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Queensryche: Rage For Order - Album Of The Week Club review

The Prog Metal pioneers created a new sound on the second full-length album... their own

Queensryche: Rage For Order
(Image: © Queensryche)
Queensryche: Rage For Order

(Image credit: Queensryche)

Walk in the Shadows
I Dream in Infrared
The Whisper
Gonna Get Close to You
The Killing Words
Surgical Strike
Neue Regel
Chemical Youth (We Are Rebellion)
London
Screaming in Digital
I Will Remember

With their first album The Warning, Queensrÿche came on like the new Judas Priest. On the follow-up, the Seattle band went deep into new territory, with a more progressive rock mind-set allied to state-of-the-art production. 

As a result, Rage For Order was one of the boldest metal albums of its time, with heavy songs such as Walk In The Shadows alongside darker mood pieces, notably the sinister Gonna Get Close To You, originally written and recorded by oddball Canadian singer Lisa Dal Bello. 

“In the context of Queensrÿche, most people mention Operation: Mindcrime and Empire and The Warning because they were successful and important records," Edguy's Tobi Sammet told us. "But Rage For Order has so much going on in each song.

"It doesn’t make sense on your first listen, but when you listen a second and third time you realise it’s so well-crafted. Geoff Tate is delivering so much in those songs. It’s a great record."

Every week, Album of the Week Club listens to and discusses the album in question, votes on how good it is, and publishes our findings, with the aim of giving people reliable reviews and the wider rock community the chance to contribute. 

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Background

When Queensryche hired an office park in Bellevue, Washington to record Rage For Order, producer Neil Kernon brought in Le Mobile, a mobile recording unit from Montreal he'd previously used on Kansas's Drastic Measures, Dokken's Under Lock and Key, and Peter Gabriel's Plays Live.

The band, meanwhile, were equally well-prepared, having already written and arranged most of the material quickly after the tour supporting The Warning had finished. 

The band's label, EMI Records, was focused on getting more radio play for the band after the success of The Warning, so a balance between complexity and commerciality was struck, and a cover of Lisa Dal Bello's Gonna Get Close to You - originally recorded by Dal Bello alongside former Spider From Mars Mick Ronson on her whomanfoursays album – was thrown into the mix. 

Other albums released in June 1986

  • A Kind of Magic - Queen
  • Invisible Touch - Genesis
  • Epicus Doomicus Metallicus - Candlemass -
  • The Thin Red Line - Glass Tiger
  • Criminal Tango - Manfred Mann's Earth Band
  • Change of Address - Krokus
  • Every Beat of My Heart - Rod Stewart
  • Solitude/Solitaire - Peter Cetera
  • Time's Incinerator - Soul Asylum
  • Fight for the Rock - Savatage
  • As Close as You Think - Kevin Ayers
  • Back in the High Life - Steve Winwood
  • Daring Adventures - Richard Thompson
  • Emerson, Lake & Powell - Emerson, Lake & Powell
  • Gift - The Sisterhood
  • Intermission - Dio

What they said...

"The band was obviously trying to expand their approach to music with a heavy emphasis on theatrics, but the music suffered as a result. They succeeded with this approach to a certain extent on Operation: Mindcrime, but the band's musical limitations have always prevented them from moving beyond a classier version of Iron Maiden." (AllMusic)

"This album is essential to anyone who claims to be an 80's metal buff. If you are such a person and have not heard this album; do so immediately! If 80's metal isn't your thing, then check out Queensrÿche from a distance; maybe a greatest hits album. But Queensrÿche is too influential of a band to just pass them by. This album among its surrounding others is proof of such it will leave you mesmerised." (Metal Storm)

"This is the album where Queensryche finally flexes their artsy, progressive muscle after showing hints of it on the album before this one, The Warning. They break out the keyboards, synthesisers, acoustic guitars, complex arrangements along with more time changes more than they ever have before. The production is very well done, as are most of Queensryche’s albums, and succeed in being crisp, clear and clean without being overly sleek and polished." (Prog Archives)

What you said...

