Queensryche veered left in the 80’s when all the other metal bands veered right; this Seattle rock troupe decided not to follow the then current leanings of Van Halen or Motley Crue, instead, the looked to Rush, Pink Floyd and the English wave of metal as signified by Iron Maiden. It made them something of a dark horse in 80’s/90’s metal; while they did become very successful, they’re more underrated than recognized. “Sign Of The Times” covers Queensryche’s EMI/Capitol records tenure and shows that the band had a solid, consistent run of albums.
This best of starts off with some of Queensryche’s earliest material “Queen Of The Reich.” While it’s nothing spectacular, it shows off the band’s proclivity for old English power rock, along with lead singer Geoff Tate’s Rob Halford/Ronnie James Dio vocal fireworks. But the growth the band sported throughout their career is obvious on the next track, the ominous Warning. It’s on a par with some of Black Sabbath’s best. Nothing could have prepared fans for the breakthrough to come; a metal concept album about control, paranoia and government subterfuge, Operation: Mindcrime.
A concrete rock-opera with songs that also worked separately, “Mindcrime” remains a classic album from the period. “Eyes of a Stranger” and “I Don’t Believe In Love” from that album make it to this collection, and still sound terrific. The band now had critical and commercial cred to add to their rabid fanbase, so when “Empire” landed, it gave Queensryche both their biggest seller/charting album, as well as a hit single. “Silent Lucidity” was an oddity even for this group, a Pink Floydian lullaby that was highly original in that the band no had established themselves as a force in rock.
Unfortunately for the band, grunge took over the more fickle of the rock audience, and both the albums Promised Land and Hear in the Now Frontier took it on the chin. The band stayed with their guns and you can hear it on “Real World” and “Sign of the Times;” Queensryche didn’t change their style just to keep commercially active. When these songs play in context within the rest of this best of, there’s no jarring disconnect. “Sign of The Times” plays all the way through like a complete album. Guitarist Chris DeGarmo (on all cuts except the last two) could move between electric and acoustics and make then sound specific to the song, not always an easy thing to do in a hard rock band. He’s the only member to have left the band, which helps explain this album’s consistency.
“Sign of The Times” makes a strong case for Queensryche being held to the same praise as their contemporaries, Judas Priest, Led Zeppelin or even the more cerebral moments of Blue Öyster Cult or Rush. Maybe you don’t know Queensryche from Mary Queen of Scots, but their best work stands as strong as some of their better known chart-mates of the time.