ALBUM REVIEW: Blabbermouth (Digital Noise Alliance)

In the toughest of times, we can always console ourselves with the knowledge that QUEENSRŸCHE pulled it back from the brink. A decade ago, the Seattle legends were dithering around with albums like “Dedicated To Chaos” — a decent enough effort, but so far away from the sound that made the band famous and beloved, that even the most loyal fans were becoming disgruntled. Everything changed in 2013. After weathering an acrimonious split with singer Geoff Tate, they reunited with Todd LaTorre at the mic, and with a shared goal of reconnecting with QUEENSRŸCHE‘s past and taking it into the future with pride.

Three albums later, few would dispute that this incarnation of the band has delivered the goods, and with increasing confidence. Their last album, 2019’s “The Verdict”, was widely hailed as an absolute belter, and rightly so. While by no means tethered to some sacred trademark sound, QUEENSRŸCHE had learned to get the best of both worlds by making music that echoed the pristine prog metal of their early classics, while also edging inexorably forward, heads buzzing with fresh ideas.

Once again made in collaboration with producer Zeuss, “Digital Noise Alliance” is QUEENSRŸCHE‘s fourth bullseye in a row, and that’s obvious from the opening bars of “In Extremis”. Crisp, heavy and exhilarating, it’s the kind of boldly askance, melodic metal song that defined them in the early days, but sonically up-to-date and free from any sense of retro bet-hedging. LaTorre, as ever, sounds amazing. He is equally potent on the snappy, radio-friendly rush of “Chapters”, which harnesses the brooding melancholy that underpinned so much of “Operation:Mindcrime” and “Empire”, and ties it to a core refrain that is as enormous as anything in the band’s catalogue.

Buzzing with energy and basking in the glow of their own prog metal blueprint, these are musicians in thrall to the present moment, but focused firmly on their band’s future. There are heavy songs like “Sicdeth” and “Out of the Black” that sound like clever upgrades of past glories, with LaTorre‘s melodies always pulling the songs in unexpected directions. There are more expansive moments too: the angular old-school-isms and operatic indulgence of “Behind the Walls”, and the intermittently crushing riff-maze of closer “Tormentum”. The latter, in particular, is heavier and more overtly progressive than anything QUENSRŸCHE have released since LaTorre‘s arrival, and the electrified delivery seems to confirm that guitarist Michael Wilton and his comrades are enjoying every second.

Most startling of all, “Forest” is the album’s obligatory (and very welcome) ballad, but it’s a meandering, psychedelic thing, with shades of TROUBLE‘s early ’90s records, and a FLOYD-tinged, languorous feel that suits LaTorre‘s nuanced vocal perfectly.

The rest is as strident and imperious as we should probably expect from QUEENSRŸCHE at this point. If anything, “Digital Noise Alliance” promises to increase the momentum that has propelled them this far. It’s a real joy to hear them back on such consistent, top form. The glorious comeback keeps on coming.