INTERVIEW: Guitar World (Michael Wilton and Parker Lundgren)

The departure of chief songwriter/co-guitarist/co-founding member Chris DeGarmo following the 1997 release of Hear in the Now Frontier was undoubtedly a major blow to Queensrÿche. Previous to the band’s latest slab of metal, The Verdict, Queensrÿche had continued to release a dozen albums, all of them paling in comparison to any of the DeGarmo-period records. The subsequent albums to Now Frontier are marred, for the most part, by mediocre songwriting and a shortage of memorable melodies and hooks. For more than a decade after DeGarmo left the group, vocalist Geoff Tate was writing a large share of the band’s material, to mostly lackluster results, and the band’s career fell into a slow, downward spiral. In turn, many fans lost interest and ultimately the group fired Tate, who is now fronting a new band, Operation: Mindcrime.

The two remaining co-founding original members — guitarist Michael Wilton and bassist Eddie Jackson — have teamed with guitarist Parker Lundgren and powerhouse vocalist Todd La Torre, a drummer himself who also plays drums on The Verdict. (The group’s other co-founding member, drummer Scott Rockenfield, is on hiatus.) The third album of this revamped and revitalized lineup of Queensrÿche is a powerful prog-metal juggernaut that stands among their hardest-rocking albums. Tate’s dismissal has evidently resulted in a rebirth of the band.

The Verdict is reminiscent of classic Queensrÿche yet exhibits a sound that continues to evolve. Each member is getting along marvelously, and thus the music is much improved and far more potent than the group’s post-DeGarmo Tate-era years. La Torre’s drumming is heavy and steady, pummeling his kit with sheer gusto, while Jackson accompanies the attack with propulsive, nimble bass runs that help kick the songs into high gear, bolstered by La Torre’s ferocious Tarzan-type shouts. Wilton, meanwhile, proves to be one of metal’s most underrated guitarists. His guitar tone is thick and juicy, and bursting with passion, as it has been ever since the band’s debut more than 35 years ago. Lundgren’s solid rhythm work and incisive lead breaks are the icing on the cake.

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