Queensrÿche is one of those iconic bands that have carved their own niche in the history of rock. They have that distinctive sound that is instantly recognizable. At least they used to. As of late, the band or bands have taken a turn and gotten away from what made them Queensrÿche. Geoff Tate’s solo project has somehow bled into that distinctive sound I was just talking about.
Who remembers “Queen of the Reich”, “Jet City Woman”, “I Don’t Believe In Love”, or the Grammy nominated, “Silent Lucidity”? These are those iconic, distinctive songs I was speaking of earlier; instantly recognizable. These are essential Queensrÿche songs. These songs came out in a time when progressive rock/metal was finally hitting the arena stages and mainstream radio. Queensrÿche featured Geoff Tate, Michael Wilton, Eddie Jackson, Scott Rockenfield, and the incomparable Chris DeGarmo. This was the classic ‘ryche lineup we all had grown accustomed to. They finally had a collective voice that was being recognized together, as well as their individual achievements and contributions within the band. This was in a time that Queensrÿche was being hailed as “the thinking man’s heavy metal band” and several critics mentioned that the best years were yet to come.
After reaching the height of their success with the album “Empire”, they followed it up with the critically acclaimed “Promised Land”. It was a departure of sorts from the commercially successful “Empire”, but just as poignant and important to the Queensrÿche repertoire as any other albums up to that point. This is when the ripples started coming to the surface. Chris DeGarmo decided to leave the band under amicable circumstances. The band decided to move forward with several different guitarists, but couldn’t recapture that trademark sound or style. The closest they came was on the album “Tribe” where DeGarmo co-wrote a couple of songs and even played on a few tracks. Those songs went back to the Queensrÿche sound, and it was obvious all along that DeGarmo was what was missing from the band. It was clear now. DeGarmo leaving the band was clearly the “Fall of the Ryche” and forced them back into the bowels of mediocrity, bordering on obscurity.
There was a resurgence of sorts when the 20th anniversary of “Operation: Mindcrime” came about. At the time, it still felt as if they were playing off past successes, and not playing much of the post DeGarmo era stuff, if any. It seemed the fire had all but gone out. The fans were treated to a video at the end of the Mindcrime show which showed promise of a new life in the band. “Operation: Mindcrime II” was announced. They toured again, this time featuring live actors in the iconic roles of the characters from the first Mindcrime. They also toured again after that featuring Mindcrime I & II in its entirety. Something was still lacking though. The only similarities between I & II were title and characters. The great Ronnie James Dio did a cameo on II as the criminal mastermind Dr. X, but even he could not save this album from itself.
“American Soldier” was released next, which showed Queensrÿche was continuing on without the aid of a second guitarist as Michael Wilton took over sole guitar duties. It was a great concept to use real soldiers’ voices between songs. They spoke of the day-to-day dangers they faced overseas in the theatre of war. Even this prolific album still bordered on mediocrity and the muffled grumbling from the fans were starting to get a little louder. Enter Parker Lundgren. They headed back out on the road, adding Parker into the second guitar slot. He had a great working knowledge of the Queensrÿche machine, and fit right in with what the classic sound was all about. They toured for “American Soldier” which was a great show. I was lucky enough to catch it before they took off on the Monsters of Rock cruise. This show happened to have Lita Ford on hand. She and Geoff did an amazing version of “Close My Eyes Forever”.
This tour was better than the few I had witnessed earlier. It just seemed like the Ryche was just going through the motions, and it seemed the fresh, young talent of Parker had reignited the band. It seemed Queensrÿche was getting back on track, leaving high expectations for what would be the final release of the core band, “Dedicated to Chaos”.
This album sounded more like a Geoff Tate solo album than a Queensrÿche album. There were some nice musical hooks and great backup vocals, but where were the politically charged anthems? Where were the thought-provoking lyrics? Sadly, they were nowhere to be found. It sounded like more of an attempt to create an entirely new fan base instead of keeping the ones that helped build their 30 plus year career. The fans hated it.
