Last updated on 4 August 2020
Ever since I did the review on the excellent Operation: Mindcrime, I was itching to go ahead and continue reviewing Queensrÿche. They sport a rich heritage of some 40 years of service in rock and metal. Another bunch of seasoned veterans that truly made a mark on the metal scene. Only they were present all over this life-long timespan, unlike others that recently emerged again.
A true career of a rock band, filled with successes, failures (in the eyes of some), and its share of pretty sturdy drama. Just think about the bitter divorce from Geoff Tate that only allowed the remaining Queensrÿche gang to take off on a safe legal footing by late 2014. The story won’t find yet another rehash here, much larger brains than mine spilled those particular beans ad nauseam already. But if you’re interested, here’s the wiki link. And there’s a ton of additional material out there on the mighty net that will tell you the story in pretty tortuous detail.
Now, Condition Hüman is the second album with Todd La Torre at the helm. In a way, he is the perfect Tate replacement, a sound-alike if there ever was one. Yet, what counts are those stellar pipes that just sound right on a Queensrÿche rig. Not much of a change right there, which – in a metalhead’s mindset – is a great thing. After all, they don’t quite like a ton of change.
Condition Hüman probably is the nearest record to Operation: Mindcrime. That mix between Iron Maiden and Nevermore repeatedly struck me, and more so than on Mindcrime itself. Yet at first, the maiden gets her cut. And this renders the starter piece Arrow of Time already somewhat stale with Eddie constantly lurking in the background. Boy, Traveler could not have done that better, and they’re total fanboys.
Yet, as of Guardian and Hellfire, the record considerably gains in substance and oomph. This is where that subtle mix of Heavy Metal and Progressive Metal that we crave bubbles to the forefront. At first, evenly split more or less, but then clearly favoring that prog road. A pretty remarkable shift in focus, something that speaks to that subtle experimentation we kinda expect from a band like Queensrÿche.
The RMR deck crew here really enjoyed that conversation between Michael Wilton and Parker Lundgren. Say what you want, but once the guitars really play together as opposed to against each other, things usually improve. And this record is no different.
This goes hand-in-hand with the aforementioned ease that La Torre fits into the fold. Yet, his ability to vary tone and texture to the tune on offer just adds that trifle spice needed for a good record to reach still higher levels. In other words, he does prog just as well as full Heavy Metal jacket. And that is a good thing. Because by the time Condition Hüman – the title track – breezes along, the prog-like storytelling gets to real top-notch levels for a metal piece.
Thus, with La Torre‘s vocals on Condition Hüman on crystal clear territory and the guitars right where they should be, I continue to search for the bass. Prog1) is the place where the bassist can roam and have a voice. Yet here the mix kinda sucked it up – and never spit it out.
The second bone of contention is with the ubiquitous drumming. It’s all there, perfectly in place, but this feels like watery coffee with that lukewarm taste. No real metal bite here, and I almost wish the issue was some snare drum from Metallica’s St. Anger2). At least I’d know what really irks me. Instead of having someone trying to beat me into a bored stupor.
But things never quite happen without a reason, methinks. Scott Rockenfield did finally take a hiatus from the band in 2017. Which has – so we are told – been extended indefinitely with some members opining that he’ll never come back. And to date, this still holds true.
So, let’s wrap this up some.
As yet another and ‘new’ sophomore album3), Condition Hüman is a pretty cool piece. I expected all kinds of things, but not such a rock-solid record that – to top it – seriously challenges their own, age-old masterpieces. La Torre‘s flexible croonings and metal screams, plus that cool guitar work from the Wilten / Lundgren team really made a distinct difference to the success of the album.
Yet again, given its shortcomings, the album won’t ever reach the lofty heights of former glory. But as a Queensrÿche record goes, this is the kind of sturdy fare that keeps us energized. A jambalaya of Progressive and Heavy Metal served hot and hot, one track at a time, on a foundation of soaring vocals.
A neat record if there ever was one, right in the vein of past successes. From a band that still has a serious itch to scratch after all those years. Well done.
Get dat tune: