Queensryche - American Soldier
Rhino
Progressive Hard Rock
12 songs (60'32)
Release year: 2009
Queensryche, Rhino
Reviewed by Marty
Major event
Queensryche has undertaken a few challenges over the years with expansive conceptual albums like 1988's Operation Mindcrime and the sequel Operation Mindcrime II a few years back. Nothing that they have ever done in the past could've prepared them for massive undertaking of a project that deals with the human aspects of war and what it does to personalities, families and the physical and emotional scars of combat that live a lifetime and fester in the minds of those who have served. Geoff Tate came up with the idea of interviewing former and current American military personnel with the intent to let their stories be told and to give them have a voice through the music of Queensryche. Beginning with his own father, Geoff Tate was able to get him to open up for the very first time about his own personal experiences while serving in the Korean War. In the process of interviewing veterans of the Vietnam War, World War II, the Gulf War as well as those who served in Afghanistan and Iraq, it became apparent that each had their own story to tell. For the very first time in the history of Queensryche, no personal idealogies, views or beliefs of the band members were used as subject matter for their songs; only the real life experiences of these very brave and courageous individuals.

Using some spoken word interview segments in a few songs really gives this whole project a genuine honesty and stark realism. Through the course of 12 tracks we see through the eyes of the soldier such things as the first day at boot camp, dropping bombs from 30,000 ft, having your best friend die in your arms while in combat as well as the emotional high of finally coming home. Sliver gives us a glimpse of the first day at boot camp complete with an energetic feel while Unafraid uses narratives from a Vietnam War vet. The whole feel of this album is more of a classic Queensryche feel with very little modern influences such as de-tuned guitars etc. Elements of Promised Land, Empire and Operation Mindcrime can be found throughout with the lead guitar work of Michael Wilton being a true album highlight. His trademark expressive yet technical lead guitar work as well as the eerie Empty Room style guitar fills color the atmosphere of this whole album impressively well. While not being involved in any of the song writing, his presence is huge and a very important aspect of how this album sounds. The band's cover of Pink Floyd's Welcome To The Machine from their Take Cover album indicated the band's love for their music and there's a strong "Floydian" vibe especially with Middle Of Hell, complete with some sax work by Geoff Tate. Geoff Tate's voice sounds amazing with lots of soaring vocals, great choruses and some truly genuine emotion in his voice. The overall feel of the album is more of a lush and laid back soundscape yet tracks like Man Down employ plodding heaviness to tell the tale. The first single If I Were King is a killer mix of emotional vocals, quiet and heavy sections and rich backing vocals; an aspect that is vital to the Queensryche sound. Home Again, a stunningly beautiful track sees Geoff Tate's daughter Emily duing a duet with her dad, really hitting home the impact on the families of those involved.

While not really a heavy album by any sense, the quality of the song writing here is the best it's been in years for Queensryche. Some of Operation Mindcrime II was good with the rest being a somewhat disorganized mess. American Soldier sees them getting back on track with very strong songs, soaring melodies and some very real emotion coming through in telling these soldier's tales. It takes a few listens for the strengths of this album to reveal themselves and personally, this is the best album since either Promised Land or Empire. The take home message from all of this is for us to take a moment and realize that through any armed conflict in our history, technology and the theatres of war may change but what never changes are the human aspects and the scars that are left for a lifetime.

Killing Songs :
Unafraid, Hundred Mile Stare, At 30,000 Ft, If I Were King, Man Down and Home Again
Marty quoted 84 / 100
Other albums by Queensryche that we have reviewed:
Queensryche - The Verdict reviewed by Joel and quoted 93 / 100
Queensryche - Condition Human reviewed by Joel and quoted 92 / 100
Queensryche - Queensryche Live from Waukesha, Wisconsin USA reviewed by Joel and quoted
Queensryche - Queensr├┐che (2013 LP) reviewed by Andy and quoted 89 / 100
Queensryche - Dedicated To Chaos reviewed by Erik and quoted 31 / 100
To see all 13 reviews click here
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