ALBUM REVIEW: Vance West (Digital Noise Alliance)

American progressive metal progenitors Queensryche firing on all cylinders with “Digital Noise Alliance“, delivering one of the best releases in the bands history and possibly one of this years most notable metal recordings.

Once again full disclosure, I’m a life long fan of Queensryche going back to 1984 when The Warning was released and changed the American progressive metal landscape. Often considered one of the original “Big Three” of the American prog-metal scene – I’d argue “Big Four or Five” to include Watchtower and Crimson Glory – Queensryche changed everything. They moved the needle, carved a path and established their musical legacy decades ago. I’m not going to spend time discussing personnel changes, “classic” lineups or “the catalog” – who cares. This is about creating new music and moving forward. I’ll also offer up that I’m a former musician in the Tampa Bay area having met, conversed and shared stages with the “new guys” in Queensryche, I cannot claim total non bias, but in the end it’s all about enjoying the music.

This is the fourth Queensryche release with singer Todd LaTorre at the vocal helm, however I feel like it’s the first where the band has settled in to what the current Queensryche style and sound may be. The previous releases held moments of brilliance and promise, but would often not quite fully achieve lift off. On “Digital Noise Alliance”, Queensryche hits the ground running, provides a moving and dynamic aural landscape that left me wanting much more. It’s the first Queensryche release I’ve listened to, in its entirety, and then over and over again, since Empire. I can sum it up in two words: Songs, performance. Yes, there’s many other aspects here, such as Casey Grillo’s creative drumming brilliance and performance, Todd’s voice becoming more his own, Eddie Jackson’s underrated bass rhythmic gymnastics, along with Michael Wilton’s and Mike Stone’s guitar wizardry… but it’s all about songs. Period. It’s been many years since I’ve come away humming Queensryche melodies and choruses, or feeling emotionally touched by heartfelt melancholy vibes. Well done, this is an amazing release, thank you!

In Extremis” kicks in with a driving mid-tempo rocker. I cannot help but immediately acknowledge Todd’s voice sounds more matured here. There’s a tonality here that reminds me of Bruce Dickinson a bit, but possibly more controlled and refined, I like that Todd is being a bit more aggressive in his phrasing and styling. The production on this release is top notch. “Chapters” is another mid-tempo, chorus driven gem. I really feel these songs were more organic, they sound like a band that actually spent time together writing and recording, loving it.

Oh, “Lost in Sorrow“, here’s that Eddie Jackson groove and growl that so defines the Queensryche sound. Eddie and Casey seem to really lock in well. Casey’s use of tom fills and the distinctive china sounds, a QR staple of course, are phenomenal. The guitars create a supreme dark groove here. Another great chorus and vocal performance. I like that the songs don’t seem too over produced. Whoa, “Sicdeth” picking it up a notch, aggressive. Okay… I’ll say it, I feel Casey’s drumming is making a huge difference in the overall feel on this release. Heavy for Queensryche. “Behind the Wall“, epic Queensryche with soaring vocals, tasty cymbal work and signature changes. This song moves! Again, great song writing here. This release also feels more “progressive” overall, yet keeps the song as the focus. Some blazing guitar work.

Nocturnal Light“, that creeping Queensryche groove. Eddie Jackson does not get enough credit for his distinctive sound and playing. Love some of the ambient sounds here to add a bit of atmosphere. “Out of the Black” caught me off guard with the guitar riff, sweet. The verses settle down to allow Todd to deliver a great vocal, pre-chorus and in to a big chorus, this release is clearly song driven. Another rocking tune, signature changes and crafty interludes between parts.

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