Queensrÿche’s ‘The Verdict World Tour’ in Baltimore

It’s been a little over two years since Queensrÿche last stepped into the light at Baltimore Soundstage, previously visiting on their Condition Hüman tour, and fans were champing at the bit for another night of Rÿche N’ Roll.  The sold-out show, the fourth stop on the Verdict World Tour, put all of us shoulder to shoulder for an evening that would leave us spellbound.

Opening up the March 7th show was The Cringe of New York City, led by John Cusimano on guitar and vocals.  While best known as a producer of the Rurouni Kenshin: Wandering Samurai anime series and husband of chef Rachael Ray, Cusimano has also released several albums with The Cringe, which has played alongside the likes of Cheap Trick and ZZ Top.  Being as they have a more classic rock sound, their pairing with bands known for progressive metal backgrounds felt a little mismatched, but they put on an energized show, and performed a great rendition of Thin Lizzy’s “Jailbreak.”  The Cringe will continue to support Queensrÿche, and they are days away from debuting a new single entitled “I Can’t Take It No More.”

Though Queensrÿche was billed as the headliner, I wouldn’t have been surprised if this tour had been listed as a co-headlining effort, given the amazing longevity and talent of Fates Warning.  It was quickly evident that those in attendance were as much there for them as for the band to come.  Drawing on material going back to the 1991 album, Parallels, up to their most recent studio effort, Theories Of Flight, Fates Warning dished out one classic after another.  The new material was perhaps my favorite, with the tracks “Seven Stars” and “The Light and Shade Of Things” striking a deep chord, and it carried a weight and aura that signaled to me how proud the band is of their recent endeavors.

The Verdict World Tour showcases a new spectacle for Queensrÿche: an array of LCDs displaying individualized visuals for each of their songs.  As we awaited their impending arrival, a ghastly, crimson-cloaked figure danced across the stage.  A hush rolled over the crowd, followed by the band blasting into the opening track off their new album, “Blood Of The Levant.”  While the last tour had been about playing those overlooked deep-cuts from the first five albums, this tour sets out to highlight the La Torre-era releases.  A third of the setlist featured songs from the last three records, and boy did they sound powerful.  This was especially the case for the EdBass-penned tune, “Light-years,” off The Verdict, which radiated an undeniable groove through the air.  Everyone loved the new tunes, but even if it hadn’t been their favorite, the other two thirds of the concert dug into the discography and featured at least one song off of ever release from the 1983 debut EP up through Promised Land (this being the first touring year to feature “I Am I” since 2010, before Todd joined the band).  It felt like an excellently well-rounded evening of wailing dual-guitars from the hands of Michael Wilton and Parker Lundgren, and the ever-astounding pipes of Todd La Torre.  And while Scott Rockenfield has yet to return from paternity leave, Casey Grillo held things down admirable alongside Eddie Jackson.  As the spectacle came to an end, as these things are wont to do, and we ushered ourselves out over the smattering of rogue beer cans into the chilly air beyond the doors of the Baltimore Soundstage, we all seemed to have a similar feeling: Damn, that was good!

Be sure to check out the upcoming tour dates for the Verdict World Tour and catch these great bands in action.

Queensrÿche Photo Gallery

CD Review: “Spirits Of Fire” by Spirits Of Fire

Metal super group Spirits Of Fire’s self titled debut album is a cauldron of prog, power and thrash metal that unfortunately is slightly generic.

The quartet is comprised of metal legends Tim Owens, Chris Caffery, Steve DiGiorgio and Mark Zonder that are masters of their respective crafts. However, the band is too restrained on this record, dampening the excitement and preferring to play on cruise control.

There are some solid tracks like “Temple Of The Soul” with its driving guitar riff and Zonder’s constant rhythm changes. Chris’s bluesy lead perfectly fits this track while Owens soaring vocals reach the heavens.

The title track comprises of a stomping tempo that transitions to a rolling beat that encircles the listener before reverting to the main riff. The song twists and turns but moves forward with standout guitar leads and interesting time changes. However, other tracks fall short like the seven minute long song “The Game” which is both platitudinous and tedious. The track is a run of the mill epic metal track that falls short of the band’s potential.

These guys played in bands like Judas Priest, Death, Savatage and Fate Warning, thus the bar is high when it comes to creating epic metal material. It is a downer when the band play it safe and sound like an above average American progressive metal act. Album closer “Alone In The Darkness” redeems this record albeit slightly with a somber clean guitar riff, however Owens’ vocals fall a bit flat which diminishes the power on this track.

