I have to be honest, it seems like every time I turn around, another Queensryche compilation comes out– I realize the band’s heyday has come and gone, but this odd attempt at the record labels to raid the back catalog for all its worth never made much sense to me. Further, their only real chance at success in marketing this is likely to those of us who are completionists and are willing to blow $20+ on this limited edition for the half dozen or so rare tracks. I’m guessing anyone looking at this is probably already a Queensryche fan, so I’ll be focusing this review largely on the value of this set to an older fan. I reviewed the single disc version of this separately to discuss content/track selection and I’ll provide a brief overview here.
Queensryche has released nine albums and an EP in the 25 years or so they’ve been recording– this collection is a sampling from that. With only 17 tracks to work with, that’s a lot of ground to cover, and this ends up being significantly unbalanced, with an odd emphasis on very early material (4 of 17 tracks from their debut EP and first album, “Warning”, which in my assessment were both little more than signs of things to come, combined with only 2 tracks from their last three records). In some ways, this is pandering to the audience of nostalgia– a group I’ve never been a part of.
The second disc is where the value to the collector is, but there’s a bit less than you’d initially be led to believe– the set collects 15 unreleased tracks and rarities, but the rarities aren’t as rare as they used to be as six of the tracks can be found on the reissue of the band’s catalog from a few years back. This leaves only nine tracks of real value and while some of the rest is fantastic (most notably the cover of “Scarborough Fair”), odds are if this set seems like a good idea, you have it already.
The remaining material… quite honestly much of it has value more for historical purposes than for merit. Three demos from Geoff Tate’s (and Kelly Gray’s) pre-Queensryche band Myth are presented, including two tracks Queensryche would later rewrite. One thing that’s clear is that Tate and guitarist Chris DeGarmo were meant for each other– these tracks aren’t exactly bad per se (although they are pretty low fidelity), but they’re not terribly good either, pretty much straight metal the likes of which Queensryche was rarely inclined to pursue. Likewise three early Queensryche demos from “The Warning” (including one unreleased tracks) are a bit lackluster compared to what ended up on the album– they’re nice from a historical perspective but other than that I could have lived without them. The two live tracks are of a bit more value– “Della Brown” and “Silent Lucidity” both receive superb acoustic readings, the former in particular is unnervingly sensitive and insistent (and every bit as good as I remember from the MTV show way back when).
The track that’s really anticipated though is new (or unreleased? It’s tough to tell) recording “Justified”, composed by departed guitarist Chris DeGarmo. Similar in feel to the material on “Hear in the Now Frontier”, “Justified” is a midtempo rocker, full of sludgy guitars that sound like they came from some other Seattle band (not necessarily a bad thing, mind you…). It’s certainly a good enough song to make you wish that a full up DeGarmo/Queensryche reunion would happen– it has an energy and subtlety to it that seems to be lacking without him.
I can’t say whether this is exactly a good value for anyone– if you’re new to the band, I feel you’re better off checking out either “Operation: Mindcrime” (if you come from a metal background) or “Promised Land” (a progressive one). If you’re an old hand, you’ll probably want this for the rarities, but it’s not exactly high reward for your dollar.