Strong follow up showing plenty of life left
Many have questioned Queensrÿche’s relevance after the bands last couple of releases. Even though I consider myself a staunch supporter of the band, I too have asked myself the same question. 1994’s Promised Land was perhaps Queensrÿche’s most experimental and satisfying album, but 1997’s Hear In The Now Frontier was a huge disappointment. Chris DeGarmo’s departure soon after was another blow to the band, and fears of the bands collapse seemed very real. However, 1999’s Q2K saw guitarist Kelly Gray inducted into the band (Along with vocalist Geoff Tate, guitarist Michael Wilton, bassist Eddie Jackson and drummer Scott Rockenfield), and a step forward in the right direction. Since then, Queensrÿche released the stunning Live Evolution, split with Gray and individually released solo albums.
Whether it’s the split with Gray, time away from each other, solo experimentations outside of Queensrÿche or a combination of all these factors, there’s no denying that their ninth studio release Tribe is their best in years. There’s a slight Eastern influence within Tate’s vocals in the lead off single Open, with the chorus full of melody and that unique Queensrÿche flair. The lyrical theme of tribalism continues through on Losin’ Myself, with Rockenfield providing a tribal sounding backbeat percussion throughout. The heavier sounding guitars add some much needed weight, while Tate really uses his voice to great effect. Desert Dance once again has a slight Eastern feel, and gives the album it’s heaviest, and possibly best track. The multi layered backing vocals add to the frantic mood, while the guitar riff underlining the greater whole is minimal, it works well none the less. There’s more than a hint of Tate’s solo material in the melodic/semi acoustic easy going nature of Falling Behind, while the spiritually lyrical theme in The Great Divide and Rhythm Of Hope are both outstanding mid paced centrepieces for the album.
The title track Tribe is a dark return to form of Queensrÿche of old. Tate’s eerie deep voice moves in the shadow of the verses, while the chorus is elevated to full guitar mode. It’s been a while since Queensrÿche has done something this quite varied, and thankfully they have pulled it off with class. Blood is another Rockenfield led number, with the simplicity of the guitar structure and Tate’s bleak vocal delivery coming through with disturbing clarity. The uplifting U.M.S. (Also known as Under My Skin) is interestingly delivered, while the familiar themed closing semi acoustic Doin’ Fine caps off otherwise great album.
Tribe is hardly another Operation: Mindcrime or Empire, but then Queensrÿche are not the same band as they were back then either. Instead, this is the perfect follow up to Promised Land. If this album is anything to go by, then there’s still plenty of life left in a band that many had written off as past their expiry date a couple of albums ago.
(Metal-Is/Sanctuary Records/Riot! Distributors)