State of the Art
BY SEAN RICHARDSON
It’s been a while since Queensrÿche were on the charts, but more than one astute observer has pointed out the similarities between their ’88 masterpiece, the Reagan-era concept album Operation:mindcrime (EMI), and the catchy, occasionally overblown prog-rock of Radiohead (back when they were still a rock band), Sunny Day Real Estate (like Queensrÿche, they’re from Seattle), and even Boston buzz boys Cave In (who get compared to Rush more often). In other words, Queensrÿche — who play the Orpheum this Tuesday — are one ’80s-metal guilty pleasure you don’t have to feel that guilty about. And unlike most of their contemporaries, they never really went away. Guitarist Chris DeGarmo is the only original member absent from the band’s current line-up, and the ’99 disc Q2K (Atlantic) somehow found them (a) still on a major label and (b) not sucking nearly as much as its title would suggest.
"We only had a brief period of time where we had what I would consider hits, and that was on the album Empire," says singer Geoff Tate over the phone from Seattle. "MTV was playing metal and hard-rock bands continuously, and we had a very accessible record at the perfect time. We had the song ‘Silent Lucidity,’ which crossed over to a lot of different radio formats and was a very successful video. You know, we still write songs like that; it’s just the people that are in the power positions are looking for new, younger bands. And that’s kind of the way life is. We had our moment in the sun, so to speak, and we do all right financially. We’re not one of those bands that’s all about sales."
Queensrÿche are currently touring in support of the new Live Evolution, their first album for Sanctuary Records (also home to Megadeth and Tesla). It’s the band’s first live album in 10 years and the first to cover their entire career, from the Maiden/Priest–aping of their early days to the more stripped-down attack of their recent stuff. "About the time Rage for Order came out in ’86," Tate explains, "we were definitely stepping out on our own and becoming what it was we were going to be, and that was an experimental band. We’re kind of rooted in hard rock, but we’re risk takers. We really try to push the limits of what Queensrÿche could be."
Tate is, he insists, "not one to bask in what I’ve done" — indeed, the band will start working on their ninth album in January. But he’s not shortchanging their legacy either. "I’m always reminded of how our band affects people by doing live shows. We’re very fortunate that we can drop into just about every city in the westernized world and do a show. It’s very strange to me to be in Athens, Greece — you know, one of the first places of civilization — and hear people singing ‘Silent Lucidity.’ It’s a completely different culture, and here we’re relating on a topic that’s very personal to me. It constantly amazes me."
The radio nuggets on Empire were highlights of the last gasp of pop metal in the early ’90s, but Operation:mindcrime remains Queensrÿche’s most important contribution to the rock pantheon. "Operation:mindcrime is kind of a difficult record, I think, to get into," says Tate. "But once you get into it, you kind of appreciate it. It’s a classic story, you know? There’s political strife, there’s a love story. It’s classic themes that people can relate to."
Queensrÿche perform this Tuesday, November 20, at 7:30 p.m. at the Orpheum Theatre, 1 Hamilton Place; call (617) 931-2000.
Issue Date: November 15 - 22, 2001