In the now decade since guitarist Chris DeGarmo departed Queensryche, the band seems to have been severely lacking in direction and execution. 1999’s Q2K suffered from limp songwriting and 2003’s Tribe was, while significantly more satisfying than it’s predecessor, inconsistent (likely because of the presence of the departed DeGarmo on a handful of its tracks). But after Tribe, the band took a turn that made me nervous– touring as part of packages, playing nostalgia-oriented shows, and finally releasing a disasterous sequel to their ’80s metal masterpiece Operation: Mindcrime (the cleverly titled Operation: Mindcrime II), in what seemed a desperate effort to regain their past success. You can probably guess that I didn’t have good feelings about “Take Cover”, an album of cover songs. But having had a long love affair with Queensryche, I was willing to give it a spin. I loved Rush’s cover album from a few years back (Feedback), maybe this one would surprise me too.
Overall, I can safely say, it’s not bad. But take that comment for what it is– faint praise at best. By and large, the band avoids the trap of sounding like a cover band by actually making the songs their own– this gives the record a real sense of consistency. And the arrangements are actually by and large quite clever (Jesus Christ Superstar track “Heaven on their Minds” gets a great, fairly straight metal reading, Stephen Stills’ classic “For What It’s Worth” gets its chorus butchered, but in a good way). Further, vocalist Geoff Tate is in fine voice throughout– he sounds as if he’s finally becoming comfortable with the (natural) aging of his voice (Peter Gabriel’s “Red Rain”) whereas previously it sounded like he was struggling between trying to sing like he did in his 20s and finding something new.
Still, as much as there is to like, at times the band approaches the material with reverence bordering on plasticity (the admittely incredibly well arranged Pink Floyd classic, “Welcome to the Machine”, The Police’s “Synchronicity II”) or seems just a bit off on tackling the material (Tate’s incredibly uncomfortable vocal on the bridge of Queen’s “Innuendo” is the best example).
I suspect some people out there will really love this, and admittedly I was perhaps hostile to it from the start, but “Take Cover”, while quite listenable, is distinctly lacking. Its strengths come forth when the band is clearly having a good time (like on “For What It’s Worth”) as opposed to the material that was clearly a stronger influence on them. Fans will want to pick this up, everyone else can probably live without it.