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American Soldier

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Reviews

Average Rating
★★★★☆
(100 Reviews)

Metal Album Reviews[RSS]

  • After many years of sub-par albums, I was almost to the point of no return on ever buying another one of their albums. I considered myself a Ryche fan before it was even cool to be a Ryche fan, Starting from ‘83 I was totally hooked on their music, especially their Pre-Empire stuff.
    American Soldier is one of the best Queensryche albums ever made. Period!
    Just like their Rage or Warning records, the more you listen the deeper it gets….and headphones is a MUST!
    Welcome back guys, and seriously, this album is exactly what your real fans have been waiting for, for over 15 yrs…
    I hope this album gets the support & credit it deserves….it should out sell Empire!

    Rock On!
    I’m even buying extra copies for all by buddies, and help promote this amazing work of art!

    See you on tour!

    Posted on December 12, 2009 - Permalink - Buy Now
  • Count me in as one of those fans who believe Queensryche had lost their mojo after 1994’s “Promised Land”. Every album they have released since then has been middling at best: some nice spots, but with lacking consistency. The culmination of this post-Promised Land malaise was 2006’s “Operation Mindcrime 2″, a borderline desperate reach back to their glory days that missed the mark and left me wondering if it was a band’s last gasp at musical relevancy. My 2006 2-star review of that CD was not kind.

    Three years later and we now have “American Soldier”, a concept album about the American military experience that plays fresh, uncontrived and serious without being overwrought. I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed this CD.

    To be brief, three reasons I think this is a STELLAR “comeback” album for Queensryche:

    1. The return of “soaring” guitar solos. A big gripe of mine with Queensryche after Chris Degarmo left was that they seemed to forget how to write and play good guitar solos. With “American Solider” guitarist Michael Wilton said himself that he made a special effort to write classic Queensryche-sounding solos, and he came through big time. Most of the songs on this CD have excellent, signature guitar solos and guitar work.

    2. The songwriting and arrangements are dark, intelligent, and catchy. As a longtime Queensryche fan, I hear strains of Promised Land in tracks like “A Dead Man’s Words” and “Middle Of Hell”. Other tracks like the enigmatic “The Voice” and “Hundred Mile Stare” sound like they could have come from the “Empire” era. The lyrics are not jingoistic or trite. Geoff Tate is at his best when he has you reaching for the CD booklet to read along with the lyrics to figure out a particular song’s meaning. He had me doing that throughout my initial listens to this CD. Excellent writing. A special mention to the track “At 30,000 Feet”; a beautiful, haunting, sad song that I kept coming back to. When Geoff Tate speaking as the bomber pilot cries the words at the end, “What in the Hell have I made?” I get chills. Queensryche at their best on this track. Kudos.

    3. The CD just flat-out rocks with that identifiable Queensryche sound. The performances and production are wonderful. Eddie Jackson is one of the best bass players around, and he with Scott Rockenfield really put in some good work. The guitars as I mentioned are top-notch. And Geoff Tate’s voice is still strong, unique, and delivers here with conviction. He really believes in this material, and it shows.

    In short, Queensryche made a (re)Believer out of me with American Soldier. Their best since Promised Land, and just a wonderful surprise all around. Highly recommended.

    Posted on December 12, 2009 - Permalink - Buy Now
  • I’ve liked Queensryche for a very long time. I’m a veteran of the war in Iraq and Afghanistan with the USAF, and I must say this album is outstanding. The way the album flows is exactly how I feel. I’ve been waiting for a long time for an album such as this to come out, and I’m so glad that it was Queensryche that took on a project such as this and completed it. I’ve never told anyone the misery, and sadness I experienced over there. After listening to this album it makes me want to finally open up, and tell my story to the people I know. I’ve never wanted to open up about any of it, but now I have the confidence to do so. Thank you Queensryche for doing this for me, and Soldiers/Veterans everywhere. It’s about time someone did something like this for us. Thank you.

    Posted on December 12, 2009 - Permalink - Buy Now
  • Queensryche’s latest album, American Soldier, is destined to be (yet another) controversial album that will fail to satisfy a certain number of fans (especially those unable to appreciate albums released post-Promised Land). American Soldier does not include any songs that will become “hits” or concert favorites. It is a concept album that is meant to be listened to in its entirety. As a whole, it is quite good. The individual performances by the musicians, especially Geoff Tate’s vocals, are great. Also, the songs flow together very well, resulting in an enjoyably cohesive album. If you’re expecting Empire or Operation Mindcrime then you’ll be disappointed. But, if, like me, you are open minded and able to enjoy post-Promised Land albums, this one will grow to your liking.

