The debate is over. After Queensrÿche fired vocalist Geoff Tate in 2012, he left a trail of recriminations a mile wild. The end result is, as of this writing, an unresolved legal dispute between two bands using the Queensrÿche name. Tate struck first; after delivering a terrible solo album, he released the deeply disappointing Frequency Unknown (F.U. for short, get it?) under the band's name. The rest of Queensrÿche waited, hired former Crimson Glory vocalist Todd La Torre, and recorded this self-titled offering, and issued it a few months later. Co-produced by the band and James Barton, this is the album most Queensrÿche fans have desired for the last 15 years. It's a return to their metal swagger and strong songwriting (all members contributed), infectious vocal choruses, and stellar twin-guitar harmonies by Michael Wilton and Parker Lundgren. This is the sound of Empire, with hints of their early-'80s material updated for the 21st century. While the big question was whether La Torre was up to the task of fronting such an iconic-sounding band, it shouldn't have been. He was the dominant force in Crimson Glory, and his range is wide whether clean, snarling, or using a falsetto that is equal parts Ronnie James Dio, early Ian Gillan, and yes Tate (La Torre is a longtime Queensrÿche fan). His timbre and pitch are solid, and he adds the right balance of gloss and grit to the guitar riffing, in-the-pocket drumming, and bass thud. While the album deliberately references the past -- check album highlight "In This Light" with its echoes of "Jet City Woman," and "Another Rainy Night" -- they've also channeled the energy and knotty composition style of some of their best work. "Spore" is classic heavy metal with punchy hooks and soaring refrains. Musically, "Vindication" would have fit next to the songs on Operation: Mindcrime, led by Eddie Jackson's throbbing bassline, aggressive, knotty guitar riffing, double-timed drums, and anthemic choruses. "Redemption" is angular, bruising Queensrÿche with an irresistible hook powering the refrain. "Where Dreams Go to Die," is a signature power ballad that contains a classic buildup dynamic. Closer "The Open Road" is another, but its killer guitar break and Scott Rockenfield's orchestrations make it stand apart. Despite the references to their past, Queensrÿche doesn't sound nostalgic; if anything, the band sounds revitalized. They took stock, kept what worked, and disposed of the dead weight. This record is Queensrÿche; the other group is just Tate and company (mis)using the name.
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AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek