Queensryche resurrects prog-metal storytelling



By Steve Newton

The 1980s aren’t generally regarded as great years for hard rock, thanks mainly to the scores of hair-farmer bands that–capitalizing on the then-new music-video craze–made headbands, spandex, and bright-red leather jackets a common sight. Queensryche spent its fair share of time at the hairdresser’s, but that’s where the similarity to vacuous acts like Warrant and Winger ended.

The Seattle-based quintet put a lot of thought into its work, the best example being its 1987 concept album, Operation: Mindcrime, which used adventurous prog-metal to tell the tale of a troubled street kid–turnedbrainwashed assassin. The release garnered such a rabid following that Queensryche performed it in its entirety on a 1990–91 tour, and–due to popular demand–will do so again on a North American jaunt that visits the Commodore Ballroom next Thursday (October 7).

On the line from his Emerald City home, vocalist Geoff Tate suggests that it’s the intriguing storyline of Mindcrime that causes fans to continually clamour for its live performance. “It’s the classic story of the strong manipulating the weak,” relates the 45-year-old singer. “It was written in a kind of tumultuous time, in the late ’80s with the Reagan/Bush administration–building empires, you know–and part of that was definitely an inspiration for the album. So there’s songs about revolution and changing the way things are. And it’s a love story, too.”

“I have a lot of good memories of making the record,” he adds. “It was very much a creative high for the band, and quite an undertaking to tackle an album like that. But we like to work with themes and concepts and stories, you know. It kind of opens up some musical ground, and pushes you in a different direction.”

The lineup for the current Queensryche tour–which kicks off with two nights in the band’s hometown, October 5 and 6 at the Moore Theatre–includes Tate, guitarists Michael Wilton and Mike Stone, bassist Eddie Jackson, and drummer Scott Rockenfield (all original members, except for Stone). Keyboardist Michael Igor Delassandra, formerly an official composer for the Vatican, will round out the group. For those who’ve already seen Operation: Mindcrime, Tate promises that things will be a little different this time. “Doing it again, we decided to take it up a couple of notches,” he says. “We have some live actors that are going to be helping us to get the idea across a little better. And we have a surround-sound system.”

As if that weren’t enough for the Operation: Mindcrime freaks who can’t get enough of the victimized Nikki and Mary and their tragic encounters with sleazy Father William and the mysterious Dr. X, Queensryche will also be previewing one song from its next CD, a sequel of sorts to Mindcrime. “I was actually in the studio last night till about 3 a.m.,” notes Tate, “putting some finishing touches on a track that we’re writing for the record. It’s pretty fun. We get a lot of requests, you know, ‘What happened to Mary?’, ‘What’s happened with the story?’ So it seems like a good time to maybe answer some of those questions.”

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