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Old 03-20-2009, 10:53 AM
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Queensr˙che - American Soldier

I've been spinning the new R˙che album for several days now.

Short Version: My verdict so far is that it's their highest quality post-Promised Land release. It is absolutely the best Queensr˙che album that does not feature Chris DeGarmo. The concept is solid and well executed. The music has variety, is performed well, and stands on its own. The lyrics, performances, and the production shine in ways they haven't on several past releases.

American Soldier is a concept album about the emotional experience of being an American Soldier. This experience is translated from interviews Geoff Tate did with veterans of the American military. Portions of these interviews are worked into tracks, and I think this serves the songs well. I was afraid that after repeated listens to a song it'd get tiring to hear the same interview clips, but most of the time the clips are short and are both appropriate enough to the song and spaced out enough on the album that it's not tiresome.

While this isn't a Queensr˙che sounding album in the classic sense - nobody's going to mistake it for an album released around the same time was Rage For Order or Operation: Mindcrime - it isn't a Queensr˙che sounding album in the non-Chris DeGarmo sense. What I mean by that is American Soldier does not sound like Q2K, or even Operation: Mindcrime II. While elements of those releases, and all Queensr˙che releases, can be felt in the album (the first single, "If I Were King" has a vaguely Q2K feel to it) this is typical for the band.

Some of the non-typical elements in the album include a drill sergeant on "Sliver" repeating a few lines throughout the song. It works. Sliver is one of the stronger opening tracks for a Queensr˙che album and sets the tone for the rest of the album to follow.

Another non-typical element is found on "Unafraid" the second cut on American Soldier. While Geoff sings the chorus, the verses are composed largely out of two soldiers' interviews laid on top of a modern heavy riff, and an energetic rhythm section. I've read complaints about this, but in my opinion: it works: The soldiers speak for themselves, and Geoff Tate delivers a fist-in-the-air anthem chorus that's later matched by one of Michael Wilton's more stand out, horns-worthy solos.

One of my favorite cuts off the album is "At 30,000 Ft." - this is Queensr˙che. It's broad: It's about being a pilot, and being above the carnage your bombs create, but at the same time, it's specific: We're inside the soldier. On the band's website Geoff Tate commented that when the soldier that inspired this song read the lyrics, he was moved to tears, especially by the line: "their tortured, painful cries will never fall upon my ears, and never stain my elder years."

Last year on the tour for Take Cover the band hosted a karaoke contest of sorts. Winners would get to perform on stage with the band, with one finalist winning a guest appearance on American Soldier. That guest appearance shows up on a cut titled, "A Dead Man's Words." This song is set over a simple, but energetic and extremely heavy riff with Arabic musical elements in the background. The song is about a soldier (Geoff's voice) injured in the desert. The military asks for volunteers (the guest vocalist's voice) to rescue him. While it's no grand duet, and not really comparable to, say, "The Chase" from Operation: Mindcrime II, it works, and it's a great cut that is closed with some saxophone work from Geoff. His saxophone has worked its way on to a few cuts from the album, and is a welcome addition, in my opinion.

Not all the songs are exactly memorable, and some of the cuts that I find myself ready to skip over include, "Hundred Mile Stare", the lead single, "If I Were King," and "Remember Me", which is one of the two ballad tracks on the album.

The other, "Home Again", features a duet with Geoff Tate's ten year old daughter, Emily. It's from the perspective of a soldier writing home to his daughter, and his daughter writing back. This song works, and I think it is (and should be) slated to be one of the future American Soldier singles.

Another single-worthy (and likely to be a single) cut is "Man Down" an up-tempo rocker about re-adjusting to civilian life.

American Soldier closes with a cut called, "The Voice." It's a fitting closer to an hour long album of a dozen songs about the experience of the American soldier.

American Soldier is a strong album. If you've written off Queensr˙che, I encourage you to listen to this album, because it might cause you to reconsider. If you were disappointed with Operation: Mindcrime II, you might find this addresses some of your concerns: The production is better, and there are less ballads. There's a real cohesion with the songs - they sound like they belong together - yet, as the concept is broad (American soldiers) and not specific (centered on the few Mindcrime characters) I think that afforded Geoff and the band more flexibility in songwriting.

American Soldier is out March 31, and I encourage everybody to give this album a listen, as it is an album more than worthy of being apart of the Queensr˙che legacy.
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Old 03-20-2009, 10:55 AM
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I heard this album today. It sucks, but that's exactly what I expected.
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Old 03-20-2009, 10:56 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Maiden33 View Post
I heard this album today. It sucks, but that's exactly what I expected.
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Old 03-20-2009, 10:59 AM
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As if I'm the only one who thinks this band should just break up and stop embarrassing themselves.
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Old 03-20-2009, 11:00 AM
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I'm definitely giving this disc a chance. I'm inclined to think it will suck, though.
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Old 03-20-2009, 11:04 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Maiden33 View Post
As if I'm the only one who thinks this band should just break up and stop embarrassing themselves.
No, but I'm not the only one that thinks American Soldier is a strong cut. I've been following a lot of opinions since the album leaked, and a lot of the folks that have written off the 'Ryche, and did not enjoy O:M II have been surprised, pleasantly, by American Soldier.

I don't understand how Queensryche is an embarrassment. I don't want to read into your perspective, but I assume you would prefer Rage For Order or Mindcrime over Promised Land or Tribe any day.

The band's stylistic shifts do not mean it is an embarrassment to itself. If it's embarrassing to write thoughtful compelling music and not be constrained by genre, then yeah, they're an embarrassment, and some day, I hope I'm an embarrassment to myself as well.

Otherwise, what's an embarrassment? The performances are strong. Wilton is shredding, and this is Eddie's hands-down best overall bass performance on an album. And it's well mixed. The weakest point is Geoff, and while there are some seriously rough spots, overall, and on tracks I highlighted like "Unafraid" or "At 30,000 Ft." or even "Middle of Hell" he does the job, and he does it fine.
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Old 03-20-2009, 11:16 AM
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As if I'm the only one who thinks this band should just break up and stop embarrassing themselves.
Why don't you post it on blabbermouth, where people agree with you?
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Old 03-20-2009, 11:26 AM
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I want to add that the album is hardly perfect...

> Geoff Tate, in my opinion, is still a good vocalist, but he can't do what he once did and when he tries, it doesn't always sound too good. There's a few weak - and some really rough - spots with his vocals on the album. There's also some really good spots. Overall, it's one of his weaker performances. Is it bad? Not, really. Could it have been better? Probably.

> The album does suffer a bit from some overly dramatic choruses. Operation: Mindcrime II had this too, but I think it's not quite as bad here.

And for the record, "If I Were King" may be my least favorite Queensr˙che song ever.

But, even with that said, these things aren't enough to stop American Soldier from being a good album. Great? Maybe, maybe not - it's a bit too soon to call. But good? I think it's safe to say so. And I do feel that quality wise - in terms of writing, performance (overall) and production... yes, this is one of the highest quality releases since Promised Land - and out of the three Queensr˙che albums that do not feature Chris DeGarmo, American Soldier is, in my opinion, the strongest.
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Old 03-20-2009, 11:42 AM
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havent heard it yet, but will keep an open mind until i listen to it
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Old 03-20-2009, 12:12 PM
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