Dispatches, thoughts, and miscellanea from writer Jon Konrath

Queensryche – Queensryche (1983)

Every band has to start somewhere. For prog-rockers Queensryche, they begin with a very NWOBHM-styled four-song EP. And it wasn’t even the same band initially – they were known as The Mob then, and Geoff Tate was enlisted to sign on the project, prior to him taking the full-time role as a frontman. The band recorded this release primarily as a demo, in a series of graveyard shift recording sessions at a local studio. They shopped it around with no avail, but when Kim and Diana Harris, owners of a Seattle record store, got a listen, they formed 206 records (206 being Seattle’s area code), managed the group, changed the band’s name, and released the demo as an EP in 1983. It got a huge following in Europe (thanks to Kerrang! magazine), and by the end of the year, the band signed on with EMI records and became a national act.

For as much as these four tracks don’t sound like Queensryche, they still do. The opener, “Queen of the Reich,” starts with Geoff Tate holding this impossibly long note in operatic style, and then launches into something similar to older Iron Maiden. The songs “Nightrider” and “Blinded” are structurally a bit more strange, and not straightforward rockers. The album finishes up with “The Lady Wore Black,” a slower tune that still rocks and shows the kind of direction the band wanted to go, with more progressive leanings and longer songs.

This is obviously a demo recorded by an unsigned band on a budget, and not an established act who is trying to explore their musicianship. It’s all very simple stuff here, without the extended set pieces, massive overdubs, or complicated introductions that the band would find later. The band clearly came from a NWOBHM background, with more influences in the metal area than any art-rock leanings. Even their photo resembles a band that probably plays Scorpions covers out of small bars in Federal Way, instead of the great prog-rock band that they later became.

For the longest time, if you bought this CD, it would come with “The Prophecy” as a bonus track, which is an excellent outtake from the Rage For Order sessions. With the later remaster, this EP now includes another seven live tracks, rescued from an old Warning-era live-in-Japan laserdisc that is no longer available. I’m an old fart with the older 5-song version (I actually had the tape, which repeated the same five songs on both sides), and I’ve always thought of the album as a good starting point for the band. I’m not sure what I’d think of the same release as a catch-all for a bunch of other stuff. It’s nice that they’ve added more bonus material, but for whatever reason, I like thinking of this as the same, little, 20-minute tape I got when I was first getting into the band.

Rating: 8