Steve Torrens: It’s a quantum leap from The Warning to Rage For Order. It is arguably the best hi-tech metal album ever released... but, saying that, it’s an album that’s almost impossible to categorise. It’s old school metal, but streets ahead of the genre. It sounds like a concept metal album, but it isn’t. It’s precision power metal, but far too subtle.

In my opinion, it's still galaxies ahead of everyone that aspired to be a cutting edge heavy metal band. Nobody has sounded like it, before or since... and, as good as Queensryche were, they never managed to better it.

If The Prophecy had been on it then it would have been even better, if that’s possible? Even Operation:Mindcrime used its cast-off ideas.

Rage For Order is/was/will always be a defining masterpiece of precision heavy metal. If that’s the right description? I like it. Can you tell?

Jacob Tannehill: The “second” beginning of Queensryche. I liked their first two albums, but they really found their sound with this one. Great production that doesn’t sound dated to this day. Not a bad song in the bunch and I Will Remember still is a classic, along with wanna get close to you.

Chris Downie: More casual fans could be forgiven for thinking Operation:Mindcrime came like a bolt out of the blue, but that does a huge disservice to their earlier output. Their spirited (albeit derivative) debut EP was followed by the excellent The Warning which, despite its lacklustre mix, showed the promise that lay ahead. Rage For Order was a different proposition altogether, and there is not a weak track to be heard, not to mention the stunning production, which gave it a sound they never dared repeat and which their peers could only hope to replicate.

As to why it didn't break them on a mainstream level (its sales lag behind Empire and even Promised Land) I would have to say that, in the year of Slippery When Wet, Somewhere in Time, Master of Puppets, Turbo, etc. it was simply too difficult to pigeonhole and too far ahead of its time; too "thinking man's metal", at a time when the airwaves were clogged-up by hairspray metal bands with a fraction of their musical vision. 

This was the missing link between prime Judas Priest and the complex, prog-tinged hard rock of early-80s Rush, an album both powerful and thoughtful, exhilarating and cerebral in equal measure.

Those who say Mindcrime is their overall magnum opus would meet no resistance from me, but I would say Rage For Order set them up perfectly for that timeless classic and should rightly stand as their second true masterpiece. Essential listening!

Scott Ferguson: When this first came out, I knew at first listen that this was something special. It had a futuristic sound like no other before. I had a love/hate relationship with this album. All these years later, it’s in my top three Queensrÿche albums. Nothing but love for it now.

Adam Koster: One if the great albums, and I loved the look they went with at the time. Screaming In Digital is still one of my favourite songs of all time. Such emotion in four minutes of music.

Glenn McDonald: A real curates egg of an album. To my mind, not only quite unlike anything else within their own catalogue, but almost unique within the metal canon. The grandiose Victorian Gothic overtones of the band's heavily stylised image and the record's musical content, is contrasted against an outré futuristic production sound, strewn with a plethora of dystopian lyrical themes, resulting in a Gilliamesque retro-sci-fi tour de force. Is this metal's only steam-punk album?

This sounded entirely divorced from what was going on around it within the genre, a million miles from the prevalent party metal, or emergent thrash metal scenes. Also, unlike Queensryche's two previous releases, it didn't seem to owe too much to the more established metal sound of Maiden or Priest either. The band had found their own sound. And with no little help from producer Neil Kernon, who used seemingly every trick in the then current producers' handbook to make a record that could only have been birthed in the 80s, but which somehow didn't sound 80s. In fact this still sounds technically advanced when listened to now, rather than teeth-grindingly dated, like a lot of other albums reliant on the production techniques of the era.

The band and producer seemed to happen upon, or craft (who knows?) a sound that was unique to Queensryche, unique within the metal genre at that time, and unique within the broader 80s musical landscape going on around them. It was a sound they would refine to greater critical (Mindcrime) and commercial (Empire) effect on subsequent releases. But in so doing they never again seemed so pioneering in breaking virgin ground within a heavily structured genre, or sounded so creatively fearless and inventive as they do here.

