had a wife before Eve. )

Mindcrime‘s sound in general is pretty lofty stuff. Produced by Peter Collins, it’s pretty dynamic, with a lot of power behind it, and ranges from the very mellow (“My Empty Room”) to downright speedy (“The Needle Lies”). The sound isn’t as thick or produced as Rage For Order, but there’s a lot more going on. Add to this the intros and performances that stitch together the album, and you’ve got some pretty impressive recording work. The production would be an order of magnitude better on Empire, but it’s pretty damn good here.

(Aside: the start of the album, in the hospital, has a sample of an announcement that says “Dr. Blair, Dr. Blair; Dr. J. Hamilton, Dr. J. Hamilton.” This is a stock sound effect and has appeared everywhere over the last few decades. I just spotted it last week in an AT&T commercial. I’ve heard it in TV shows, movies, commercials, and it even showed up in an intro in a Motley Crue album, which was pretty stupid to me.)

Another great addition to the album is that of Mary herself, played by Pamela Moore. Moore is a singer also from the Seattle area, who has since flirted with a pop/technica career over the years. For years I heard the rumor that she was Tate’s vocal/opera coach, but I’ve since read the band heard her in a commercial and recruited her for the album. She sings a duet with Tate in the song “Suite Sister Mary”. It clocks in at 10:41 (the entire album is just shy of an hour long) and features a mix of neo-classical elements and latin chanting with rock elements for a slower but very sinister and dramatic number, and Moore’s performance is absolutely spot-on and punches up Tate’s operatic abilities much more than was present in any solo work previous to this.

This album has a lot of personal meaning to me. I remember getting it the day it came out in 1988 and spending an entire weekend listening to it nonstop, trying to find clues. From the first second of the blasting beginning to “Anarchy-X,” I was absolutely hooked. I spent the summer of 1988 listening to this album constantly, and it carried over as a frequent listen well into the summer of 1989, too. (The album took over a year to gain popularity and reach gold status.) In my freshman year, when I started using the VAX mainframe computers, I set my process name to “Doctor X” and kept it that way for the majority of my time in college. For a while, this album seemed dated, and then suddenly, around 2000 or so, all of the lyrics made total sense again. That’s probably why they made a sequel, but it was nowhere near the quality of this masterpiece. As far as concept albums or examples of progressive metal, it does not get any better than this.

Rating: 10


Queensryche – Empire (1990)

How do you follow up one of the best prog metal concept albums of all time? That was the monumental task in front of Queensryche when they finished touring in support of Operation:Mindcrime and started recording their fourth full release, Empire, in the spring of 1990. Would it be a sequel to the concept album? Would we find out who killed Mary? Would it be an even heavier rocking album? Or would the band to in another direction? Luckily, the band chose the latter, and did an exceptional job of reaching the next level in their musical definition.

Prior to Empire, Queensryche built an identity on top of being this art rock/metal sensation that would appear to be coming out of somewhere in Europe. (They recorded their first full-length album in London.) But Empire is the first point where the band stepped away from that image and got back to their roots as an American band, a group of guys that grew up in a pre-grunge Seattle, a place both high-tech and working class, removed from the California metal scene and on opposite shores as the New York music industry. It’s a more authentic, introspective sound. They aren’t attempting to be a balls-out metal band, and are seriously stepping away from any Judas Priest/Dio-related influence and attempting to set up their own musical arena outside that of the typical metal rat-race. Still produced by Peter Collins, who worked on the technically flawless Mindcrime, he pushes even further in the sonic arena, making an album that’s incredibly crisp, but with an incredible depth and presence.

Instead of covering socio-political topics through a metaphor or cautionary tale, as they had in their last three albums, this is the first time they discuss the perils and impact of our changing world directly, in songs that use their soundscape and direct feel as a vehicle for commentary. The lyrics discuss gang violence (“Empire”), struggling with disabilities (“Best I Can”), the environment (“Resistance”), and homelessness (“Della Brown”). But the balance of the album avoids preachiness, and mixes the message with a heavily introspective deep-dive into emotion and interpersonal relationships. And that’s mixed with this new sound: a more textured musical take, with smooth guitars and the occasional twelve-string mixed with a very up-front but laid-back bass sound, and Geoff Tate’s lyrics going from the all-out operatic to a more integrated and subdued yet effective part of the band.

This isn’t a concept album, in the strictest sense. But it uses many samples, intros, and outros to stitch together the first half of its its 63:20 length to be nearly seamless, and some argue that this makes it a loosely-coupled sort of concept album, although I’ve never seen a line-by-line explanation of what that story would be. But it adds to the depth of the album, making it something easy for me to visualize, and something more than just a collection of sounds.

Some of the best songwriting work on the album comes from guitarist Chris DeGarmo, who broadens his songwriting by heading inward to the more internal and emotional themes. An example (with lyrics about Tate’s future wife), is “Jet City Woman”†, the typical tale of “I’m on the road a long time and have come back to my love,” although it’s a much more effective vehicle than the typical Motley Crue or Journey take on the same subject. And the title? The city of Seattle was once known as Jet City, due to the overwhelming presence of Boeing, who used to be headquartered there, and who built many of their passenger planes there. In the early 80s, the city held a contest and officially changed its nickname to the more pedestrian “Emerald City,” although many references to the old name still exist. I remember when I lived there in the late 90s, I used to often drive by a place called Jet City Pizza, which always used to be an unconscious homage (in my mind, at least) to this album.

One minor nit I’ve always had is the voiceover part in the middle of the song “Empire,” which laments the federal government’s spending on crime. Sorry Geoff, but the reason the federal government spends less on crime is because a huge amount of law enforcement is paid at the state and local level. One could use the same logic to lament the amount the feds spend on education, which is largely paid for by local taxes. I remember reading somewhere that Tate got the idea for this song based on a Vietnamese gangland murder spree in the Little Saigon area of Rainier Valley. I didn’t know this until much later, but when I lived in Seattle, this was the closest strip of fast-food joints, and I drove out in this area at least a few times a week. (It’s also the former location of Sick’s Stadium, where baseball’s ill-fated Seattle Pilots played their only season before moving to Milwaukee and becoming the Brewers. Both Elvis and Hendrix played outdoor shows there; it was torn down in 1979 and is now the location of a Lowe’s hardware store.)

And then there’s “Silent Lucidity.” I’ve got to admit, I clearly remember the first time I heard this song in my car, during the first listen of this album, and how I thought “what the fuck? They are totally going to get sued by Pink Floyd for completely ripping off their entire style!” This Michael Kamen-orchestrated ballad seems to talk about lucid dreaming, but Tate has always said it’s about a parent watching their child sleep. Like classic Waters-era Floyd, this song was one of my go-to numbers to listen to when I got in ultra-depresso mode around this era. And then, all of a sudden, it went from about nobody ever hearing about Queensryche to literally everyone praising this song. MTV played the video constantly (yes, they played videos then) and it even got airplay on mainstream FM radio. I’m sure it was played at many a high school prom, and it popped up on all sorts of “power ballad” compilation albums you could order at three in the morning from a K-Tel TV ad. Suddenly, a band whose last album took over a year to break into the gold level of sales status entered the Billboard top ten within two weeks, and ultimately went triple platinum. I’ve always wondered how many people bought Empire, listened to that one song for a month, and then went on to the new MC Hammer album or whatever else. This gave the band the level of success to headline tours and record their next album completely on their own terms, but I always wonder if this was the beginning of the end in some way.

Empire was remastered and re-released in 2003, with three bonus tracks. There’s the overly hammy “Scarborough Fair,” the ho-hum “Dirty Lil Secret” and the decent but doesn’t-fit-here “Last Time in Paris.” They’re all nice to have, but the 11+3 track version of the album just doesn’t seem right. If you’ve got the cash, you can hunt down an import gold disc version of the album, but it’ll probably cost you $50. I finally got a copy of the 24K version and ripped it with lossless encoding to iTunes; it’s a good way to go, if you’re into that sort of thing. I also have the original tape somewhere – it’s shell is worn clean, but it’s a nice reminder of that era.

This album has always meant a lot to me. When it came out in 1990, I was commuting about 45 minutes each way to school, which meant I listened to this album at least once a day for months. Coming back to it, this album reminds me so much of that year of my life, and takes me back to that period so directly. And when I was in Seattle, sitting in my tiny studio apartment, songs like “Another Rainy Night” created the perfect soundtrack for those few somber post-college years of depression and emotion. Not only do I consider this the master album for the band, but it’s one of my personal favorites of all time due to the history and emotion interleaved within it.

