CD Review of Q2K by Queensryche

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starstarstarstarno star Label: Atlantic/Rhino Records
Released: 2006
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When Q2K was originally released in 1999, Queensryche was in chaos. Co-founding member, guitarist and principal song writer Greg DeGarmo unexpectedly left the band. The most commercially and artistically successful records, Empire (1990) and Operation Mindcrime (1988) were nearly a decade old and the band, according to the excellent essay included in this re-issue, wasn’t sure it could continue.

So, Geoff Tate and the boys invited old friend Kelly Gray, who had produced Candlebox’s 1993 debut and Dokken’s Shadowlife, to play guitar and work on Q2K. The end result was a sinewy record featuring chunky and occasionally distorted guitar riffs and the busy and outstanding drum work of Scott Rockenfield. Geoff Tate’s remarkable voice is a trademark of the band, but the difference in guitar sound is really the standout feature of the disc.

DeGarmo’s playing was always excellent and precise. Gray’s is edgier and less defined, adding a fascinating ingredient to a band that always sounded completely structured down the last detail. “Falling Down,” “Sacred Ground” and “Breakdown” are full of chaotic and interesting guitar work. This is a very heavy record; there is no “Silent Lucidity” to be found and that is just fine because the album rocks from beginning to end. The production is excellent, letting the guitar, drums and Tate’s voice fill most of the soundscape. There are a lot of layered vocals on the album but that really is standard fare for Queensryche.

As part of the album’s recent re-release, four new tracks are included, “Until There Was You” (the mellowest track on the record, again featuring some interesting riffing by Gray) and “Howl,” which were recorded during the Q2K sessions but not included on the original release. The other two tracks are a live version of “Sacred Ground” and a radio edit of “Breakdown.” Gray was only an active member for one more release (2001’s Live Evolution), but his contribution here cannot be understated. This is a very cool record, and the re-issue offers some tasty nuggets making it worthy of purchase (especially if you don’t have the original).

~R. David Smola