I think this album, over subsequent years, most specifically in its soundscape (the songs don't stray too far from recognisible verse/chorus/middle eight structures), has become quietly but hugely influential on the progressive metal genre, and should really be considered as one of its founding cornerstones. Would Tool really sound like they do today, in all their neoteric magnificence, without the existence of Rage For Order?

Greg Post: Two parts metal (Judas Priest, Iron Maiden), and one part Prog (Pink Floyd) gets you into Queensryche Territory. This is an excellent album and a must have for any good rock music collection.

Alan Mountain: At first play I was a little put off by this album, expecting a continuation of the sound from the EP and Warning. But by god did it grow on me. This surely laid the foundations for progressive metal and as the precursor to OM, it truly explores unknown territory from a metal point of view. Full of darkness in both its ideas and music, it really does shake the sensibilities and creates a longing for more. OM is a classic, but you wonder why they didn't continue down the path of this masterpiece rather than switch to a more commercial progressive sound. Without doubt one of the greatest albums from this era. 10/10

Roland Bearne: What an album. What a band! The original Queensryche lineup is one of my favourite bands of all time. I discovered The Warning and Take Hold Of The Flame on a sampler. While it seemed the Seattle-ites had a healthy appreciation of Priest, Maiden and the ilk, here was something very much all of their own. 

From Geoff Tate's seeming limitless range and bombast to a unique guitar pairing in Wilton and De Garmo. The anti was then massively stepped up in RFO. From digital textures (the cymbals suffer a bit from early digital production I feel) to incisive taut guitar work this felt like (and still feels) like nothing heard before. Geoff Tate's development of his unique narrative "theatrical" style so brilliantly brought to bear on Mindcrime is show cased here to stunning effect. He has power and range but emotional quality which is uniquely haunting. 

Get Close To You, for example is chillingly dark, packed with barely sane edgy emotion. I believe Mr Tate is an "interesting" cove and his delivery hints at anger and demons within. Compelling. Its the Queensryche album I listen to most often these days although the trio of RFO, Mindcrime and Empires is up there with the very best series of releases of any band. And excuse if any were needed to binge Queensryche again.

Jonathan Novajosky: This was a pleasant surprise. It felt like a mix between the big 80s arena rock sound with a darker, heavy metal tone. I'm not sure if any of these are going to be heavy repeat listens from me, but I appreciated hearing a new band. Standout tracks were Surgical Strike and Gonna Get Close To You. 6.5/10

P.S. This made quite the interesting soundtrack as I studied for the CPA exam!

John Davidson: I was late to the party with Queensryche. I had heard and liked a couple of songs off Mindcrime on MTV in the 80s but for reasons too stupid to mention I didn't buy the album until the 90s and consequently didn't explore their back catalog either.

So, long story short, Rage For Order is a brand new listen for me and a pleasant one at that. It is hard to categorise. It sounds a bit like Iron Maiden at times, but mostly not, it has the melodic sense of some of the 80s mainstream rock, but none of the sappiness or posing of hair metal. I can hear touches of Judas Priest but nothing you can really put your finger on. There's also a bit of prog metal in there that reminds me of Fish era Marillion.

The production hasn't dated - its got a distinctive sound but not one that is tied to a point in time.

Geoff Tate: has a unique voice and his phrasing is fantastic. The band are tight - with interesting drums/bass filling out the sound and a good mix of crunchy guitars and solos rounded out with some acoustic elements. 

If I have a criticism it's that Tate's voice dominates the sound. The instrumental sections are too short and infrequent for me - I'd have preferred to give the guitars more room .

I'm pretty sure if I'd heard this in 1986 I'd have been blown away. I think I like it better than Mindcrime because the story element of Mindcrime sometimes got in the way of the music.

