Monday, March 18, 2013

Warning... This album rules!

Queensryche's debut EP was a stunningly accomplished slab of pure, heard-hitting heavy metal that impressed both fans and critics alike. Metal maniacs the world over were instantly drawn to the precise riffage and complex time changes that define Queensryche's unique sound. The EP also gave fans what is perhaps the greatest performance ever captured from singer Geoff Tate, whose crisp, powerful voice and grandiose style perfectly compliments Queensryche's epic heavy metal assault. The world waited in hot anticipation for the full length debut of this promising new band, but many feared it wouldn't live up to the expectations set by the phenomenal EP.

In 1984 Queensryche finally released The Warning to a hungry public, but the initial reaction was lukewarm. It was viewed as a slight departure from the straight forward, Maiden-esque heavy metal of the EP and into a more progressive sound offering a wider variety of musical styles. The band's progressive tendencies would grow more apparent with each successive album, culminating in the band's magnum opus 'Operation Mindcrime'.

In terms of musicianship, The Warning proves Queensryche were some of the most talented players the heavy metal genre had to offer. Drummer Scott Rockenfeld takes a page out of Neil Peart's book with his complex fills, patterns, and time changes. His brilliant playing adds a whole new dimension to the music, simultaneously keeping it heavy and precise. Eddie Jackson does a great job laying down the hard and stomping baselines that drive the songs forward like a freight train.

Chris DeGarmo was a masterful guitarist and songwriter whose heartfelt music and accomplished ability defined the band's early sound. Some of the best examples of his songwriting can be found on the album, including one of the most epically powerful heavy metal song ever put to tape, the masterfully executed En Force. DeGarmo contributed a lot of material to the album, but an equal amount is credited to the band's other guitarist, Michael Wilton, who wrote another one of my favorites off the album, the fast and heavy hitting Deliverance, the only track I would have expected to find on the debut EP.

Perhaps the most famous quality of Queensryche's music is the phenomenal vocal performance of Geoff Tate. His voice is so unique and iconic that it's hard to imagine Queensryche's music without it. Tate's thought-provoking lyrical concepts,  highly emotional deliveries, and massive banshee screams are the highlights of the album. There was simply no other voice like his in metal. There's really no good way to describe why his voice works so well, all you have to do is listen then you'll know.

This album inspires my imagination like no other. The lyrics are so descriptive and the music so majestic that its hard not to get caught up in the intense emotions coming out of the speakers. The story-telling element is an important component to Queensryche's appeal, and that started on The Warning with experimental songs like NM 156, which was a precursor to the style the band would adopt with their next album, Rage For Order.

Every track on this album is like its own separate adventure. The opening title track features a larger than life riff with thrilling gang vocals. It is an incredibly exciting beginning to the album. After the heavy metal assault of En Force and Deliverance, the band cools down for a slower song named No Sanctuary, which could be equated to Iron Maiden's 'Remember Tomorrow'. NM 156 and Take Hold of the Flame are fan favorites, the latter being the ultimate example of Queensryche's unmatched power and competency as a heavy metal band. Child of Fire is a heavy metal song typical of the galloping style popular at the time, and Roads to Madness serves an an epic closer.

The Warning helped make Queensryche one of the frontrunners of the heavy metal scene and established themselves as some of the best musicians in the genre. The bands fortunes would only grow with Operation Mindcrime and Empire, but for me the classic period of Queensryche will always be the very early days of the EP and The Warning. Back then, Queensryche was a hungry new band waiting to prove themselves worthy of heavy metal stardom. They certainly proved themselves with The Warning, and it remains a classic to this day.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

An Engrossing True Crime Must-have

Zodiac by Robert Graysmith

Fans of true crime books know how to appreciate a creative serial killer, and the Zodiac was most certainly that. The truth proved to be stranger than fiction when the elusive Zodiac killer first started taunting the public with his infamous coded messages intended to inspire confusion and fear. He was a brutal and ruthless yet intelligent killer who remains at large to this day.

This book was written by a man who was in the thick of the Zodiac investigation from the very start. Through his eyes the reader sees the mystery unravel one grisly murder at a time. The descriptions of violence in the book is the stuff of nightmares. It's really incredible when the description in the book effects you more than seeing the murder actually acted out in the film adaptation. The book does a perfect job of combining its investigation story with detailed and vivid descriptions of the Zodiac's various crimes and the many people involved.

I picked this book up at a Goodwill store, and once I started reading it I couldn't put it down. I literally read it in one day, and believe me that makes it something special. I highly recommend any fan of crime novels reality or fiction to check this book out.