A Tale of Two Queensryches

As you fellow Queensryche fans know, the band has been going through a bitter, angry, ugly and intensely overly publicized meltdown over the past several months.

The band seems to have been in a downward spiral for some time. After three less-than-essential albums (“American Soldier,” “Dedicated to Chaos” and frankly “Operation: Mindcrime II”), the band members turned on each other and began fighting over merch rights, management issues and even the name “Queensryche” itself. Accusations of backstage violence flew back and forth and both sides lawyered up and took each other to court. The only thing that’s missing is a paternity suit.

Today, we have two bands that both claim the Queensryche name — the first includes Ryche lead singer Geoff Tate and a group of other musicians, while the second outfit is pretty much the rest of the pre-breakup band and Crimson Glory lead Todd Le Torre.

So, will the real Queensryche please stand up?

At first, I thought the idea of band members Michael Wilton, Eddie Jackson, Scott Rockenfield and Parker Lundgren going on as Queensryche with a new lead singer was ridiculous. After all, Geoff Tate has one of the most distinct voices in metal — or so I thought.

But then Blabbermouth.net posted footage of an Oct. 13 Le Torresryche gig where in Texas where, frankly, Le Torre is note-for-note perfect on some of the band’s greatest early tracks. The gig is like a “best of Queensryche, 1981-90” showcase and it slays. See for yourself.

After hearing Le Torre tear through “Queen of the Reich” and “Take Hold of the Flame,” I lost many of my doubts about the rest of the band’s sanity. Le Torre really delivers on those songs.

Part of the issue between Tate and the other members of Queensryche can be discerned simply by looking at the Oct. 13 playlist. The band plays songs exclusively from the band’s first four albums and debut four-song EP. It’s as if all the band’s post “Empire” work doesn’t exist.

Now, I’ll be honest — I’d drive a long way to see the Le Torre, Wilton, Jackson, Rockenfield and Lundgren version of Queensryche for the chance to hear songs I never though I’d see played live. Jeezus, if I’d known the band was going to play “Roads to Madness,” on Oct. 13, I would’ve called in dead at work and driven to Texas.

So yeah, I’m excited about an early days set list … but I can’t shake the feeling that Le Torresryche is, at the core, simply the World’s Best Queensrcyhe Tribute Band. Tribute bands can be fun — but if you’re looking for creativity, you’re wasting your time.

On the other hand, we have Tate’s version — Tatesryche, if you will. Well, we really don’t know too much about that yet; Tate is busy promoting an upcoming solo album, “Kings &  Thieves,” so the Ryche stuff has been pushed into the background.

What’s that new Tate material sound like? He has released a tiny bit.

Bluntly, I don’t love either song — but perhaps that’s to be expected from me; I thought “American Soldier” was too bland and too safe and the little I heard from “Dedicated to Chaos” was just not my cup of tea. I think “Operation: Mindcrime II” had some very good moments, but that album really starts to drag in the second half. Tate has said he was the musical leader of Queensryche — if so, he was leading the band astray, into softer, less interesting material.

But here’s the paradox: I haven’t appreciated where Tate has been going with his music, but at least he’s going somewhere. As you can see from the La Torre footage, Wilton and the other members of Queensryche are still tying to rock like its 1988. Tate’s new ideas don’t appeal to me — but I don’t see any future for a band that presents itself exclusively as a nostalgia act, either.

We’ve reached a point where both Tate and Le Torresryche each have to prove themselves. For Le Torre, Wilton, Jackson and the others, the challenge is to write new music that matches that classic Ryche material. If the band can produce new songs that recapture the blistering rampage of “The Warning” or the power of the first “Operation: Mindcrime,” they’ll survive. Queensryche with Tate has been becoming progressively less “metal” for years; a kick-ass new Ryche metal album would be more than welcome.

Tate also has a challenge — to either find a way to sing the old songs, or to make a clean break and forge a solo career audiences find compelling. Tate hasn’t seemed interested in metal for while — which is fine if he creates interesting new music. So far, however, I haven’t been impressed; I said I’d drive across the country for Queensryche with Le Torre doing “Roads to Madness.” In contrast, if Tate put on a solo show of strictly the solo material I’ve heard, plus bits from the last few Queensryche albums, well, I wouldn’t cross the street for that gig.

It’s sad that it came to this — didn’t Queensryche seem like one of those bands that would last forever? Ah well; the best we can hope for is that both sides are able to create something new and awesome out of the wreckage.