Saturday, July 9, 2011

First Listen: Queensryche, Dedicated to Chaos

This is the most fun I've had listening to a Queensryche album in a long, long time.

I was initially surprised at the new direction Dedicated to Chaos took. After several dour conceptual pieces in a row, including Operation: Mindcrime II and American Soldier, perhaps the last thing you'd expect from these Seattle stalwarts is a freewheeling party record. But in a lot of ways, that's what this is. These 16 songs are the most melodic, catchy and flat-out alive Queensryche tracks since... well, probably Empire.

Some of it is undeniably goofy - "Hot Spot Junkie" is honestly about how cool WiFi is, and "Got It Bad" slips over the line into silliness. (Only Geoff Tate would try out a come-on like, "I bet you read Machiavelli in bed.") But some of it is earnest and grand, especially slower tracks like "Broken." It concludes with a genuine epic, "Big Noize," that ends abruptly, but builds convincingly. The biggest stumbling block is the lyrics - these are surface-level, facile and dumb more often than not. It's obviously an attempt to be fun, to let loose, but it sometimes grates to hear a band this smart pretend to be this stupid.

But musically, this is Queensryche's finest hour in more than 10 years. It is perhaps their first album ever that sounds like it has nothing to prove. That's liberating, and as a longtime fan, it's a joy to hear.

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