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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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?