Queensrÿche – Condition Hüman (Century Media)Sunday, 27th September 2015
Resiliency remains a constant for lifelong followers and makers of heavy metal. A whole host of circumstances and events can change the course of direction and outcomes – to the good and bad of a band’s output. Take the case of Washington’s Queensrÿche – critical darlings during their first phase of appeal from 1983-1988 where the latter Operation: Mindcrime could arguably be debated as the great concept record in our beloved genre, only to see Geoff Tate’s whimsical desires to veer into alternative pastures dilute the traditional, power, and progressive nuances we all came to know and love. C’mon, when is the last time you took in Q2K or American Soldier in their entirety?
So now the split firmly established and settled in court, vocalist Todd La Torre and guitarist Parker Lundgren having been with the three veterans guitarist Michael Wilton, bassist Eddie Jackson and drummer Scott Rockenfield for 3 years – it’s best to prove their worth on record and in live contexts. Condition Hüman is the follow up to their 2013 self-titled resurrection, bringing integrity back to the heart of a sound Queensrÿche established during the 1980’s: progressive and challenging, melodic and engaging while using technology in proper placement to enhance the proceedings. The fact that the band now has a singer that can convincingly pull off the upper range of early material again probably gives the quintet more options – and these 12 tracks give vitality to this proper welcome back platform.
From the opening quick hitting Wilton/Lundgren axe harmony on opener “Arrow of Time” to the slightly Rush-like pulsating groove established by the stellar Jackson/Rockenfield rhythm section on the follow up “Guardian”, Queensrÿche show that their chops are ever sharp in 2015 as they were three decades plus before. The pacing of the record has the right dynamic balance – certain arrangements are more mid-tempo and multi-layered from a vocal and musical buildup such as the brooding “Hellfire” or “Hourglass” while others harken to the progressive, forward thinking artists that made the band champions like “All There Was” and the aforementioned “Guardian”.
Todd is not a mere Geoff Tate clone – although he certainly has that emotional depth and expressive multi-octave nature like his predecessor, his smart intuition for when to reserve his money notes for the right trailing choruses and verses in the ballad “Bulletproof” puts him in rarified company. The 7:45 title track closes the album in grand fashion, as Queensrÿche deliver all facets of their clean and heavy repertoire during this longer arrangement: subtle clean guitar passages, building momentum vocally and then dropping a quieter mid-section before the stellar lead break. Pure genius.
If you lost faith in the band, Condition Hüman should be the record to champion. Intriguing, alluring, melodic progressive metal that puts the quintet at the top of their game.