Queensrÿche – The Verdict
Released: March 1, 2019
Todd La Torre – Vocal/Drums
Eddie Jackson – Bass
Michael Wilton – Guitars
Parker Lundgren – Guitars
Queensrÿche are back with what I believe to be their strongest album since Empire.
Todd La Torre is clearly the MVP on The Verdict taking on double duties not only as the voice of Queensrÿche, but also as the drummer on this album. Why Scott Rockenfield isn’t present on the album isn’t at all clear as the band has stated that he made himself unavailable due to wanting to spend time with his son. Will he return, the band is unsure. Despite the absence of Rockenfield, The Verdict does not miss a step and has not wavered from that unique experience that listening to a Queensrÿche album is. In all honesty, if you were not aware of it you would swear that Rockenfield is on this record.
The Verdict is a detailed and intricate, progressive yet commercially accessible outing that really does draw the listener in. The Middle Eastern influence that subtly weaves itself into moments on the release adds another element and a whole new depth to what they already do so well. This album is the Queensrÿche album that has it all. All of the hallmarks are here and encapsulates every essence of the past elements that made me a fan way back in 1984. The future is extremely bright for Queensrÿche as The Verdict is set to become a classic release. The Verdict is akin to a greatest hits package as it tips the hat to the past, but is clearly in the present.
For me, this one will sit along side Rage For Order, Operation: Mindcrime and Empire as it is in the same league. Production is incredible and much better than the last two La Torre outings of Queensrÿche and Condition Human. ‘Blood of the Leviant’ opens the album and is the first single from The Verdict. What a way to open the album. La Torre’s vocal is immaculate, the guitars are blistering and the rhythm section is just on fire. ‘Man The Machine’, just adds to the power of ‘Blood of the Leviant’ and would not have been out of place on Operation: Mindcrime. It has a groove that just sucks you in, chews you up and spits you out leaving you grinning from ear to ear.
‘Light-years’ rounds out the opening trio of knockout punches. It is the first hint of Middle Eastern flavour that becomes a little more obvious in later tracks. But it is the massively catchy and the chorus instantly makes you want to sing/chant along. The Middle Eastern influence that I spoke of earlier is strong on ‘Inside Out‘. It is rhythmical, hypnotizing and powerful, creating a beautiful contrast to the powerful chorus. The light orchestration in this song makes it very much an emotive trip in quality songwriting.
The abrupt start to ‘Propaganda Fashion’ is yet another swift truly shows a more aggressive intent before it draws you into a more subtle chorus. It is all guns blazing on this track as everyone’s performance is stellar. It is an attitude filled progressive piece of magic. Things slow slightly with ‘Dark Reverie’ initially with its acoustic style intro and verses, think of ‘Anybody Listening’ from Empire. Catchy, powerful, intricate and incredibly enjoyable just begin to describe this killer track and it is certainly one of most instant highlights on The Verdict. The hallmark twin guitar sound that makes Queensrÿche instantly identifiable kicks off ‘Bent’. The very familiar vocal processing that made Rage for Order such a groundbreaking record for Queensrÿche kicks in and transports you back to that album.
‘Inner Unrest’ is different in so many ways, yet so familiar in so many ways. ‘Inner Unrest’ clearly shows the 2019 musical influence and direction that Queensrÿche have taken. It has the lightest of Middle Eastern flavour infused into the big riff that drives it. The bombastic intro refuses to let go and is one of the most instantly engaging moments for me on The Verdict. The super powerful middle section driven by Eddie Jackson’s thumping bass almost hides the amazing solo behind it. It is cleverly done and makes multiple listens essential to fully understand just how well constructed this song is.
For some reason, the intro to ‘Launder the Conscience’ intro does not instantly grab me. The intro has a slightly generic feel to it, and that is the only criticism of the song. Beyond that, it becomes a song that melds the best bits of Rage For Order with Operation: Mindcrime together perfectly. It has an epic feel to it and is certainly one of the most captivating aural journeys on the album. ‘Portrait’ closes out the album and for me is misplaced at the end of The Verdict, in fact, I’m not sure where I would place it on the album if at all. It heads in a different direction compared to the rest of the record. Progressive, arty, moody and delicate in many ways it doesn’t really work within the context of the whole album. It’s the least instant track for me, but who knows how it will fair after a few more listens.
Even though Queensrÿche only has two original members in Eddie Jackson (Bass) and Michael Wilton (Guitars) on this album. This is the most concise Queensrÿche album in many years. Todd La Torre’s performance vocally over shadows anything original vocalist Geoff Tate has done since Empire. He is the real deal!! The song writing is meticulous, the production is incredible and a true testament to the talent within this band. Queensrÿche have always had a distinct, signature guitar sound and formula; The Verdict sees a huge return to this formula being executed perfectly. Parker Lundgren is the perfect fit and compliment to Michael Wilton and if I didn’t know any better I would swear that this was the original line up in full swing.
The verdict on The Verdict is in !!! Is it good? No it’s great, I am hooked, and an accomplice in spreading the word of how darn good this record is. This confession is mine and one that I am sure many others will deliver as well.
Queensrÿche – The Verdict tracklisting
- Blood of the Levant (03:27)
- Man the Machine (03:50)
- Light-years (04:09)
- Inside Out (04:31)
- Propaganda Fashion (03:36)
- Dark Reverie (04:23)
- Bent (05:59)
- Inner Unrest (03:50)
- Launder the Conscience (05:15)
- Portrait (05:16)