Queensryche – Condition Human Review

I remember now…

I was somewhere around twelve or thirteen; on Headbanger’s Ball, a video from a band with a name I had no idea how to pronounce…

I remember how it started…

With the “Eyes Of A Stranger,” all perfect melody and impassioned voice, interlocking guitars, some storyline I didn’t know, and all of that something that I knew I wanted to investigate further. And so I did and, in doing so, discovered one of the finest metal (prog / hard rock / whatever) records ever made, 1988’s Operation: Mindcrime. And then one classic after another: The Warning, Rage For Order, Empire

I can’t remember yesterday…

Like so many others, I lost the faith when the band lost the point. I’ve been a Queensrÿche fan since those days so long ago, but it hasn’t always been easy.

Thankfully, that’s all behind us now.

Two years ago, the self-titled full-length showed Queensrÿche back at full strength. With his rangy and moody operatic tone, vocalist Todd LaTorre slotted perfectly into the space vacated by Geoff Tate. Stylistically, the music turned back toward the prog-tinted hard rock the band had left behind almost a full two decades prior. The only half-hearted criticism I could have leveled against that album was that it still felt a bit like they weren’t reaching far enough back. Queensrÿche felt like the space between Empire and Promised Land, the fine line between the classic sound that made them famous and the edge of the modern rock abyss into which they plunged in the 90s.

Condition Hüman pushes further backward, and it’s all the better for it, falling neatly between Mindcrime’s progressive metal and Empire’s more polished approach. And all that’s another way of saying this: This is the Queensrÿche that Queensrÿche fans have been waiting decades to hear again, and this is the record we’ve all been hoping for since 1994, at the latest.

Opening track “Arrow Of Time” dropped earlier this summer, the teaser track for Condition Hüman. Released then to build excitement, here it serves to kick off the Hüman experience with perfect aplomb. Michael Wilton’s and Parker Lundgren’s intertwining guitars run headlong into LaTorre’s perfect soaring wail, whilst the ever-solid rhythm section of Jackson and Rockenfield drive the whole thing forward. “Guardian” is pure ‘Rÿche perfection, riding a driving metal riff that could’ve been on The Warning and a hammering chorus that’s punctuated with wink-wink cries of “evolution calling.” At nearly eight minutes, “Condition Hüman” ends the album on its most prog-metal note, one of its best songs with some great guitar work, both in the riffs (“rÿffs”?) and solos.

As Condition Hüman progresses, I find myself constantly and pleasantly impressed not only with its quality, but with how consistently metallic it is, how much the band has returned to its roots, and all the good that comes with that. Only “Just Us” stumbles; its balladic intro and sentimentality don’t do it any favors, whilst earlier ballad “Bulletproof” isn’t brilliant, but gets the job done acceptably. Still, those are mostly only lesser when balanced against the excellence of songs like “Guardian,” “Hellfire,” and the title track. Even Hüman’s weakest songs are better than anything bearing the Queensrÿche name in quite a while.

Produced by Chris “Zeuss” Harris, who’s traditionally been responsible for the likes of Shadows Fall and Hatebreed, Condition Hüman packs a suitable punch but still sounds like a classic ‘Rÿche record. The guitars are often the initial focus — it is a metal album, after all — but there’s more to Queensrÿche than just Wilton and Lundgren’s excellence. I’ve always loved Eddie Jackson’s bass tone, and the twisting intro to “Eye9” shows that he hasn’t lost his touch or his penchant for great sound. Rockenfield’s drumming has always been under-appreciated, and here as on previous discs, his drums sound huge.

It’s been so long since I was excited about a new Queensrÿche album that I’d almost forgotten what it feels like. Life as a Queensrÿche fan was like dragging feet through sand and never finding the promised land, but now, listening to Condition Hüman is like being reunited with a lifelong buddy after a protracted absence. It’s a familiar feeling, a certain comfort. It’s re-invigorating and rewarding; it reminds us of the past at the same time that it points to a promising future. Condition Hüman is easily the best Queensrÿche record in twenty-plus years, without even the slightest doubt, and it’s the first new one that can finally stand with their classic era.

I remember how it started. This is how it starts again.

Posted by Andrew Edmunds

Last Rites Co-Owner; Senior Editor; born in the cemetery, under the sign of the MOOOOOOON...

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