Rating: 10


Metallica – Garage Inc. (1998)

So the Garage Days Re-Revisited EP is long out of print, and is going for a bajillion dollars a bootlegged copy on eBay ten years later. The band decided it would be a good idea to re-issue the record, but add some new stuff to force both new and old fans to buy the album and finance Lars Ulrich’s Picasso fetish. So they made this a two-CD set, consisting of all the old and unreleased b-sides and other rarities, along with a CD’s worth of new studio renditions of covers of old favorites from the band’s influences.

If you’re a fan of the Load-era Metallica, this is a win-win; you get all of the really old b-side stuff you never bought because you were either seven years old when it came out or because you were a Vanilla Ice fan back then and didn’t like metal until it became popular. As far as the new stuff, the song that got video rotation (yes, they made videos for covers on a b-side wrapup compilation) was the Bob Seger classic “Turn the Page.” As much as I loathe James Hetfield’s new “yeaahh yeahhh!” singing style, it works well on this, and provides us with one of those “the road is rough” moments like Poison and Motley Crue belted out consistently, except it feels much more genuine. If Lars Ulrich were killed in Cliff Burton’s bus accident and the band eventually slowed down to just doing songs like this, I’d probably still like it. I couldn’t get through the first side of the disc more than once or twice though, and admittedly, I only cared about having all of the rarities in one place.

The collection of b-sides is great, but it also shows you how far Metallica has fallen. It starts with Garage Days in its full glory, followed with “Am I Evil” and “Blitzkrieg,” before going into the …Justice singles, “Breadfan” and “The Prince.” That’s where I stopped collecting as a kid. Then you get the “new” sounding covers, which are so-so, and the four Motorhead covers from Lemmy’s birthday where Metallica dressed up as Lemmy, which are pretty sad.

If you need the old covers, grab a copy (read my separate review for Garage Days…) That’s the only reason to spend money on any post-black album Metallica, and it’s a bad trap to get you to buy a CD of crappy stuff along with it.

Review: 6


ARZ – Solomon’s Key (2008)

When I hear that a group of musicians first got together in a Yes tribute band, the last thing I expect is anything heavy.  The first ten seconds of the new ARZ album, Solomon’s Key, completely changed that opinion for me.  Forget any preconceived notions that a couple of guys imitating London’s premier prog giants would be doodling in some Roger Dean-backdropped universe of lofty art school tunes – this duo is putting out some awesome instrumental progressive rock that mixes a prog metal edge with a deep artistic core and incredible musicianship.  It’s also one of those albums that constantly makes me think “how do they ever play this stuff live?”  But they do!

First of all, I did say duo. The Portland, Oregon-based ARZ consists of guitarist Steve Adams and drummer Merrill Hale. What’s interesting about this is that both also double on an array of various synth and electronic doodads, with Hale adding to his standard drum kit a Roland SPD-20 drum pad, essentially a Rock Band controller on steroids that triggers a whole array of various synth and world music percussion instruments. Adams also uses some MIDI magic to play along his synth parts while still tackling the guitar parts. (He’s also the de facto vocalist of the band, although there are no lyrics on the latest release.) When I first heard of these guys, I thought maybe this was just a gimmick or a studio-only trick, something done in lieu of having some additional members, or while between bassists and additional guitar players. I’ve often heard bands doubling up the strings in the studio, or playing along with a drum machine, in a demo-only situation while seeking out other members. But this is a system that works well for the band, and within the first track or two of this release, the complexity of the music made me forget I wasn’t listening to a four or five-piece group.

Solomon’s Key is an eight-track concept album of sorts, using the theme of the myth and mystery of the Middle East as a medium to explore various minor-mode tapestries of instrumental rock. I don’t know the exact storyline behind any of this album, although I know King Solomon from the old testament of the bible, and there’s a medieval book on magic called Solomon’s Key that might be part of the mythology of the songs here. There are three sub-five minute songs following more rock-oriented structure, but the rest are longer form pieces, with the title cut weighing in at just over 18 minutes.