Now…this is where it can get a little crazy. Geoff Tate’s wife was managing the band and several members of his family held key positions within the structure. The band was clearly not fond of the direction they were heading nor of the way they were being managed and portrayed. Long story short, because trust me the truth is stranger than fiction, the band allegedly told Geoff they had fired his whole family including his wife. Rumors have it that they told him he was next. Geoff’s wife was supposedly skimming off the top to pay another band that was here in the U.S. on work visas, touring as a supporting act for Queensrÿche. All of this is still under litigation so I won’t get too deep into it. The actual parties know the truth and we will just have to wait until it all comes out. There is however, video out there of Geoff spitting on drummer Rockenfield while they were on stage. Again, allegedly there was an altercation of sorts before the show when the band announced the firings. Details can get muddy on this, so I won’t give in to speculation. There is also that one video from Rocklahoma where Geoff told the crowd they sucked. This show would be Queensrÿche’s last as again, allegedly Geoff was fired right before the show. So, there is reason for the bitterness. Not warranted towards the crowd, but reasoning nonetheless.
The end of an era had arrived. The announcement was made. They still had some dates on the books, and Geoff formed up his solo band to finish out. Meanwhile the rest of the band reformed with former Crimson Glory singer Todd LaTorre under the name Rising West. They played a couple of gigs playing nothing but early Queensrÿche stuff; nothing past the fifth album. They threw in a couple of covers by Iron Maiden just to show off Todd’s incredible vocal range. They were a hit!
During the Rising West formation, lawsuits were filed against the band from Geoff Tate, claiming he was Queensrÿche and should have complete rights to the name as well as the collection of songs that were written over the course of their combined careers. The band rebutted with a similar claim. The judge ruled that they would reconvene later this year to sort out this while mess. In the meantime, both parties were entitled to use, perform and record under the Queensrÿche brand. Geoff wasted no time recruiting his all-star line-up, with most notably, Rudy Sarzo of Whitesnake, Quiet Riot and Ozzy fame, along with former Queensrÿche replacement guitarist Kelly Gray. Bobby Blotzer from Ratt was on board for a while, but decided to stick with Ratt. Geoff decided to take this time to announce yet another anniversary tour of Mindcrime with his version of Queensrÿche. I feel the fans were ready to hear something other than Operation Mindcrime on tour again. That’s where Rising West comes in.
Rising West announced that they too were changing their name to Queensrÿche and going into the studio to record an album. They played a couple of songs from Mindcrime, but decided not to play it in its entirety again! At this time, Geoff also announced that he was going into the studio with his lineup and recording under the Queensrÿche name as well. This album featured guest players such as K.K. Downing from Judas Priest, Ty Tabor from King’s X, and Brad Gillis from Night Ranger. It sounds promising if you ask me. Not so much. This isn’t a comparison of albums as the other Queensrÿche album hasn’t been released at this time. We will save that for another article. Geoff Tate’s incarnation leaves something to be desired and still is lacking the polish that I, the fan, had been spoiled by in the earlier albums. I can’t even begin to describe the bad remakes of four iconic songs he placed at the end of the album as a bonus. We’ll save that as well. I will add that it seems like Geoff is trying to single-handedly destroy what he spent the better part of his life building in one swoop.
The rest of the band’s version of Queensrÿche’s album is due out in June, so we will have to wait to see what’s in store for the future. I truly wish both parties the best. I will say of the LaTorre fronted project, it sounds like Queensrÿche. They have brought on the producer from their biggest albums to mix and master it. I’m only hoping that whoever ends up with the name can return it to the glory and majesty it once held. From Grammy nominated, to a glorified lounge act is not what the legacy of this once mighty band should be. This story is still developing, so look forward to a follow-up on this. Until then, pick up Geoff’s Frequency Unknown, or don’t, and await the arrival of the band’s self- titled album coming in June. You be the judge. Until this crazy story unfolds, stay tuned Rychers!!!