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Album Review: Queensrÿche – American Soldier

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American Soldier, the new album by Queensrÿche, tells the story of war from the point-of-view of the men and women who have served our country. No stranger to the concept album, Geoff Tate and co veered away from their imaginative arcs from years past to deliver an album steeped in reality. As for whether they are successful in this endeavor is sadly another story.

Discounting the cover-album, Take Cover, this marks the first studio album by Queensrÿche since 2006’s disappointing Operation: Mindcrime II. That album concluded the story that began in 1988’s Operation: Mindcrime, one about drug addicts, corrupt priests, assassins, and love. Despite a lack of quality work since then (my apologies to fans of the popular, Empire), the band has always been a step above their ’80s hair-metal contemporaries. Better than Poison and Ratt, not quite as good as Guns N’ Roses and Metallica, though by the end of the day, you can’t accuse the band of phoning it in.

Their latest album is better than Mindcrime II, but as American Soldier moves along, musically it’s hard to separate one song from the other. With the opener “Sliver”, the commands (“On your feet!”) leads us through the mind of the early days of the soldier, broken down only to be built up anew. It suffers due to Tate’s tough guy attempt that sounds more Shifty Shellshock than Sgt. Hartman (“I’m gonna tell ya’ one time! Now listen up!”, “What’s up, what’s up?”). The second track off the album, and arguably the best, is “Unafraid”, a song whose verses consist of quotes directly from soldiers who fought in Kosovo and Vietnam. The simple chorus of “I’m unafraid/I fear nothing” works here, not trying to distract the listener from the words of the veterans. The song sticks in your head long after you hear it, but the same can’t be said for most of this album.

“At 30,000 Ft” tells us of the disciplined mind of the fighter pilot (“Flying high above the city walls/As the insurgents run/Can’t stand their ground against the hell/That I’ll make”). “The Killer” (which along with “Middle of Hell” features horns courtesy of Tate) asks “Who will be the killer?/Who will be the winner?” The song “If I Were King” opens with a soldier telling of losing a friend on the battlefield, and the horrors of war truly sinking in (“If I were King of all I imagine/I would trade what I have/To have you back at my side”). These are all commendable tracks, if solely for paying tribute to our troops.

This may be misconstrued as a somewhat positive review, but unfortunately the music is very generic. Despite tackling themes still relevant today, musically the band is stuck in 1989. There has been no progress in that regard, and hurts the band’s current credibility. It’s miles better than the song “Citizen Soldier” by Three Doors Down, but is that saying much?

American Soldier is another miss by Queensrÿche, but not for lack of trying. The album aims high, but ultimately falls short of success.

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