What I like most about this album is that it weaves heavy, straight-up metal with more complex, prog-oriented melodies, and doesn’t do one while sacrificing the quality of the other. For example, the first cut, “Almadel”, starts with a super-low-end power metal start, like a Nu-metal band out of the gate, but then immediately cuts into a harmonized, Steve Howe-esque clean guitar melody, and trades off intricate verses with metal-form guitar solos. Adams is a student of classical technique and jazz performance, and uses his intricate playing style to meld together multiple styles of music. This is a band that’s well-schooled in all of the classics, like Rush, Yes, and ELP, but manages to mix in jazz and world music influences into a project that moves beyond the typical rock band structure. Add to this the fact that Hale’s robo-drum setup enables him to weave things like tubular bells and glock within the acoustic and electric guitar, and you’ve got an incredible soundscape.

Aside from the writing and musicianship, I was also impressed with the quality of recording and production in general. For a release without the funding of a major label, there’s an incredible amount of production skill here. They’ve skipped the step of physical retail on this one, and went direct to digital, making this release available only on iTunes, Napster, and other digital format mediums.

Head over to and check these guys out. You can also find some video evidence there that these two can actually play this stuff live. And stay tuned – their next album is already in the works!

Rating: 9


Queensryche – Sign of the Times: The Best of Queensryche (2007)

My first thought when I heard Queensryche was releasing another compilation album was “christ, didn’t they just do this fifteen minutes ago?” Okay, it was more like four years earlier, but the Capitol Records 12-track Classic Masters contained no new material, and was essentially useless; the 2000 compilation Greatest Hits was barely passable, with two non-album tracks. So is the 2007 stab at the same thing just another ploy to get the masses to buy another “Silent Lucidity plus other tracks” CD?

Well, no. There is some confusion, however. First, the title of the album is the same as the title of a previously-released CD single. Also, if you get the album from iTunes, it’s titled The Best of Queensryche and two songs are substituted. (Don’t worry, they are from Q2K and Mindcrime 2 – you’re not missing anything.) Also, there is a regular, 17-track, single disc version – that is fairly worthless, with the exception of “Real World,” a decent track that originally appeared on the Last Action Hero soundtrack and involves a heavy amount of Michael Kamen orchestration.

The real “meat” of this collection is a second CD that only appears in a “collector’s edition,” and that is loaded with a whopping 15 tracks of new, non-album goodness. Here’s the rundown:

  • “Take Hold of the Flame,” “Walk In the Shadows,” and “Before the Storm” – These are all demos made by the band when they were still called Myth, and were previously unreleased. The band only sounds vaguely like Queensryche from their first EP, and more resembles early Fates Warning. Other than the titles, the songs bear absolutely no resemblance to their later studio editions. I can’t say I will listen to these over and over, but it is awesome to hear the band lay down some early progress for us to hear. (Note: if you bought from iTunes, these will be labelled as Myth tracks, so don’t fret if they don’t show up in the Q section of your music library.)
  • “Waiting For the Kill,” “No Sanctuary,” and “Prophecy” – These are all demos from The Warning, and they’re different songs, but there are bits and pieces that were clearly reused elsewhere. For example, solos and big chunks of “Waiting” end up becoming “NM156.”
  • The acoustic version of “I Dream In Infrared” from the Rage For Order sessions. Cool, but it’s been released as a b-side at least once or twice before.
  • “Della Brown” from the Unplugged session, and “Silent Lucidity” live, from a B-side for “Bridge.” You probably own ten copies of these also.
  • The I-have-many-times b-sides “Chasing Blue Sky,” “Someone Else?” with full band, “Scarborough Fair,” and the Empire-era “Dirty Li’l Secret.”
  • From the Ford Fairlane soundtrack is “Last Time in Paris,” which was a b-side from one of the Empire singles. I’d totally forgotten about this song! It’s one of those windows straight back to 1992 when I picked up the single, and a very catchy tune.
  • “Justified” – a completely new song, unreleased elsewhere. I’m not sure when this is recorded, but it’s got an excellent sound to it, and it’s almost worth the price of admission.

Overall, this is a decent collection, and the rarities make it a decent value. I don’t think of Queensryche as a band with a lot of odd material in the attic, but if you want to get it all in one swoop without spending tons on rare singles and bootlegs, this is the way to go.

Rating: 8.5