Ever since Chris DeGarmo left 25 years ago, the wait for a new Queensrÿche album meant doubt, worries and deteriorating expectations. DeGarmo’s influence and impact over the band’s ability to create was so overwhelming, that even Geoff Tate’s desire and stubbornness to keep the ship moving forward was not enough to please the majority of fans. Those first five albums still cast a shadow so dense over all of their following releases that you may be forgiven to think you are listening to a totally different band in 2022 and I don’t only mean the different band members. The painful split with founding members Geoff Tate in 2012 and then Scott Rockenfield in 2018 meant a fresh start almost from scratch with only Michael Wilton and Eddie Jackson remaining from the original line-up. Todd LaTorre, who replaced Tate in 2012 is a singer and performer I have deep respect towards, because I’ve seen him from Crimson Glory at the Keep It True festival even before he joined Queensrÿche and the guy is a machine. Yes, he is not Geoff Tate and Tate remains a giant to me, but no one can deny that Todd gave the fans what they wanted and the band started to regularly perform classics from the first two albums close to perfection.
Now, fast forward ten years and we have even two more new band members in the face of returning guitarist Mike Stone (who was in the band from 2003 to 2009) and the ex-Kamelot drummer Casey Grillo, both of whom are performing on the new album Digital Noise Alliance, out this Friday (October 7th). So, here’s the elephant in the room once again – is the new album worthy of the Queensrÿche name?
While the three previous releases with LaTorre were decent efforts, which brought back the dual guitars, the classic sound and solos reminding of the old days, I’ve always thought they simply lacked good songs, memorable choruses and hooks and didn’t stand the test of time. Now, this is where Digital Noise Alliance may actually be a nice surprise, even to the greatest sceptics. Songs like In Extremis, Behind The Walls, Nocturnal Light or Hold On, while containing great riffs, bring nothing new or exceptional to the table and stick to the tried formula of the last three albums, with LaTorre even following the same pattern in composing his vocal lines. The riffs are heavy, the solos are played by the Eighties book, but still – there is not a single “wow” moment – it’s playing safe.
Then, on the other hand, there are songs that truly hit the bull’s eye and are a triumph of what this band and brand really stands for – out-of-the-box melodic patterns, vast soundscapes, enormous choruses and memorable guitar harmonies and hooks. Lost In Sorrow is just an exceptional song with fantastic verse-chorus transition which is embedded in the brain from the first listen. The ballad Forest is the first song with LaTorre that really reminded me of the spirit of the Empire album and Todd even managed to add a different and deeper nuance to his voice, making the song even more emotional. Chapters and Out Of The Black are two other winners, with a great partnership in the guitar department between Wilton and Stone and, once again and very importantly: the feeling of completeness and song oriented composing approach. The rhythm section of Grillo and Jackson is world class and this is where the work of producer Zeuss shines brightest: the sound is really full and balanced, being warm and not over-produced.
The greatest relief comes with the closing epic Tormentum, which is probably the best song in the album, together with the above-mentioned Lost In Sorrow. Just listen to the last two minutes – this is it! Why relief? Well, I think all the fans of this great and unique band will be happy with this album and even the DeGarmo/Tate purists must admit that this time, Queensrÿche have touched the majority of the right buttons and created some songs that deserve to bear the name of this legendary band. Digital Noise Alliance is head and shoulders better than everything in the last decade and still, I think it deserves to be measured against those first five albums. Hence the score.
You can buy Digital Noise Alliance from HERE