Though not up there with rock/prog/metal legends like Rush - Queensryche managed to create and inhabit their own subgenre of sophisticated, proto-prog metal.

They made Queensryche music and they did it well.

Marco LG: I admit I arrived to this album after discovering Queensryche in 1988 with Operation: Mindcrime. That album opened up my mind to anything progressive in metal, and remains such a milestone in my life to be impossible to judge objectively. Rage For Order on the other hand is an album that I enjoy listening without any sentimental strings attached, only marvelling at the incredible technical proficiency of the entire band, at how easy it is to listen and how fresh it still sounds after all these years.

The sound of the 80s is very distinctive, so much so that many albums of the time have aged very badly because of that. Yet there are a few exceptions, Now And Zen by Robert Plant being my favourite example and Rage For Order being another one. The keyboards on this album could only have been recorded at the time, and in fact in O:M they sound very different. The production is full of the same studio effects that made Savage Amusement by the Scorpions almost unlistenable. Yet, in here it all just works.

The creative duo DeGarmo/Tate gifted us with some of the most incredible albums, and it all started from here. Rage For Order is their statement of intent, an album that contains all the elements that made them so great and yet still sounds unique and original. It can only get praises from me, despite the obvious little defects.

Tim Kaufman: This album is mediocre at best. First issue is the lyrics. My god they are just awful, especially from tracks 6 to 11 (11 being the worst song lyrically for me). Tracks 6-8 talk about new order with little differentiation. Track 1 and 9 were similar to each other thematically as well. Track 10 is another typical "technology will take over" song that other rock bands have done before. 

The one I actually liked was Gonna Get Close To You as I think is a well-crafted stalker song. It felt like they were running out of ideas lyrically and recorded fillers. Second issue is with instrumentation. Mainly, the inconsistency of doing this prog metal/metal sound. Queensryche were a part of the beginning of the prog metal genre so there are going to be hiccups and I will cut them slack for it as, according to critics, they get better after this album. 

Some songs I believe didn't blend well with the vocals (tracks 2, 5, 10) or they were just sounding like glam rock (track 8) or like any other metal band in the 80s that was trying to gain mainstream success (tracks 9, 11). 

Third and final issue is the vocals as well as the mixing. Neil Kernon did not do a good job with the mixing/production on this album. There were songs where I could barely hear Geoff Tate sing because Kernon would turn down the mic (tracks 2, 5, maybe 10). 

Geoff Tate's a great vocalist but track 3 annoyed me because he would just sing high a lot. I would definitely listen to the next album Operation: Mindcrime to see how much improved they were from this because this felt like 45 minutes I would not get back. I would give them a 6/10 only because they helped break new ground for prog metal. If they didn't experiment with prog metal, they would just be another cheesy metal band from the 80s and I would have given this a 4/10.

Mark Veitch: Never got into this band but have given this a few listens now and it just plods. I guess you can’t like everything and to me the lyrics are weak and the music doesn’t really stand out and catch my attention. Not for me unfortunately.

Hai Kixmiller: "If there's an overall theme for Rage For Order it may be technological indoctrination vs. human emotional response." Geoff Tate said that. But I think that's only half the theme of Rage For Order. Based on Chris Degarmo's comment that basically, the entire band, back around '85-'86, were into the Vampire Chronicles novels. The theme should be technology and how vampires deal with it.

For me, I just dig the hard rockin', fist-pumping, sounds of Walk In The Shadows, Surgical Strike and Chemical Youth (We Are Rebellion). I especially like Chemical Youth because it sounds like it was pulled off a Def Leppard album. More to the point it sounds a lot like On Through The Night off the High And Dry album. 

The creepy melody of the cover of Gonna Get Close To You really drives home the imagery of the dark, gothic, vampiric theme that sort of meanders it way through the entire album. This album really teases the listener that it's a concept album, but the band would tell us otherwise. I listened to this album over and over, sure that there was a story but really it was just more commonality than conceptual. Entertaining nevertheless. 

