REVIEW: QUEENSRYCHE – “Condition Human”
For those of you who live under a rock, Queensrÿche is a band that took the world by storm in 1983 with their near-perfect single ‘Queen of the Reich’ and their self-titled EP, followed by the also impressive ‘The Warning’ a year later. Gaining a considerable amount of fans in the following years, the band then achieved critical acclaim with‘Operation: Mindcrime’, a conceptual album that is widely considered to be one of the best albums in heavy metal history. After a stellar start and a peak in songwriting and musicianship, the band took a commercial approach with ‘Empire’, released in 1990, achieving worldwide exposure and consolidating themselves as one of the main heavy metal acts at the time. Another change of pace led to the good ‘Promised Land’ in 1994, and then the band entered a phase of weak and uninspired albums, leading to several internal fights, lack of focus, departure of longtime guitarist Chris DeGarmo, and, finally, to a point of no-return between leader Geoff Tate and the rest of the band members, resulting in a legal dispute over the name Queensrÿche. As you can see, original members Michael Wilton (guitars), Eddie Jackson (bass) and Scott Rockenfield (drums) won the battle and paired up with Parker Lundgren (guitars) and powerhouse Todd La Torre (vocals, ex-Crimson Glory) to take hold of the flame (see what I did here?) and resurrect their defunct prestige.
Being a longtime fan of the band and deeply hurt by the musical direction they took between 1997 and 2011, I have to be honest and say I was actually happy to know that Geoff Tate had lost the legal rights to the name, knowing he was the main responsible for the shipwreck of a band that Queensrÿche became, and this turned out to be transparent when the remaining members of the same band that released the awful ‘American Soldier’ and ‘Dedicated to Chaos’ years before had come up with a solid work in the 2013 album ‘Queensrÿche’, which was not exactly a return to form, but a statement that they were still the same guys who gave us classics like “Screaming in Digital”, “Revolution Calling”, “Walk in the Shadows” and so much more.
So here we are with ‘Condition Hüman’, their 14th studio album and second one with La Torre on vocals. As expected, the album is very much alike its predecessor, continuing with the arrangements well received by the fans in their 2013 “comeback”. We can easily see the will to please old fans right away with “Arrow of Time”, best song on the album and hope that someday we will see a Queensrÿche like we used to: centered, inspired and true to their roots. “Guardian” comes after that with a cool vibe, offering at times memories from “NM 156” because of the mechanic-like melodies, but stands on its own with a nice solo and a catchy chorus. “Hellfire” and “Eye9” keep up with the good pace, featuring strong melodies and crystal-clear production, especially in the latter. “Toxic Remedy” and “Selfish Lives”, though, do work as tools to keep the album with a characteristic Queensrÿche sound, but don’t offer too much to the listener and don’t stand out from the rest of the songs.
Then the album starts to lose itself a bit in “Bulletproof”, a rather bland power-ballad that consists of mainly dull verses and doesn’t really get anywhere. Also going nowhere is the other ballad on the album, “Just Us”, which tries to captivate and thrill the listener, but works as a way to tone down the album to a point where it should rather be putting some energy to it, ultimately turning itself into a filler. Perhaps if allocated to somewhere else in the album the song could have a greater impact.The second half of the album, opened by “Bulletproof” and passing through “Just Us” is far inferior than the first one, with the exception of the title track, that could very easily be on ‘Promised Land’, featuring a consistent musical construction and very cool changes of pace, and “All There Was”, a very strong display of how mature and committed the band is in returning to form.
Defining a new era for the band and lifting once and for all any doubts we could possibly have of whether Queensrÿche could get back on their feet or if the self-titled album of 2013 would be the last breath of a moribund group, ‘Condition Hüman’ is a breath of fresh air compared to what was released by the group in the last 15 years or so. By now I have to say that Queensrÿche was once one of my favorite bands, and I even have the band logo tattooed on my back, so this review is a rather emotional one for me. With that being said, although my fanboy nature incites me to give this album a higher rating just for the fact that it is a consolidation of the band’s resurrection, I cannot get past the fact that, despite having more pros than cons, this is just a solid release and has many flaws, and it should rest in Queensrÿche’s vast discography somewhere between ‘Tribe’ and ‘Promised Land’. Nevertheless, ‘Condition Hüman’ will more than likely get appraisal from the fans and media alike, and if we take in consideration what the band managed to achieve in this new era without their main lyricist and mastermind, it is a most impressive piece of work.