Queensryche ‘Condition Human’ – Album Review
Queensryche went back to their roots for their 14th album Condition Human. The effort marks the second album with frontman Todd LaTorre, who replaced original singer Geoff Tate in 2012 following a drawn out and contentious split.
The effort harkens back to earlier Queensryche albums with its heavy progressive sounds chock full of time signature shifts, blazing guitar work, digital sound effects and dialogue sprinkled throughout, as well as a focus on social commentary in the lyrics.
Fans will immediately recognize the band’s signature sound, especially on the effort’s opening track “Arrow of Time,” with speedy guitar harmonies, which are prominently featured all over the album. Guitarist Michael Wilton told us that for this album the band really focused on what inspired them to create what is widely considered their best work. “We really accentuated and borrowed some high energy from the past and really achieved it in this album.” He added, “Having more time gave a little more depth to the songs, a little more of a progressive element and some say a little bit heavier, but more of an eclectic approach as well. So there is a lot of instrumentation, a lot of layers, lots of guitars, drums and everything and the vocals are encompassing with what Queensryche is all about.”
Wilton shared more about the guitar work on the album: “You know rather than show how many scales we can do in a guitar solo, we try to keep it melodic and something that you’ll remember as a melody and then we double it and it’s just something that we’ve always done in Queensryche, kinda of like mini songs inside of songs and mini melodies within melodies. It’s kind of the way we view arrangement and writing songs in Queensryche.”
Condition Human was produced by Chris (Zuess) Harris, best know for his work with Rob Zombie, Hatebreed and Soulfly. Wilton told us he was the right man for the job. “He had the vision because he was a long time Queensryche fan and by saying that, that means he was a big fan of the first six albums and then kinda lost sight of the band. He wanted to really capture the magic and musicianship in the recordings of those early albums.”
Singer Todd LaTorre hits his stride with the band on Condition Human, especially on the tracks “Hellfire” and “Bulletproof.” He balances keeping true with the band’s legacy with adding his personal stamp on the album with some impressive vocal performances. Wilton told us how LaTorre has grown into the role as Queensryche’s frontman. “He’s really matured over the past two years and gotten more comfortable singing the songs and as far as the last recording he’s really grown from that process and really brought to the ‘Condition Human’ album his ‘A’ game and it’s more about representing Todd.”
Condition Human is not a concept album, but it does have some serious lyrical themes. Wilton explains, “All the songs are basically like little stories and ideas that are all intertwined and kind of the human value our systems of how we handle everything and it just touches on the humanist part of our existence basically and how we are battling and adapting to what’s happening in the world as it is right now.”
The aforementioned “Bulletproof” is a powerfully infectious song in 6/8 time that was written by drummer Scott Rockenfield. Wilton told us Parker Lundgren’s guitar solo on the track is one of his favorite parts of the album. “It’s kind of a more traditional pop song arrangement and it really just hits with a really big chorus,” Wilton said. “It’s kind of more reflective and inspired by more of the ‘Empire’ era. So, it’s really a strong song and it hits people hard on the first few listens.
The final song on the effort is the title track that is over seven minutes long. Wilton told us he intentionally wrote a lengthy song to close the album. “It’s a song where in this day and age where everybody’s wanting three-minute songs, you gotta have a three-minute tune on the radio otherwise they’re not going to accept it. Queensryche used to write epic long songs, you know ‘Roads to Madness,’ ‘Suite Sister Mary,’ you know it was something that I thought, you know how cool would this be, especially on the last album where all the songs are really short in length and I said let’s give them a good eight minute tune. You know it was called something else in the demo form and we decided with Zuess to call it ‘Condition Human’ and to end the CD with it.”
Condition Human kicks off with a bang with the heavy track “Arrow of Time” and doesn’t relent taking the listener on a high-octane ride through what is Queensryche’s heaviest album. The band’s renewed energy leaps off the recording creating one of the best Queensryche albums in decades.
Old school fans will revel in heavy tracks like “Guardian,” “Hellfire,” “Hourglass,” “Eye9,” and the epic “Condition Human.” The thinking man’s metal band is back with a fury reminding fans of their early and most popular albums including Rage for Order, Operation: Mindcrime, Empire and Promised Land.
Condition Human is available at iTunes.