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Like most long-term Queensrÿche fans, I was disappointed to learn about their very public unraveling a couple of years ago. Unlike some band breakups, this one turned really ugly and even violent.

It didn’t take much reflection to realize that it had been a long time since the band put out a great record - for me it was all the way back to ‘Empire’. Maybe the changes would be for the best.

With renewed optimism I caught the new Queensrÿche at a concert on the Oregon coast. The rumors I had heard were true; the new singer, Todd LaTorre, formally of Crimson Glory, was just as good as Geoff Tate. It had been many years since I heard Tate pull off ‘Queen of the Reich’ with this level of vocal range and power.

While legal rights to the name were still being sorted, 2013 saw two different bands with the same name produce two completely different albums.

Queensrÿche - Frequency Unknown and Self-Titled album

Geoff Tate assembled a group of session musicians and guests to put together his own album and tour. The result was “Frequency Unknown” - a relatively competent but ultimately boring release. Even the rerecording of four classic songs fell short - the performances accomplished but dull, somehow not completely connected with the music most fans know and love.

A short time later, Queensrÿche with LaTorre release a self-titled album that reminded us what we were missing over the previous decade. It wan’t quite the classic album from their early years but they undoubtably had elements of their progressive metal roots shining through. To top it off, they also included a few live bonus tracks of classic songs.

Now, we are ready to go another round. Geoff Tate’s band, now known as Operation: Mindcrime after loosing rights to the original band name, just released a follow-up album titled ‘The Key’. If you’ve enjoyed the albums Queensrÿche has released over the last 10-15 years, you’ll probably like this too. Not too heavy, a bit bland but with enough of an edge to keep things interesting.

If, on the other hand, you are ready to rock out with a heavier yet more melodic Queensrÿche reminiscent of the early days but with a good dose of modernization, you’ll want to check out Condition Human. As of this writing, they’ve only released the first three songs; ‘Arrow of Time’, ‘Guardian’ and ‘Hellfire’. The rest of the album is available for pre-order with an expected release date of October 2.

Queensrÿche - Condition Human and Operation: Mindcrime - The Key

I admit, it’s only three songs but they’re tight and tasty and give every indication that we are in for a treat.

Check back in a few weeks for the full review.

UPDATE 10/08/15

Now that I've had a chance to listen through the rest of the album, I'll come right out and say it: Condition Hüman is the best Queensrÿche album since 'Empire'.

Finally, we can look forward to a tour where they'll showcase some new material.

Here's a breakdown of the tracks:

  • Arrow of Time - Very heavy, Classic Queensrÿche, driving rhythm, melodic harmonies (reminiscent of old-school Iron Maiden but with a modern flavor), signature time changes, thought provoking lyrics.
  • Guardian - Another heavy barrage mashup of Operation Mindcrime type social justice themes. They even have the balls to evoke ‘Revolution Calling’ in a new context but damn, it works. Includes a unique false ending that vividly conveys chaos.
  • Hellfire - Everything great about the original EP and first four albums somehow crammed into one song.
  • Toxic Remedy - Cool guitar, drum and bass riffs playing off of each other under layered melancholy vocals.
  • Selfish Lives - A complete change of pace, musically unlike most other Queesrÿche songs. Takes some getting used to but the hook grows on you.
  • Eye9 - Unexpectedly catchy, great double leads, powerful vocal changes. Hopefully destined to be played live on tour.
  • Bulletproof - Almost a Pop anthem with a Queensrÿche edge.
  • Hourglass - A bit boring and plodding, picks up during and immediately after the guitar solos but ultimately not up to the caliber of the rest of the album.
  • Just Us - A nice ballad with a dreamy quality, rich acoustics and impressive vocals.
  • All There Was - A competent cut, with their signature complex guitar harmonies.
  • The Aftermath - A short interlude that I don’t quite get as it feels out of place.
  • Condition Human - The title track, closing track and longest song on the album. I expected quite a bit from this but had to wait until about half way through before it pulled me in a bit with flavors of ‘Warning’. Not quite the epic I was hoping for but we’ll see how it feels over time.