Suffice it to say, Empire forever altered the course of the mighty Queensryche. While “Silent Lucidity” became an unexpected AOR juggernaut and “Jet City Woman” happened into a favorable positionamongst FM junkies, the title song has more or less become, tempo-wise, a foundation for Queensryche’s later works.
Though fan reaction to Queensyrche’s 2006 sequel to their greatest achievement, Operation Mindcrime II was a mixed bag, life in the ‘Ryche’s now frontier beginning with the tenebrousPromised Land of 1994 has generally been one melancholic journey after another. Thus Geoff Tate’s ambrosial vocals have historically served his band appropriately, particularly as they’ve quietly sought identity following their commercial ascension and decline since the original Mindcrime and Empire.
Tate and Queensryche’s taste for a temporal and sometimes despondent brand of metal on such albums as Q2K, Tribe and Operation Mindcrime II are almost necessary precursors to what transpires this year as Queensryche and the United States enters a political climate shift with the Iraqi conflict finally beginning to simmer down. Said downcast measures lingering within the proverbial “thinking man’s” metal band are essentially prerequisite coming into their latest studio album American Soldier.
Similar to Winger’s IV and more so Filter’s Anthems of the Damned, Queensryche honors the troops laying down their lives overseas rock-style, only in the case of American Soldier, the album was birthed from a series of actual interviews conducted between Geoff Tate and the troops in Iraq. Relayed in soundbytes through the predominantly sorrowful vibe of American Soldier,tangible military voices lend their distant testimony behind anexceptionally emotive Geoff Tate who gallantly breathes life into his war-tagged muse.
The timing of American Soldier is perfect now that presidential roles have been swapped and the country is more concerned with its own recession-strapped welfare than a controversial war torched by many rock groups including Queensryche themselves during the onstage presentation of both Mindcrime albums. All backlash cast towards the junior Bush now takes a rest in deference to the scarred words and experiences of those spilling their blood on the front lines.
Scott Rockenfield lays down a repetitive thread of concussive beat patterns as American Soldier marches nearly without deviation and in occasional somnolence. This is naturally intentional in order to convey the dead soul nature of war. American Soldier is purposely ugly much of the way as Queensryche hoists a lamenting torch on songs such as “A Dead Man’s Words,” “Sliver,” “Man Down!” and “Middle of Hell.”
While American Soldier does serve to inspire as much as cast a depressing light on the horrors of war, the mostly-languid, withering tempo of the album does carry high above its emotionally-decimated muse (who loses friends and comrades at will throughout the album) on songs such as “If I Were King” and “Home Again.”
Geoff Tate turns in a memorable performance (he dumps you right there in the cockpit on “At 30,000 Ft,” for instance) obviously affected by his meetings with actual soldiers. Although American Soldier hardly breaks its slow, sometimes menacing stride, Tate’s graceful pipes along with the sensitive guitar lines of Michael Wilton and guests Kelly Gray and Damon Johnson (as well as Emily Tate’s cryptic response vocals on “Home Again”) leave a dauntless—if not weepy—ambience to anexceptionally daring record.
Perhaps Queensryche remembered just as many Republicans have historically been into their music as well as Democrats and independents, because American Soldier is a thematic about-face and it caters to each sanction equally. Impartial only to the degree Tate doesn’t throw further darts at the former Commander-in-Chief, American Soldier is a frequently elegant bitter pill with purple hearts pinned to every mournful note.
Heavier in sound and in lyrical content than anything they’ve done since Promised Land, Queensryche has created a provocative, if doom-ushered album of textured refinement for a soon-to-be-post-war society that will be haunted by the past eight years in the upcoming months. American Soldier hails the sacrifices made since 9/11 but it also subliminally condemns the motives forcing said forfeitures of life.
Label: Rhino Entertainment
Article by Ray Van Horn, Jr.