It seems like Queensrÿche have been around forever, but a closer look reveals a mere 14 albums over a 33-year stretch. That’s a lot of years, but not a lot of albums, and as fans of the band know, the quality of their recordings has been hit or miss over the years. But when they hit, boy do they ever. With more than 20 million albums sold around the world, these guys were giants in the metal world from 1988 until grunge took over in the early ’90s. Here we take a look at their discography and pick out the albums you need to have.
It was only an EP, but Queensrÿche’s eponymous debut struck a chord with listeners. Taking its lead from the New Wave of British Metal bands that were popular in the early 80s such as Iron Maiden and Judas Priest, the four songs on Queensrÿche showcased a technical yet melodic band.
“Queen of the Reich” and “The Lady Wore Black” were featured in concerts for years, and showcased a band that had solid, if somewhat derivative, songwriting chops. They also showcased a talented young singer with amazing pipes in Geoff Tate. While it doesn’t have the polish or the progressive nature of future releases, Queensrÿche is an excellent debut that put the band on many a listener’s radar.
Recommended track: “Queen of the Reich“
Rage for Order, the band’s second full-length album, showed them evolving towards what we would all hear on Operation: Mindcrime. There’s still a bit of a lack of identity here, as they wind their way between standard hair metal (“Walk in the Shadows”) and conceptual progressive metal (“Neue Regel”), but the seeds are being sown for greater things to come.
With that in mind, Rage for Order still holds its own remarkably well for a mid-’80s metal album. Some dated synth sounds and production mar an otherwise excellent effort from the band. I saw them on this tour way back in the day, and it was clear the band was marching in a different direction than the standard metal bands of the day.
Recommended track: “Walk in the Shadows“
After an acrimonious split with Tate in 2012, he and the band both dropped their own “Queensrÿche” projects, and neither was really worth writing home about. But the band, with Tate sound-alike Todd La Torre fully integrated after a few years, managed to surprise with Condition Hüman, an album where the band sounds more energetic and revitalized than they had since Promised Land.
The band returned to heavier roots on this record, with long-timers Eddie Jackson and Scott Rockenfield delivering the goods on bass and drums, heavy twin-guitar work from Wilton and Parker Lundgren, and most importantly, well written songs. “Guardian,” despite the nu-metal breakdown at the end, “Bulletproof,” and the title track are all strong songs.
Recommended track: “Guardian“
Two years after Operation: Mindcrime broke the band to an international audience, they really hit the big time with Empire, an album that, Def Leppard’s Hysteria notwithstanding, was the epitome of slick production and catchy songwriting. While fans bemoaned the fact that Empire wasn’t a concept album, there was no denying the album’s quality.
Empire is remembered mostly for one of the biggest power ballad’s in metal history, “Silent Lucidity,” a huge, orchestral number that the album rode to millions in sales. There are memorable songs aplenty here, and while they don’t adhere to much of a common theme like the album’s predecessor, the songs stand up on their own quite well, making Empire an excellent metal album.
Recommended track: “Anybody Listening?“
Surprised to see this here? Don’t be. The only thing that held Promised Land back from greater success (although it opened at No. 3 on the Billboard charts) was Nirvana. Metal was in its death throes, suffocated beneath grunge, when Promised Land came out, and it’s a shame, because this album features the band’s strongest songwriting outside of their magnum opus.
Promised Land is a deeply personal album, as guitarist and guiding force Chris DeGarmo deals with both the price of the band’s success and the relationship he had with his father. The songs are thus played with far more passion and conviction than Empire, yet with equally solid production. It’s certainly mellower than their other offerings – “Bridge,” “Lady Jane,” and “Someone Else?” are all acoustic or piano-driven melancholic tunes – but with a few listens the quality of this album becomes obvious: it’s Queensrÿche’s best work outside of No. 1 below, and sadly overlooked.
Recommended track: “Damaged”
Well this comes as no surprise to anyone who listens to metal. Rage for Order hinted at the band’s progressive leanings, and everything coalesced for Queensrÿche on their third full-length, Operation: Mindcrime. A concept album about a disenfranchised man who is lured into a political web via drugs and sex, the storyline is as impeccable as the music.
From the introductory “I Remember Now” to the anthemic “The Mission,” from the epic “Suite Sister Mary” to the stunning closer “Eyes of a Stranger,” the band nails each moment and Tate delivers the performance of a lifetime. Operation: Mindcrime is hands down the best progressive metal concept album of all time, and one of the best heavy metal albums to boot.
Recommended track: “Eyes of a Stranger“