Queensryche - American soldier 3/5

Reviewed: 4-24-09





Tracklist:

1. Sliver
2. Unafraid
3. Hundred mile stare
4. At 30,000 ft.
5. A dead man's words
6. The kiler
7. Middle of hell
8. If I were king
9. Man down!
10. Remember me
11. Home again
12. The voice


After the fiasco that was 'Mindcrime II', and the experimental attempt to honour their icons with 'Take cover', Queensryche return with a noble, sincere, and truly patriotic homage to the 'American soldier'. The quote in the booklet sums this up, "Americans owe their freedom to today's soldiers. Their voices should always be heard, and this unique project is making this possible."

As much as I respect the concept, as well as the mettle and might of this endeavour, I just find the music to be dull, and non-inspirational. Geoff Tate seldom sings high, and is more concerned with playing his jazzy horns. Mike Stone has left the fold, leaving only Michael Wilton to play guitar. He is assisted by Kelly Grey and Damon Johnson, but without the twin attack of either Chris DeGarmo or Mike Stone, the songs just fall flat. I understand the need for narration to tell the stories of the soldiers who are honoured from World War II, unto the present; but, even this becomes tedious and trite.

This is definitely not the majestic Queensryche of the 80s, nor the progressive act of the 90s, but it is still Queensryche, and I struggle to reconcile with this fact. Mike Stone worked with the awesome act Wiszdom Stone from Wisconsin contributing his multi-talented art. This band really have a sense of quality songwriting ability, taking hold of the flame of passion and power, which was once ever present with the sacred Queensryche camp.

The CD begins with a gung-ho militant epic in "Sliver", which seriously suggests that this direction for the wild tribe of the jet city, have adapted to a more modern, almost hip-hop attitude, probably in keeping with the milieu of today's young soldier, risking his life, for what he believes to be a worthy cause. "Unafraid" with all its voice-over accounts, is the epitome of this prime mindframe. The piebald antimony suggest a menagerie of war torn solitude, and loss; as well as triumphant glory.

As each song unfolds, the eidetic nightmare become a realized reality. The listener vicariously walks the treaded path of the wounded soldier, seeing the horror through his bleary eyes. The song "The killer" is a solid example of this journey, where the individual, free of judgment, honours the soldiers sense of "officiam vocat", that is duty calls, how might I serve?

"Middle of hell" is co-written by drummer Scott Rockenfield, which explains the battle hymn drum beat. This song also approbates that, when Queensryche covered U2's "Bullet the blue sky", their patriotic sense was already ensuing.

One of the motivating factors in writing 'American soldier' was Geoff Tate's own father, who has served in both Korea and Vietnam. In keeping the message familiar, Geoff has written a song with his own daughter Emily. "Home again" is about a father who is active in duty, writing home to his forlorn daughter. This is a noble sentiment, and heart wrenching, except one major concern. Emily did not inherit her father's gift for vocals. The result is an annoying whine which makes the song risible, losing its true emotional thrust. Where is Pamela Moore? She could have sung as the estranged wife!

"If I were Kkng" is the single, and the new video. This is a good song, with actual commentary by Sean Lenahan, who served in Somalia and Kosovo. He tells the grueling tale of the loss of his dear friend. Again this is a compassionate anthem. Unfortunately, I can't help myself changing the lyrics around to, "If I could sing, still...", in reference to the fact that Geoff Tate was the progenitor of the power metal voice in America, along with James Rivera and John Arch. Now he just speaks, with a slight chant.

The CD concludes with "The voice", a haunting melody, augmented by string arrangements, suggesting the subtle demise of the fallen soldier, who now faces his death and whatever lies beyond. Unlike "Eyes of a stranger" or any song on 'Mindcrime', I don't empathize or feel drawn into the mystery, which is disheartening.

Ever since 'Q2K', Queensryche has been falling down. Man this is a real shame. I have always lionized about this band who have written the best concept album of all time. It is disparaging that now they just can't seem to find their proper footing, again. They are lost in the search for a true promise land. Here, they have embarked on a new frontier. Warning, even though Queensryche have built an empire of loyal fans, this CD is only for the die-hards, who rage for order.



MICHAEL




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