CD Review of American Soldier by Queensryche
Queensryche: American Soldier
Recommended if you like
Dream Theatre, Iron Maiden,
Spock’s Beard
Label
Rhino
Queensrÿche:
American Soldier

Reviewed by R. David Smola

()

A
merican Soldier is a concept record from Queensrÿche which tells the stories of soldiers who have served in different conflicts and lived to tell about them. In the hands of a band without the level of integrity with which the ‘ryche has comported itself over the years, this could have been a disaster. It also could have gone terribly wrong if this was yet another art piece commenting on the horrors of war or the mistakes of the previous administration. (Looking for that? Just go check out the bile of the last three Ministry records.) Instead, inspired by a very candid conversation that vocalist Geoff Tate had with his father about his military experiences, Queensrÿche presents a record from the perspective of the soldiers based on interviews and conversations that Tate solicited. Each song has a life, and a story, of its own.

The record features voices of some of the soldiers as they recall their experiences. These snippets of dialogue often show up at the beginning of a track, but in the case of "Unafraid," they become the verses as Tate hauntingly brings the chorus home. It takes a bit of getting used to, and if this were a vinyl release I would be wearing out side two: Tracks 1-5 are decent, but 6 – 12 are stellar, inspired and feature the passion that Queensrÿche is known for but offer hooks which stand up well against their older material. The first five really depend on the concept of the record to hold them up.

Queensryche

"The Killer" features Wilton’s best work and musically sounds as if it could fit in on the Empire record. "If I Were King" is a mellower track which builds to some big guitar riffs and huge harmonies and sounds absolutely terrific, thanks in part to some haunting soldier dialogue in the middle of the track which will make the hair on your neck stand up. "Home Again" is a duet between Tate and his daughter, Emily, playing the part of a soldier and his daughter who have to deal with the distance – both emotional and physical -- that duty creates. This is a chillingly brilliant track, with the contrasting voices stirring up the heart. The album concludes with the emotional "The Voice," which contemplates the last conversation a wounded soldier is having (perhaps with God or with himself) as he is taking his last breaths. The song features some very effective strings as Tate’s voice, as always, sounds fantastic.

Michael Wilton plays almost all the guitars on the record, as Mike Stone has left the band to devote his attention to Speed-X, a group featuring Nick Catanese of Black Label Society. The record was produced by Jason Slater, who produced the band’s last two studio efforts, Operation Mindcrime II(2006) and Take Cover(2007) with Kelly Gray, another former Queensrÿche guitarist. The production and mixing is solid; each of the instruments gets its share of space, with Tate’s ageless vocals placed front and center, where they belong. This is not a great album, but a sincere one with plenty of highlights. Queensrÿche is band always testing itself, and presenting concepts that challenge your emotions as well as your mind. Count American Soldier another solid recording in an excellent discography.

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