A Tale of two Queensryches, part two

As you know, Geoff Tate, who fronted Seattle’s Queensryche since, well, forever, was booted from the band by former buddies Eddie Jackson, Scott Rockenfield and Michael Wilton. Myriad accusations were thrown back and forth, alleging physical abuse, financial malfeasance, nepotism and the inevitable irreconcilable musical differences.

Jackson, Wilton, Rockenfield and guitarist Parker Lundgren hooked up with Todd La Torre — first as “Rising West” and later as “Queensryche.” The band is releasing an album of new material in June.

Meanwhile, Tate connected with a new group of musicians, including former Queensryche guitarist Kelly Gray and former Quiet Riot bassist Rudy Sarzo to form a new band, which is also called “Queensryche.” Tate’s Queensryche album, “Frequency Unknown” comes out later this month.

Both bands have released a bit of new music — and both bands are touring heavily on old QR material. Tate’s band is currently doing “Operation: Mindcrime” in its entirety, while the La Torre version of QR has been doing shows based entirely on songs from the band’s original EP and the first four albums.

Both sides — and their various fans — have been bashing each other mercilessly through the metal media for months now. Both sides claim they are the “real” QR and dismiss the other as has-beens (Tate) or cheap imitations (La Torre).

Who’s right? No one.

It seems obvious Tate and Wilton/Jackson/Rockenfield can’t work together anymore. Really, that’s just as well. Tate hasn’t really been interested in the old QR material for a while — it was Tate that pushed the band away from metal toward the mellower, more melodic music found on “American Soldier” or the second half of “Operation: Mindcrime II.” It was also Tate who moved the band to record “Dedicated to Chaos,” an album Wilton and the others later claim to have hated.

I didn’t love “American Soldier.” I thought the album was much too respectful, too tame. What little I heard of “Dedicated to Chaos” was enough to convince me not to buy the album. I thought “Operation: Mindcrime II” was half of a good album.

But even if I didn’t like Tate’s direction, I can’t accuse the man of not taking chances. Nothing in the world would have been easier for the members of Queensryche than to keep bashing out “Empire” clones for the rest of their careers; I can’t say I liked the way Tate was going musically, but at least he was pushing himself.

The La Torre version of QR — at least judging from “Redemption,” the band’s first single from the new album — isn’t treading new ground. Frankly, “Redemption” could have come right off “Empire” — it’s slightly heavier, perhaps, but the song doesn’t stray far from the template the band laid out in 1990.  It’s a listenable song with an excellent central riff, and the song shows the Le Torre version of the band has promise … but it doesn’t pack any surprises.

As for “Cold,” the first single from Tate’s “Frequency Unknown,” well, it’s frankly better than I expected. La Torre partisans love to claim that Tate’s voice is shot. But while it’s possible the man can’t scream like he could in 1981, Tate has hardly lost the ability to sing. Tate sounds better on “Cold” than he sounded on “O:MII” or “American Soldier” — and if the song’s main riff is a little generic, the guitar solo is certainly frenzied and full of power. Tate sounds like he has a fire that was missing on the last few QR albums.

Tate and Wilton’s “divorce” seems like the best thing that could have happened to both sides. If the end result is two good albums and two groups of re-energized musicians, then everybody wins.

But there’s one thing both sides need to do — retire the name “Queensryche.”

Tate doesn’t need it; he wanted to make a break from the past, so he should  cut the old name loose. He’s recognizable enough that people would still come to see him if he went on simply as the Geoff Tate Band or something similar. Dropping the name doesn’t mean Tate has to ditch the old material; if he wants to continue singing “Silent Lucidity” for the rest of his career during encores, who’s gonna tell him he can’t?

As for Wilton, Rockenfield, Jackson, Lundgren and La Torre, their first instinct — to call themselves “Rising West” rather than “Queensryche” was correct. Tying themselves to the QR name means La Torre will be constantly compared to Tate for rest of his career with the band. Even with new music, people will be saying, “well, Tate would’ve been better” or words to that effect. A new name would give the band its own identity — and again, if La Torre and company still want to bash out “Queen of the Ryche” and “Warning” during shows, that’s their right.

Queensryche was a great band, particularly between the EP and “Empire.” But that band is dead now. Let it rest in peace and move on as something new, guys. You’ll be happier that way.


1 Comment

  1. I agree completely that the split is a win for both parties. And its a win for fans. More product is being produced than ever before(studio and live) and both parties are putting more heart into it than they have in years. Although I am more of a fan of the older material and am looking forward more to what the LaTorre version is coming up with, Geoff’s passion in what I am hearing from his QR and even his solo work is a pleasant surprise from what ‘Dedicated to Chaos’ left me expecting. His vocals are still amazing, and like you said, he really doesn’t need the QR name to be succesful. I am mixed with the LaTorre version keeping the QR name. They are trying to stay true to the older material that made them so great. But like you said, without Tate(and even DeGarmo for that matter) the comparisons will haunt them no matter what they record. However all that being said, the live performances I have be seeing on YouTube of the LaTorre version seem more like the true(?!) QR than actually being there to see them live in recent years with Geoff (Cabaret etc.). When I finally see the LaTorre version live, if I feel that old QR magic I felt so many years ago, they can keep the Queensryche name as far as I am concerned.

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