October 16, 2006

CD Review: Queensryche - Q2K (Expanded and Remastered)

I was a latecomer when it came to music. That being the case, I "discovered" Queensryche with their 1990 album Empire, an album I still consider to be a masterpiece. I then went back and found Operation: Mindcrime and Rage for Order, which further cemented them as a favorite. However, following Empire, there seemed to be a downward track for the following albums. At least that is how I perceived the sequence of Promised Land and Hear in the Now Frontier. They both had good songs, to be certain, but neither captured the magic of the earlier albums.

Then, along came Q2K in 1999. The album found the band themselves at something of a crossroads. Primary songwriter and guitarist, Chris Degarmo, left the band in favor of other pursuits, and the band found themselves without a label. They signed with Atlantic, and added guitarist Kelly Gray to the band. Q2K was their debut effort, and it did not stop the slide from the previous album, and it would not stop with the next album Tribe, which I don't remember anything from.
Jump ahead, we are now seven years past the release of Q2K, and it, as well as the albums that preceded it, have grown a bit in my estimation. Atlantic/Rhino have released this newly remastered album, with the added extra of four previously unrleased/rare tracks.

Following the excellent return to form with Operation: Mindcrime II, we have this opportunity to reevaluate their past work. I have definitely found myself enjoying this album much more than I did in 1999. That isn't to say that it will be remembered among their best work, but it is an album that has aged well, and works much better now. Perhaps I have just lowered what I expect from it. Whatever the case may be, it is an album that is worth revisiting.

The liner notes include the lyrics, just as the original did, but it also includes an introduction from Geoff Tate written in June of 2006. He writes of the crossroads they had come to with the loss of thier longtime label, EMI, their management company, and Chris Degarmo's departure. He writes of the fear and uncertainty they had, and their decision to add Kelly Gray to the fold and record a new album. I think the most surprising revelation (at least to me) was the talk of how much drugs and alcohol were consumed during this period of musical redefinition. With this in mind, I moved forward into listening to the album.

Q2K has a vastly different sound than anything from the Degarmo era. The songs have a bit more alt-rock/angsty edge to them. The high production value is still there, the sound quality is great, but the music itself, I don't know, there was something missing. I did not feel any attachment to it. Listening now, I find more to like, and I do have a higher regard for it these days.

The album starts off with the bouncy percussive "Falling Down." This is easily one of the stronger songs. It has a nice energy to it as it signalled a new era for the band. That is followed by "Sacred Ground" which continues what was started with the opening track. Both of these songs have an infectious vibe that plays much better to my ears now.

The third track is "One Life" which is interesting in that they seem to be channeling a bit of fellow Seattle band Soundgarden. Odd hearing that, but not bad, just different. The album then hits a lull for a few tracks of pure mediocrity before catching stride again with "Liquid Sky." We then hit the second lull, with only a few interesting moments during the next few songs. Q2K finishes strong with "The Right Side of My Mind." A song that sounds more like Empire era Queensryche.

This release continues on with a pair of songs that Geoff Tate does not know why weren't included on the original release. The first is the ballad "Until There Was You," which has a very nice and hopeful feel to it. The other song is the rocker "Howl," a song that makes good use of open chords and a good bass line driving the song forward. The final two bonus tracks are a very good live version of "Sacred Ground" and the radio edit of "Breakdown."

Bottomline. While not near the top of Queensryche's discography, Q2K works much better now than when it was originally released. It is an album that I would definitely recommend, just not as an introduction to potential new fans. So go ahead, dip into the back catalog and pay this album a revisit.

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Anonymous said...

Can you hook us up with a link?

Chris said...

What are you looking for a link for?
If you want an illegal download, you will need to look elsewhere.

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