After two very strong releases with new singer Todd La Torre, Queensrÿche took some time before releasing their 15th album. Well it’s their 15th if you don’t count former singer Geoff Tate’s Queensrÿche album Frequency Unknown, released during the odd vacuum time when both parties had right to release under name Queensrÿche. One of the reasons for the longer break was the fact that band’s drummer Scott Rockenfield has been on hiatus for almost two years now. Eventually the band decided to release the very first Queensrÿche album not to feature Rockenfield, meaning that band’s guitarist Michael Wilton and bassists Eddie Jackson now remain the only original members of the band.
The first release with the new singer was a short sharp shock and an album that delivered what longtime fans have been craving for a long time; a back-to-the-roots album. They followed it with Condition Hüman which sticked to the same formula, but at the same time broadened the horizon by including the dramatic and atmospheric aspects known from their third album, Operation: Mindcrime.
If the self-titled album was mostly inspired by band’s first two albums and Condition Hüman broadened the inspiration to the first three albums, then The Verdict takes the inspiration another step further by also including some of the approach that was trademark of their fourth album Empire and the band even dips a toe on band’s 1994 masterpiece Promised Land.
The album opens with all guns blazing, much like on the previous two albums. The sound too is very familiar. Just like its predecessor The Verdict was produced by Chris “Zeuss” Harris and it bears all the same trademark of sharp and raw sound. Drums are bit more compressed which does make them stand out bit more, and not in necessarily good way.
Drumming duties on the album are handled by La Torre and he did a good job on The Verdict, but the hole left due to Rockenfield’s absence is hard to fill. La Torre is a skilled drummer, but Rockenfield’s importance as drummer and band member is just colossal. His drumming genius goes far beyond technical skill. His understanding of greater good of the song and ability to support the song, while taking it to the unexpected places is truly outstanding and it is missed on this album.
Another thing missing on the new album is that insane level of songwriting quality that characterized the previous two releases. The duo of and “Inside Out” and “Propaganda Fashion” are well-crafted, but anonymous. Fortunately, they are followed, by the absolute highlight of the album “Dark Reverie”, which with its mysticism and splendor matches the magic of “The Mission” from Operation: Mindcrime. It’s as dramatic as it is elegant. This is Queensrÿche at its best.
“Bent” and “Portrait” crave more from the listener, but they at the same time they are rather rewarding experience as well. Elsewhere “Launder the Conscience” never manages to grab the listener’s attention.
Overall this is another very good release by the band who has managed to come back from the abyss stronger than they’ve been in a long long time. The cover art work is even weaker than that of Condition Hüman, and songwriting and melodies suffer from a noticeable step down as well.
The Verdict is a strong record, but at the same time it’s the weakest Queensrÿche album of La Torre era.