It wasn’t so long ago that the whole Queensrÿche situation had disintegrated into such an undignified mess that even the band’s most devoted fans must have been subtly searching for an escape route. Pleasingly, both the newly reconfigured ’Rÿche and former frontman – and, lest we forget, chief songwriter – Geoff Tate seem to have pulled themselves together. While there may always be a slight sense that both camps are aiming to claim rights over their alma mater’s creative spirit, the release of these two albums makes it clear that the acrimonious split was both inevitable and, with hindsight, the best way forward for all concerned.
As with their 2013 eponymous comeback, Condition Human presents the refocused Queensrÿche as fully reacquainted with the classic sound that informed the legendary likes of Operation: Mindcrime and Empire, albums that refined and redefined what it meant to be progressive in heavy music while still delivering melodic payoffs with chart-conquering potential. Singer Todd La Torre sounds close enough to the Tate of the late 80s and early 90s to keep the purists happy, while having enough of his own personality to avoid being seen as a mere impersonator. Most importantly, songs like Guardian, Hellfire and Bulletproof amount to a shrewd upgrade of Queensrÿche’s earlier, wholly metallic output, similar in sound and spirit to 1986’s classic Rage For Order.
There are no overarching conceptual conceits to distract from the sharp, succinct songwriting and precise ensemble performances, and while future efforts may benefit from a little more bravery, Condition Human protects and enhances a significant legacy with aplomb.
Both bands should be able to co-exist from now on.
The problem many fans had with the albums released prior to Tate’s departure from Queensrÿche was that they were dominated by the singer’s wayward vision of what people wanted from the band. Ultimately, The Key marks another opportunity for him to indulge his experimental streak, yet Tate also seems to be making a statement that this, rather than Condition Human, is the album Queensrÿche fans have been craving. The reality lurks somewhere in the middle: this covers a lot of musical ground and bears an occasional resemblance to the alt-tinged squall of mid-era ’Rÿche fare like Hear In The Now Frontier and Q2K, but with a melodic sharpness that nods towards anthemic past glories, without ever sounding like a step backwards.
One suspects that both bands will be able to co-exist from now on, following distinctive paths towards similar, if not identical, creative goals. Two for the price of one, then, and both eminently worthy of your attention.