“I didn’t even speak English but I could tell Operation: Mindcrime had atmosphere and intelligence… You can’t just replace Geoff Tate with someone who has a great range”: Tobias Sammet says classic Queensryche were fully prog

Tobias Sammet and Queensryche
(Image credit: Getty Images)

In 2013 Queensryche were in disarray, with an acrimonious split meaning two bands operated under the name – one led by singer Geoff Tate, and the other by his former colleagues. As the legal battle continued, Avantasia mastermind Tobias Sammet told Prog about his feelings for the original band’s output.

“I suppose Queensryche are not really what you’d consider prog in the real sense of the word – but to me they are as progressive as can be.

I was 14 when I first heard Operation: Mindcrime. I thought it was heavy metal and hard rock, but there was nothing run-of-the-mill about it at all. I didn’t even speak English at the time but could tell it had this atmosphere, this intelligence. 

From the cover art to the chord progressions, it seemed intellectual. It was like Iron Maiden but with weird chord inversions and nice-sounding harmonies that made them unique.

I delved into their history and came to really like their second album, Rage For Order [1986]. Mindcrime was a conceptual album with interludes and a story, but it also had anthemic hit songs like Eyes Of A Stranger and Revolution Calling.

Bruce Dickinson was rock’n’roll – he was dirty, aggressive. Geoff Tate was at the other extreme

Rage For Order didn’t have those hit songs. It was a really dark, difficult piece of music, again with weird harmonies. I was determined to improve my English so I could unlock its lyrical secrets for myself.

When you listen to my early stuff with Edguy – like Fire On The Downline – you can hear their influence. I’ve seen them play in Germany, and we’ve played festivals with them in Scandinavia, but I’ve never met Geoff Tate.

Bruce Dickinson was rock’n’roll – he was dirty, aggressive. Geoff was at the other extreme. He was more polished and theatrical, really skilled and technical. Since then hundreds of heavy metal singers inspired by him sing like that.

I remember trying to sing Take Hold Of The Flame as a teenager and – Jesus Christ – it was difficult! He has this overtone in the back of his throat that adds to his special sound. It’s not just the high notes that make him so good.

You can’t just replace him with someone who has a great range. There’s only one Geoff Tate, and while there’s thousands of bands playing Queensryche’s style of music now; but for me, they really were the first.”

Grant Moon

A music journalist for over 20 years, Grant writes regularly for titles including Prog, Classic Rock and Total Guitar, and his CV also includes stints as a radio producer/presenter and podcast host. His first book, 'Big Big Train - Between The Lines', is out now through Kingmaker Publishing.