“Queen are one of those rare groups that sound like nobody but themselves…They made their own sound.”
Thank you so much Stanley Runk. That’s something that seems to escape many Queen fans (and detractors): Queen’s overwhelming originality. They hardly sounded like anyone during their time, and they incorporated elements and ideas into their music that other bands wouldn’t, or possibly couldn’t touch with a 10-foot pole. Hell, they were even like the only band I can think of who made progressive rock without a single use of a synthesizer during the 70s progressive rock movement. But, Queen were far more than just some “progressive rock” band, or a “hard rock” band or a “glam” band. They were above all of that cheap labeling.
Which brings us to this disc – an album that to this day still amazes me with it’s sheer brilliance and inimitability. The musicianship is unique, inventive, clever, elegant, sophisticatedly sexy and compelling, and the amounts of complexity found within the album border on unfathomability. What’s more astounding is how the album frequently contrasts dark & light, elegant & naughty, and brash & soft moments, added with the hyper-complexity in arrangements which still leave room for ethereal, angelic melodies and vocal harmonies, all in Queen’s unique, Classicism-drenched style. Queen made all of this work so well, and all of this is what makes it the tantalizing and spellbinding wonder that it is, and after many years of listening to this album, I’m still discovering subtleties buried underneath it’s mysterious surface. Freddie Mercury’s talents were far too exquisite, possibly even greater than his own understanding. He could do anything he wanted, and go anywhere he wanted with his superhuman vocal and songwriting abilities: he could be the Diva, the angel, the demon, the sorcerer, the seducer…you name it; and it shows on this disc.
This album is possibly more important in practical terms than many people may realize. The operatic qualities, the hyper-complexity in arrangements, the dark atmosphere and the heavy metal blasts found here arguably and inadvertently helped prototype (or advance) what would later be known as “progressive metal.” When you listen to some of Brian May’s arpeggios and riffing, Freddie Mercury’s powerful voice, and the overall dark atmosphere of the album, you can easily pick up on bits that can be heard in the music of important progressive metal bands like Queensrÿche, Dream Theater, Metallica, Iron Maiden, Blind Guardian and possible others. Ironically enough, each of these aforementioned bands were influenced by Queen.
The album opens with “Procession,” Brian May’s grandiose guitar orchestration which also features a clever guitar/amplifier effect – get ready for this — mimicking a heartbeat mimicking a drum pattern. This then segues into the fiery balladry of “Father To Son,” which features a section of dizzying vocal polyphony and polyrhythms, which are later followed by the big crash of Brian’s guitar crunch, which then gives way to one of the most violently explosive instrumental sections to be heard in all of classic rock. Freddie’s vocals on here are astounding as well.
“Ogre Battle” is a blistering progressive metal rocker with some hot-oiled riffing from Brian, which then segues into the beautifully outrageous (more appropriately; arty) and elegant Bach-meets-manic whimsy of “The Fairy Feller’s Master-Stroke.” “Nevermore” is a brief, but haunting, ethereal ballad featuring some of the most beautiful and precious vocal harmonies, some of them just happen to be operatic. “The March of The Black Queen” seems to bring bits of everything before this into full circle. This track seems to twist and morph into a different mode every few seconds or so, which makes it sound like a dozen different songs rolled into one. It showcases a dizzying mix of opera, metal, ballad, Broadway, glam and more. “Funny How Love Is” is an enchanting ballad featuring exquisite vocal harmonies, and “Seven Seas of Rhye” is the only hit on the album. Needs no explanation.
Queen has contributed some of the most daring and original material to popular music that still has not been equalled, and they entered into territory that still hasn’t been charted. _Queen II_ is one of the finest examples of this, if not the finest. They would go on, and release many important albums after this, but they would never again make anything as bold and risqué as this. My words for this album will run well past the 1,000 word limit. Simply put: this is my favorite album of all-time, and by my favorite band of all-time. Please enjoy.