INTERVIEW: Guitar Player (Michael Wilton)

It’s a cold, wet day in Seattle (what else is new?) when Guitar Player catches up with Queensrÿche’s Michael Wilton. Despite the nasty weather, the guitarist is enjoying some much-needed time at home before his band heads out on the road for a North American tour in support of its new, and 15th, studio album, The Verdict (Century Media Records).

As Wilton points out, Queensrÿche, like many other rock bands in this current era of continuously declining album sales, have been spending more and more of their time on tour. “In this ever-changing world of entertainment and technology colliding, it just seems like that’s the way it’s going to be, because no one’s buying music anymore,” he says.

In a positive twist, all that time on the road served to inspire and shape the sound of The Verdict. According to Wilton, the new record was largely written while Queensrÿche — Wilton, guitarist Parker Lundgren, bassist Eddie Jackson, drummer Scott Rockenfield and singer Todd La Torre — were touring in support of their previous album, 2015’s Condition Human.

“You’re out there experiencing life on the road, and it configures you to think, Maybe I should write songs that are suitable for playing onstage every night,” Wilton says. “Because you see what songs get the crowd amped up and what songs translate best to the stage. I think that may have given us some guidance on this album, and because of that, a lot of the songs on The Verdict are very energetic and very hard hitting. There’s not too much super-duper, long, headphone-y stuff. The material is really developed, and I think it’s going to play great live.”

True to Wilton’s word, The Verdict is perhaps the most hard-rocking Queensrÿche album in 20 years, exploding out of the gate with the one-two punch of the chugging opener “Blood of the Levant” and charging straight into the blazing lead single, “Man the Machine.” The songs are fortified with racing riffs, operatic vocal howls and the band’s trademark harmonized guitar melodies. But it’s not all full-throttle. The Verdict also boasts proggy excursions (the off-tempo “Light Years”), swirling, psychedelia-laced numbers (“Inside Out”) and moody, atmospheric ballads (“Dark Reverie” and the album closing “Portrait”), as well as moments that see the standard guitar-bass-drums attack augmented by all manner of pianos and strings.

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