Queensryche hopes to reign
To the outside observer, it might appear that Queensryche has had a difficult run during the past several years.
Formed in Seattle in 1981, the group enjoyed major success with the 1988 album "Operation: Mindcrime," which eventually sold 3 million copies, followed by the 1991 CD, "Empire," which sold 4 million behind the hit single "Silent Lucidity."
But after another popular CD, 1994's "Promised Land," things appeared to go south for Queensryche in a hurry.
A couple of weeks after the released of the band's 1997 CD, "Hear in the Now Frontier," Queenryche's label, EMI Records, folded, forcing the band to cut short an extensive tour to support the CD. Not surprisingly, "Hear in the Now Frontier" was a commercial disappointment.
Then came another blow — the departure of guitarist Chris DeGarmo, who along with singer Geoff Tate, had been the band's primary songwriter.
Queensryche soldiered on, releasing the CD "Q2K" in 2000 on Atlantic Records.
Once again, the CD failed to return Queensryche to multi-platinum popularity and the group soon parted ways with Atlantic. Now with a new studio CD, "Tribe," and a new deal with Sanctuary Records, it might appear that Queensryche sorely needs to rebound from a series of setbacks.
But Tate said appearances are deceiving.
Album sales may have sagged recently, but Queensryche is by no means in desperate straits.
While he acknowledged that having EMI fold so soon after "Hear in the Now Fron-tier" was released was a setback, "Q2K" was a different story.
"The Atlantic situation was, we were completely in control of that whole situation. Actually, it was brilliant business really," Tate explained, noting that Atlantic bought the rights to "Q2K" after the group had recorded the CD.
"They paid us a horrendous amount of money to buy our record. And then to actually get us off the label, they had to pay us an even bigger amount of money. So from a business side of things, we scored on that. Then we got a really nice deal with Sanctuary, which is probably a good place for us right now."
Time will tell if the new CD, "Tribe," restores Queensryche to anything resembling the band's former million-selling ways. But on a creative note, "Tribe" is a strong effort.
What's more, it finds DeGarmo contributing three songs to the CD — "Losing Myself," "The Art of Life" and "Doing Fine" — and playing on all three songs.
Tate made no predictions about DeGar-mo's future role with Queensryche, but the band clearly welcomed the participation of its former guitarist.
"In January, Chris called out of the blue and said 'Hey, I hear you're in the studio. How's it sounding? What's going on?'" Tate recalled. "I said: 'Well, it sounds like this and we're working on this, working on that.' He said: 'You know, I've got these song ideas that are just burning hole in my head. I was wondering if maybe they might fit on your record. Maybe you could come by my house? I could play some stuff for you. Maybe we could work out some melodies and see how it all happens, you know.' And so we did. We got together. It all kind of fell together ... Man, it was just a great experience. We really had a great time working with him again," he said.
That noted, Tate said he and his bandmates, guitarist Michael Wilton, bassist Eddie Jackson and drummer Scott Rockenfield, reached a good point as a foursome.
The music on "Tribe" supports Tate's assertion that Queensryche, which also worked with touring guitarist Mike Stone on the new CD, have hit its stride artistically.
Songs like "Open" and "Losing Myself" offer concise and punchy hard rock, while tracks like "Blood" and "Tribe" show a more complex side to the songwriting in today's Queensryche as the music shifts between moments of understated tension and hard-hitting rock.
"Great Divide" and "Rhythm of Hope," meanwhile, bring out a more textured sound with acoustic guitar mixed prominently with electric instrumentation.
But Tate also noted that there were some major obstacles facing Queensryche as the band sought to overcome losing DeGarmo.
"Chris is the kind of guy who, he's really good at keeping people on the same path," Tate said. "He keeps it in line, you know. And when he's not in the picture, there's a lot of drifting going on, with the personalities in the band and just different artistic personalities being in the group. It's an interesting dynamic. And you change that group dynamic by somebody leaving and it changes things quite drastically. So you've got to find a different way of operating, that's different from the past.''
Queensryche plays Oct. 4 at the Pageant. Tickets for the 8 p.m. show, which also features Echo 7, cost $25.