    Posted on December 12, 2009 - Permalink - Buy Now
  • Queensrÿche has had quite a roller coaster ride over the past decade. From 1999-2009, the band featured three different sets of songwriters before settling in with producer/songwriter Jason Slater in 2006 for Operation: Mindcrime II. With Slater back for round two with lead singer Geoff Tate and company, Queensrÿche has clearly found its creative legs on American Soldier, a concept record detailing the experiences of United States servicemen and women.

    Starting with the “on your feet!” call of a boot camp drill instructor in “Sliver,” American Soldier takes the listener on a unique journey of hard rock bombardment. Featuring a plethora of heavy riffing throughout the album, particularly on the rockers “Man Down!” and “Unafraid,” American Soldier embraces Queensrÿche’s heavier roots, without forgetting the epic side of the band.

    “At 30,000 Ft.,” a track written from the point of view of a bomber pilot will remind fans of the grand “Anybody Listening?” off of 1990’s Empire, whereas the moody “A Dead Man’s Words” is reminiscent of the song “Promised Land.” In fact, in a nutshell, American Soldier feels like a hybrid between the darkness of 1994’s Promised Land with a good injection of modern musical angst.

    American Soldier was written primarily by producer Slater (with Tate responsible for lyrics), although former Queensrÿche axeman and producer Kelly Gray (Q2k, Live Evolution) contributed some tracks (“Hundred Mile Stare” and the aforementioned “Man Down!”). Additionally, Gray’s other band, Slave to the System, which features Queensrÿche drummer Scott Rockenfield and Brother Cane frontman/guitarist Damon Johnson, also contributed two songs – the battle haze-influenced “Middle of Hell” (featuring Tate on saxophone dueling with Wilton on guitar) and the touching father-daughter ballad (sung by Tate and his daughter, Emily), “Home Again.”

    Tate (saxophone), Wilton (guitars), Rockenfield (drums) and bassist Eddie Jackson deliver dynamic musical performances, arguably their strongest in 15 years. From Rockenfield’s military cadence beat behind Wilton’s solo in the emotionally-charged “The Killer,” to Jackson’s thundering groove throughout American Soldier, the band play more cohesively than they have in years, distinctively Queensrÿche, yet modern and relevant despite being around for 28 years.

    Most fans of Queensrÿche would probably agree Tate is at his best when he is inspired and writes to a theme, and that holds true with American Soldier. Crafted from the stories of soldiers (including Tate’s own father), the best of Geoff Tate is on display, telling emotional stories from a number of different perspectives and delivering them with conviction.

    The unique factor, however, is that Tate takes care not to inject much of his own opinion, giving the listener true first-hand feel of the emotions soldiers experience in conflict. Throw in various interview clips from soldiers Tate spoke with entwining with the songs, and the emotional impact of American Soldier is undeniable.

    So what’s the downside? While the record features great instrumentation, including classic guitar solos by Wilton, the trademark vocals of Tate are always the first thing that people notice. Tate’s delivery on American Soldier is up and down. At times, Tate sounds thin and straining (sections of “Sliver,” “Hundred Mile Stare,” and very noticeably on the lead single, “If I Were King”). Then on other songs, Tate sounds strong and melodic like most fans remember, particularly on the chorus of “Unafraid,” and again on “At 30,000 Ft.” and “A Dead Man’s Words.”

    Further, while the soldier interview clips spliced through the record provide a necessary realism they also have a tendency to derail things. For example, “Unafraid” features interview clips serving as the actual verses to the song. Yes, you read that right. Tate wrote no lyrics, except for the chorus. It works artistically in the concept, but from a standalone song perspective, the chorus of the song screams “anthem” and “radio hit,” but the eclectic decision to not have lyrics in the verses likely stifles that chance of taking the song to another level.

    Additionally, American Soldier tends to lose some steam the last three tracks, with three acoustically-tinged ballads in a row. The closer, “The Voice” reminds one of Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir” at points, and is a step up from the previous two cuts (“Remember Me” and “Home Again”). But the darker, intense, vibe of the album is lifted for a more serene stroll to the finish line, which disrupts the flow.

    Despite those minor criticisms, the writers and performers of Queensrÿche’s American Soldier should take a bow. For those that abandoned the band after guitarist and songwriter Chris DeGarmo split in the late 1990s, the classic vibe of Queensrÿche is back, particularly for those fans that enjoyed the band’s moodier material.

    The members of Queensrÿche may be on record as not liking the term “thinking man’s metal,” when describing their music, but the complimentary term fits American Soldier perfectly. The record provides an authentic musical backdrop to the lives of soldiers in the United States and around the world, yet firmly maintains the band’s place as a force to be reckoned with in the hierarchy of hard rock bands today.

    Key tracks:

    “At 30,000 Ft.”
    “A Dead Man’s Words”
    “Man Down!”
    “The Killer”

    Posted on December 11, 2009 - Permalink - Buy Now