Century Media Records - 2019
Boldly taking a turn for the heavier and darker aspects of their sound and songwriting, Queensryche plays up their more overt political lyrical bent on their brand new release The Verdict.
With a far heavier and definitely more metallic sound than you might expect, the band gets your heart pumping right from the start.
While I wasn't all that enthused about the opening song "Blood of the Levant" when I first heard it while watching the official video for the track, I found that without the visuals, the song worked so much better in my mind. There's an undoubtedly political feel to the lyrics on a number of songs and this one is the kickstart to that.
Though the band's musical attack is hard and heavy throughout, they do seem to know when to ease off the gas pedal. The song "Light-Years" is a fast moving track that features a far more restrained midsection and solo, but still the song wins you over. The song "Inside Out" is another lively rocking track where the musical intensity goes up a notch during the chorus, yet then has a more contemplative solo.
Of course, the band also seems to pick and choose their spots to just pour it on. "Propaganda Fashion" has no preamble intro to it. It just explodes out of the speakers and musically speaking is an amazing sounding cut.
One of the three tracks I heard before the album was officially released was the song "Dark Reverie". Though it isn't in the band's current setlist, it is a pretty powerful song. It starts off a bit slower than some of the album's other material, but the chorus finds the metallic backbone growing stronger and as the song continues onward, it gets more and more intense through it's fade out.
There are some noteworthy things I wasn't crazy about with the album however. On "Bent" and "Unrest", I thought the studio affectation used on parts of the vocal track dampened my enthusiasm for the songs a bit.
On "Unrest", it came on the song's last main lyrical passage. That particular choice made the song one that I had to listen to over and over again to do a real deep dive on it. Asa for "Bent", the song is actually quite in your face. There's a powerful set of lyrics, but that vocal effect ruins the clarity of the song a bit for me.
Also, I was more than a bit unmoved by "Portrait". The song started off slow, got moderately more lively in its pacing but just never really met me halfway and I was strangely a little bored by the song.
Of course, those are just my nitpicks. And they don't truly affect my overall appreciation of the album overmuch.
For me, the best example of what Queensryche has done in terms of thematic consistency for The Verdict is the song "Man The Machine". It's a razor sharp perfect blend of musicianship and vocal prowess that shows the band off at its finest. The lyrics are pointedly political and there's no blunting of their edge. This particular passage caught my ear:
"So hail (HAIL), hail to deathmocracy
Hell for your thoughtcrimes, hail to your piety
Oh the irony, the antidote is the disease
the balancing of ignorance and atrophy"
The song "Man The Machine" is the standout track on the disc for me. It shows off the band as they are now to their greatest effect. And frankly, it is one of the best songs they've ever done. This is the kind of stuff I've been waiting for!
I've been sharply critical of singer Todd La Torre coming off sounding entirely too much like Geoff Tate but on this album, the remnants of that sound help lift the songs to a greater level of consistency in my book. Since the band added La Torre to the band, their music has reintroduced the heavier aspect of their sound and each album they've released has gotten better, step-by-step. It's not perfect, but it is pretty darn close and that's something I've been waiting to say for a long, long time.
With The Verdict, having staked their claim to the more hard driving metallic part of their musical nature, Queensryche is BACK!
Rating: 4.5 out 5.0