By JAY ROBERTS
The Cassette Chronicles is a continuing series of mini reviews and reflections on albums from the 1980’s and 1990’s. The aim of this series is to highlight both known and underappreciated albums from rock, pop and metal genres from this time period through the cassette editions of their releases. Some of the albums I have known about and loved for years, while others are new to me and were music I’ve always wanted to hear. There will be some review analysis and my own personal stories about my connection with various albums. These opinions are strictly my own and do not reflect the views of anyone else at Limelight Magazine.
QUEENSRYCHE – QUEENSRYCHE (E.P., 1983)
2019 was a pretty big year for Queensryche and their now ex-lead singer Geoff Tate. The band had pretty big success with their new album The Verdict, which not only got great reviews but it was named on a number of best of lists including my own personal list as well as Limelight Magazine’s Top 10 of 2019 rankings. Their tour for the album got great notices, which I agreed with when I saw their performance in Worcester, MA, early in 2019.
As for Geoff Tate, he spent the year touring behind the 30th anniversary celebration of the band’s Operation:mindcrime album. He played a two night stop in New Bedford, MA, and when I saw the first night’s show, the reports I’d heard that he sounded better than he had in years was confirmed. When I read that he was coming back to the area in 2020 to perform the albums Rage For Order and Empire, it was the first concert ticket I bought.
So when I decided to ease into this year’s Cassette Chronicles articles by featuring an EP, the original Queensryche EP was the only real choice I could make.
As I mentioned in my article on the Operation:mindcrime album last year, the EP was my first brush with the band’s music but it came at a time when I had yet to become a metal fan, so I didn’t really think much of it when I first listened to it.
Of course, that changed once I got into the band. And as I listened to this release for the article, I was kind of taken aback by just how fantastic the band sounded right out of the gate. There’s just four songs on the EP but each one gives a clue at the band’s greatness to come.
“Queen of the Reich” is one of the band’s signature songs no matter how much time passes. Besides the obvious tie with the band’s name, the racing intensity gives the track an anthemic quality while simultaneously making your pulse pound.
The next two songs are “Nightrider” and “Blinded”. I don’t think they get nearly the recognition they probably deserve. However, you’d be remiss to simply forget about them. “Nightrider” is a fast paced metallic romp that features a kind of science fiction bent to the lyrics. This is something that would later echo on the some of the material on the Rage For Order album. As for “Blinded”, the rhythmic pounding behind the kit by drummer Scott Rockenfield gave the song the heavy sound conveyed along with the attacking guitar sound. His drum work is superb throughout but it is this song which he elevates the most.
Of course, the band’s best work is saved for the closing track “The Lady Wore Black”. As the title readily implies, this is an epic track that is the band’s first brush with telling a story with both a dramatic and theatrical sense of style. It sets the stage for all the other epics they would write over the next few albums including the entirety of the Operation:mindcrime release. It’s also the song where the legend of Geoff Tate starts to form. His vocals are superb on this track in particular as he embodies the lyrics, conveying the song’s emotional heft to the listener as if this was something that he had actually experienced himself.
Truth be told, once I had begun my Queensryche fandom and had obtained all their back material, it amazed me to realize just how fully formed the band felt right from the start. Every band has a starting point and you’d be hard pressed to deny that the Queensryche EP is just about as note perfect as a band could hope to be on their first release.
NOTES OF INTEREST: The original release of the album lasts less than 18 minutes. It was first released in 1983 by 206 Records but when the band signed with EMI-America it was reissued via that later again that same year. The tour behind this release saw Queensryche open for Quiet Riot and Twisted Sister.
When the album was first issued on CD, the song “Prophecy” was included as a bonus cut. The song was recorded during the Rage For Order period. A 2003 reissue saw the audio tracks from the Queensryche VHS release Live In Tokyo added to the album. The VHS is out of print (but I have a copy of it).