Spirit Of Fire were burdened with the expected task of releasing a high quality metal album. Sadly, the band play it self and there are few ear grabbing moments on this record. Steve DiGiorgio is one of the greatest metal bassists and his role is greatly diminished. Tim’s vocals vary track by track as he sounds great on one track but drowned out on another one. Caffery’s guitar work is the one consistent element on Spirits, a pity as it suffers due to naff songwriting.

Spirits Of Fire sadly does not live up to its title. There are some fiery moments on the record, but ultimately it is by the numbers prog/power metal. It is a shame as Spirits have the potential to play some ear ripping metal. Perhaps the band will pull out all the stops on its sophomore effort.

Check out the band’s official Facebook page:

https://www.facebook.com/SpiritsOfFireBand/

CD Review: “Creatures Watching Over The Dead” by Charred Walls Of The Damned

Heavy metal supergroup Charred Walls Of The Damned returns with its third record, Creatures Watching Over The Dead. Creatures is the band’s first record in five years, which is understandable considering the busy schedule of its members. Bassist Steve DiGiorgio currently plays in Testament and guitarist Jason Suecof is one of the busiest music producers in the metal genre. Suecof produced records for Battlecross, Deicide and Death Angel these past five years so his plate was full. Creatures is not a serious record, and the guys are having fun. The vibe on the album is laid back, but still carries a degree of intensity. The initial single “The Soulless” combines thrash with 80s power metal resulting in a catchy metal anthem. Richard Christy’s double bass drumming is lockstep with Suecof’s jackhammer riffing. Vocalist Tim “Ripper” Owens’ operatic vocals soar like a falcon and do not seem out of step with the music. “As I Catch My Breath” is an interesting blend of clean guitars and a dissonant main riff. Musically, the track recalls Fates Warning and Megadeth due to the progressiveness of the music. The technical thrash of “Reach Into The Light” hits with the precision of a guided missile. Owens’ high pitched vocals are again in top form, but do not take away from the music.

Creatures is not an exhuastive record and that is a plus. The band does not waste time playing eight minute opuses, opting instead to play shorter songs. This keeps the songs interesting and the listener will not drift off or reach for the “skip” button. As I mentioned earlier, the band is having fun on this record. There is no need to make a 70 minute long album with long, drawn out epics for the sake of pretentiousness. Suecof produced the record and it is loud and clear. There is not much to pick out except that Steve’s bass should be higher in the mix.

Creatures Watching Over The Dead is a good metal record. It should satisfy fans of technical death metal or progressive metal that are not looking for something too deep. This record may get lost in the shuffle due to the other high profile albums coming out this year. However, one should not overlook Creatures as it definitely holds its own.

For news check out the band’s website at http://www.metalblade.com/cwotd/

Fates Warning’s Darkness in a Different Light CD Review

 

It’s been almost nine years since progressive metal band, Fates Warning, released its last album, FWX. A near-decade can be a lifetime in the music industry, and countless numbers of bands have formed and broken up in less time than that. Fortunately for fans of Fates Warning, reports of the group’s demise have been greatly exaggerated. After nearly two years of hard work in the studio, Fates Warning will release their 11th album, Darkness in a Different Light on Oct. 1.

The opening track on the new album, “One Thousand Fires,” is akin to a shot of adrenaline to chest, both startling and gasp inducing. It is the sound of nine years of silence shattered in an instant by an explosion of passion and power. It is Fates Warning hacking through the door with an axe and grinning maniacally like Jack Nicholson in “The Shining.” It is the return of a band that still loves what it does and cannot wait to prove it.

After “One Thousand Fires,” the band takes its foot off of your neck and lets you breathe a bit. The second track, “Firefly,” begins to slow the pace a touch, but like with all the other songs, it is a playing a bit coy. Shorter than many previous Fates Warning songs, each track on Darkness in a Different Light is direct, to the point, and sure of itself. But if you’re worried about the absence of a song epic in length, then the final track on the album, “And Yet it Moves,” is for you.

One thing that is absent from Darkness in a Different Light is the band’s frequent use of keyboards. Many Fates Warning fans may be a bit surprised to hear the band play without the now familiar musical layer of keyboard, but the group’s creativity is stronger for it. Instead, guitarist/producer Jim Matheos and engineer Phil Magnotti have managed to develop a rich and elaborate music-scape. With their skill, they have embedded a message in the album. The message is simple: “You missed something… listen again.”

You can find pre-orders for Darkness in a Different Light as well as news and tour info at Fates Warning.

Fates Warning will be performing at The Masquerade in Atlanta on Dec. 1. Tickets can purchased at through The Masquerade.