There's a lot of talk about the lack of production or overproduction on this album, but I tend to disregard those opinions because, present day, many of us are listening to a digital stream of a 2003 remastered version of the original recording. So... unless your listening to the original Neil Kernon production from 1986, I say your opinion is bunk!

In short, a really good listen for fans of the '80s Hard Rock genre. A good mix of head nodding, guitar rock, upbeat Def Leppard style melodies, and ballad-ish songs, coupled with a futuristic, technological dystopian world with vampires. Hey... what's not to like?

Bill Griffin: I want to like this (as I want to like all of the bands music) because Silent Lucidity is so good, there has to be something else in their catalog that comes close, right? If there is, I haven't found it yet and it certainly isn't on this record. 

I'm not saying this album is bad because it isn't but neither is anything on it truly exceptional. Nothing stands out to me. I Dream In Infrared (especially the bonus acoustic version) is a cut above the rest of the album but it's not exceptional either. Indeed, my favourite three songs on the album are the last three bonus tracks. 

Those live versions of The Killing Words and Walk In The Shadows are worlds above the studio versions which have me thinking its the production I find fault with. Well, that and Tate's singing. He is in the upper range of his voice way too often for my ears; he is a much more effective singer in the midrange. Overall, I find this record to be better than average but less than owning worthy. It has me reevaluating my rating criteria.

Mauro Lucke: Empire may be their best-known album, but this is the one to get if you're interested in knowing Queensryche. It shows their prog-rock influences. Unlike the majority of the bands from the 80's they are more Rush than Aerosmith, so to speak! Great album!

Carl Black: This may sound like "the art of stating the bleeding obvious" but this is definitely the album before Operation: Mindcrime. OM is a masterpiece of an album, and this is the sketching before the oil paint goes on the canvas. It's a great listen but over shadowed by what came next. The power metal riffs, tight rhythm section, overdramatic vocals and the grand sense of drama is all here, but not perfectly executed. If this was all we had from Queensryche I'd be happy, but they gave us so much more.

Lee Swales: One of my favourite Ryche albums and probably underrated compared to future releases. Stand out tracks for me: Walk In The Shadows, I Dream In Infrared, Surgical Strike, Screaming In Digital, Gonna Get Close To You, Killing Words and I Will Remember. What would follow this would be one of the, if not the great concept album of all time! A great effort from the band dubbed the godfathers of Seattle sound and once given their own genre of Technical Metal, I think I once read that in either Kerrang! or Metal Hammer magazine back in the 90s but they were a cracking band!

Brian Carr: Queensryche first caught my ear when I heard Deliverance on some metal compilation cassette I had. Warning was a decent album fairly different from what I was listening to at the time, but contained the mind blowing Take Hold Of The Flame, still one of my favourite songs from the band. Tate’s voice just floored me, and still does.

Then came Rage for Order with its opener, Walk In The Shadows. Oh man... I might not like it as much as Take Hold, but it’s pretty damned close. Gonna Get Close to You, the video that followed (from my recollection) was creepy, hypnotizing and cool. Listening to it now, I love when the guitar solo comes in - it feels like the sun coming out after a storm, even though it doesn’t last long before once again descending into darkness.

When I bought the full album, I seem to remember finding it less hit and miss than their full length debut. Listening this week has been a joy. RFO feels meticulously well crafted musically - the instruments fit together like a jigsaw puzzle. I can’t give it a ten - Tate’s voice does dip in the blend on occasion and Screaming In Digital is a better title than a song. Some commented that the lyrics were subpar, but I love the sonic aspect of Rage For Order so much, I don’t strain to pay attention to them. Not like I could sing along with Geoff Tate anyway.

It’s too bad Queensryche fell apart; I never had the chance to see them live. At least we got the tremendous triumvirate of Rage for Order, Operation: Mindcrime and Empire.

Final Score: 7.73 ⁄10 (229 votes cast, with a total score of 1772)

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