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Metal/Prog Metal CD Reviews

Queensrÿche

Condition Human

Review by Gary Hill

There was a time when you could count on Queensryche to put out one strong album after another. Then, at some point after Empire, that all changed. The band veered from their tried and true metal and often released music that just didn’t work as well. Now, with Geoff Tate gone, the band have worked hard to re-establish themselves as a metal act again. It’s paying off. Two albums out, and they seem to have regained their consistency. Yet, they are still managing to break some new ground at the same time. This is a very strong release that has a lot of ties to the early days Queensryche, when metal was their game. It’s a valued addition to the catalog, for sure.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2016  Volume 3 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Arrow of Time

There was a real Iron Maiden link to early Queensryche. The opening riff on this reflects that. They fire out from there into some screaming hot metal. This is definitely trademark Ryche – the metal variety. It’s a great tune and a great way to start this in style.

Guardian
In some ways this feels like it would have been at home on The Warning. There is more of a modern edge to it, though. I love the drop back mid-track. It brings a more melodic metal vibe to the piece. It powers back out after that point, and then they bring some processing and stuff to the cut at the end, calling to mind some of the best studio works from the band.
Hellfire
Starting with more of a dramatic and understated movement, this works out into more classic Queensryche metal. I’m reminded both The Warning and Rage for Order in a lot of ways. This has a number of changes, but remains consistently strong and cohesive throughout.
Toxic Remedy
I like the balance of sounds on this one. It’s both modern and classic in a lot of ways. There is no huge change from the first few songs, but when it’s this good, who cares? This really does feel like old school Queensryche in so many ways. If I didn’t already know, I’d believe someone if they told me it was some unreleased gem from the early days of the band.
Selfish Lives
This is a slower cut. It’s still quite hard rocking, though. There is a good balance between mellower and more metallic sounds here. After Operation: Mindcrime, Queensryche seemed to shift for a more metal act to something closer to a modern progressive rock. Such was the tone that their breakthrough album Empire was set within. To me, this feels like something that would have been on the follow-up to Mindcrime had they kept the more metal edge. It still does have some rather proggy and trippy segments built into it. They do that without sacrificing the sharp edge, though.
Eye9
Bass starts this off and serves as the backdrop for some cool processed vocals. It’s really a trademark Queensryche sound. As the rest of the band join and we’re taken into the song proper, there are some hints of more modern sounds. The chorus has a trademark Ryche sound, but with more modern edge. I suppose in some ways, this feels like something that would have fit well on Mindcrime, really.
Bulletproof
Queensryche have always had a real gift for creating a sound that for others would be essentially a power ballad and doing it with such a densely layered texture that it’s magical. This is one such piece. In some ways I’ve always thought that the real origin of that sort of sound dates back to their Rage for Order disc. This feels (to a large degree) like it would have fit nicely there. Yet, it’s also a modern version of that sound.
Hourglass
Here we get a cut that shows off a nice balance between mellower segments and more rocking ones. There is a cool climbing movement later in the piece that really creates some energy and power. It is followed by mellower melodic guitar to end the piece. This is another that has elements of Rage for Order built into it. Yet, it’s also another that has some really modern things going on, too.
Just Us
This song really came out of left field. I was not expecting it. It’s a proggy kind of piece. It’s a mellower and more melodic number, too. Yet, it doesn’t really come from that same sort of moody ballad territory that I have talked about earlier in this review. It’s still recognizable as Queensryche. It’s still a strong cut. It’s just definitely a new direction in a lot of ways.
All There Was
Showcasing a great balance between metal and a more dramatic sound, this thing really rocks. It’s another that’s trademark Queensryche. This segues directly into the next piece.
The Aftermath
This short (less than a minute) piece is sort of a connecting number. That said, it is a real song and not just incidental music. It comes in with rather creepy balladic sound. There are bits of dissonance and symphonic textures later over the top. The vocals weave some real drama.
Condition Hüman
They definitely saved the best for last. At almost eight minutes in length, it’s also the lengthiest track. It’s a real epic piece in terms of sound and scope, too. This feels in a lot of ways like the kind of thing that we got on Operation: Mindcrime. It’s metal through and through, but also quite creative. It’s a powerful piece of music with a great balance of sounds. It’s a great way to end the set in style.
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