Get ready my friends, because this album review might make some of you happy. It may piss some of you off (I’m counting on it!), and it just might make a select few of you, the realists, say, “Know what? He’s got a point.” Here’s the deal. QUEENSRŸCHE has long been one of my favorite Heavy Metal bands, and with good reason. They’ve had their ups and downs, but in 2013 they released their self-titled record, the first featuring Todd La Torre on vocals. And oh Happy Day, was it magnificent! It actually wound up being my 2013 Album of the Year it was so good. 2015’s Condition Hüman was a decent follow-up, but anyone who beats their chest saying it’s better than the self-titled record needs a check-up from the neck up, FACT.
So now it’s 2019 and the band has just dropped The Verdict (out now, Century Media Records) on us. I guess you’re wondering how it is if you’ve come this far. Quite honestly, it’s really great. While not as perfect as the 2013 offering, it is still better than the one that came after. The album blends early QUEENSRŸCHE with some good stuff the band did in the 90’s and 00’s. HOT TAKE: Promised Land is a sorry attempt at a PINK FLOYD album, while Q2K is fucking excellent. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. The good news is the band manages to avoid the missteps that befell much of their later works up till 2011. Once again Chris ‘Zeuss’ Harris does an excellent job in the producer’s chair, getting the best sounds from the guys.
Opener “Blood of the Levant” features chugging riffs from the guitar duo of Parker Lundgren and Michael Wilton over thick bass lines from Eddie Jackson, as well as some serious drumming from vocalist Todd La Torre. That’s right, he plays all the drums on this record, and he plays the shit out of them. If it weren’t public knowledge, none of us would know the difference. “Man the Machine” was a favorite right away; it’s got a classic QUEENSRŸCHE vibe, complete with a dual harmonized outro solo bit that I just love. “Light Years” has Jackson front and center, and it also brings all the best elements of this band together in a tasty musical stew. The chorus begs to be played live, so here’s hoping they do on the current tour.
The moody intro to “Inside Out,” its ensuing melody and groove definitely invoke the Q2K spirit at times, before taking off at a gallop for certain parts of the song. Meanwhile “Propaganda Fashion” comes out guns blazing. It does feel stilted at times, though. But it’s not a bad song or throwaway by any means. I kind of went back on forth with “Dark Reverie” before deciding that I do like it. It’s a cool tune, and I think the faithful will dig it. “Bent” is another winner for yours truly, especially with the serpentine guitar lines and atypical drumming, while “Inner Unrest” has a kind of “The Mission”-like quality to it from Operation: Mindcrime.
Oh, and in case you forgot that the boys can still bring the heavy, “Launder the Conscience” should serve as a hearty reminder. La Torre’s voice is always spectacular, but I love his tone and delivery on this one especially. The song takes a hard left turn for the last minute or so, but that only adds to the flavor. Closer “Portrait” is dark, atmospheric, and quite lovely, with lush vocal harmonies. All of these help to set a rather melancholy scene that caps off the disc. All in all, QUEENSRŸCHE have delivered an excellent record with The Verdict, one that the longtime fans as well as newer ones will rally around and be very happy with. I highly recommend you pick this one up.
STANDOUT TRACKS: “Launder the Conscience”, “Man the Machine”, “Bent”, “Light Years”, “Inner Unrest”