Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Queensryche - Promised Land (1994)

Queensryche  formed in Bellevue, Seattle 1981 and released twelve studio albums before finally parting ways in 2012.They are probably my favourite band to hail from Seattle, birth of Grunge music, and are most well known for their song "Silent Lucidity." Their earlier albums were more strongly metal, with operatic vocals (vocalist Geoff Tate is opera trained) and heavy riffs. As their albums progressed, their sound became more mature, and a little darker (in the case of this album), but ultimately their more recent releases (ie: this century) lacked the originality and energy of the earlier ones.

I selected this one, "Promised Land" released in the mid-point of their career.

It is a beautiful looking album - the simple, starkness and gloomy brownish-red hues help create the mood. The cover depicts the Tri-Reich (which is based on the falcon, no wonder I like it!) carved from wood, looking rather tribal. It is in fact a totem pole, and the CD cover folds out into a poster. And there is a vaguely tribal feel to some of the songs on this album.

Overall the sound is somewhat more personal than the earlier albums, with a dose more atmosphere and a little more experimentation with instruments and darker stylings. It is not especially heavy, relying more on dark atmospheres and haunting melodies, along with the raw emotion in Geoff Tate's voice to create a moody album - the result of burnout after the commercial success of "Empire". Whilst it did eventually go platinum in the States, it never achieved major mainstream success and was somewhat superceded by the growing Grunge music of the time.

"9:28 am" starts with a death and a birth.

"I am I" is a declaration of Self.

As far as songs go, "Damage" is not particularly remarkable. It's typical rock.

"Out of Mind" opens with a slow and moving intro, merging into the haunting lyrics. Tate's low singing voice complements this perfectly, and the accompanying guitar creates a mood that sens a shiver down the spine of anyone who is also paying heed to the lyrics which describe the forgotten people - the mentally lost and confused, kept separate from society, alienated from reality.  There is an atmosphere of menace here:
"They can't leave. You've left them here ... for me."
Acoustic guitar and vocals lead us in to the equally haunting "Bridge". The chorus of this song is particularly noteworthy - as a father tries to mend the "...bridge that's been blown apart..." from his son, but "...you never built them dad." It is also very catchy.

Title track, "Promised Land" is one of the most atmospheric and experimental of the songs on this album (also one of my favourites). The music radiates with mood and weighs one day with the grief of being left behind, becoming one of the forgotten ones. The lyrics ask "... where did it all go wrong?" It is a story of abandoning one's dreams, of failing to even try and reach the "promised land" and instead dropping into the angst-fueled world of apathy and alcohol.

This leads, quite neatly, into "Dis Con Nect Ted" which continues the themes of madness and loss, of separating oneself from reality. The slightly discordent edge to the opening chords lends to the feeling of confusion and dislocation. The vocals are low and dripping with personal loathing. There is a slight echoing going on, that makes Tate sound somewhat less than himself.

There is something faintly menacing about the children chanting at play as "Lady Jane" opens. The vocals are low, creepy, the lyrics unnerving. Something is very wrong in the life of Lady Jane.
"It's quite a scary, scary ride we take, Lady Jane."
 There are violins in this song too. I'm not sure if this is a song about abuse or a haunting, or if Lady Jane is slowly but surely slipping into the clutches of insanity. Whichever it is, this is an emotional and oddly disconcerting and disturbing song. It is also one of my favourites on this album.

With its politcal lyrics, "My Global Mind" brings us back into the heavier rock, but no less melancholic.

"One more Time" begs for a second chance, with a hint of desperation and no small measure of despair.

Piano leads us into the last, heartbroken ballad, "Someone Else".
"I feel like I did, before the magic wore thin..."
With few instruments, except the piano, it feels like Tate is (vocally) ripping out his heart and throwing it on the floor. The raw emotion cannot help but seer the soul. It draws to a very abrupt close, leaving me feel almost like I've been severed from it.

This is a fine album - it is deeper and darker and rather more melancholic than earlier albums and clearly marks a point of tumoil in the history of the band. The lyrics are rife with messages of disconnections from reality; of sacrifices and loss of self (and no small measure of bitterness). Despite this misery, there is no laying of blame, no accusations - it is not an album about love lost, or arguements - instead it is an album about feeling as though you're fractured inside of losing your sense of identity. Of needing something more to help redeem the drudgery of your life.

It is a beautiful, haunting and utterly poignant and defintely deserves a rating of 9/10,

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