Queensr˙che (pronounced (kwēnz-rīk) is a progressive metal band formed in the Seattle, Washington suburb of Bellevue in 1981. The band has released nine studio albums and an EP and, as of 2006, continues to tour and record.
The foundations for Queensr˙che began in the early 1980s. Guitarist Michael Wilton and drummer Scott Rockenfield were members of a band called Cross+Fire, who covered songs from popular heavy metal bands such as Iron Maiden and Judas Priest. Before long Cross+Fire added guitarist Chris DeGarmo and bassist Eddie Jackson to their lineup, and changed their name to The Mob. The Mob, who were without a singer, recruited Geoff Tate to sing for them at a local rock festival. At the time, Tate was already in a band called Babylon. After Babylon broke up Tate performed a few shows with The Mob, but left because he was not interested in performing heavy metal.
In 1981, The Mob put together sufficient funds to record a demo tape. Once again, Tate was enlisted to help. The group recorded four songs - “Queen of the Reich,” “Nightrider,” “Blinded” and “The Lady Wore Black.” The group brought their demo to various labels and were rejected by all of them. Tate also was still committed to staying in his then-current band, Myth.
At the urging of their new manager, The Mob changed their name to Queensr˙che (reportedly inspired by the first song on their demo). They were the first band to apply the heavy metal umlaut to the letter Y. As Tate later joked: “The umlaut over the ‘y’ has haunted us for years. We spent eleven years trying to explain how to pronounce it.”
The demo tape was widely circulated and received a glowing review in Kerrang! Magazine. On the strength of the growing buzz surrounding them, Queensr˙che released their Queen of the Reich EP on their own 206 Records label in 1983. Based on the success of the EP, Tate agreed to leave Myth and become Queensr˙che’s permanent lead singer. That same year, the band signed to EMI and re-released Queen of the Reich as Queensr˙che to moderate success, peaking at #81 on the Billboard charts.
After the EP tour, Queensr˙che traveled to London to record their first full-length album. The band worked with producer James Guthrie, who had worked with Pink Floyd and Judas Priest. Released in September 1984, The Warning featured more progressive elements than the band’s debut. It peaked at Number 61 on the Billboard album chart, a moderate commercial success. While none of the singles released from The Warning charted domestically, “Take Hold of the Flame” was a hit for the band outside the US (particularly in Japan).
Rage For Order, released in 1986, introduced a much more polished look and sound for Queensr˙che. The album featured keyboards as prominently as guitars, and the group adopted an image more closely associated with glam rock or glam metal than with heavy metal.
In 1988, Queensr˙che released Operation: Mindcrime, a narrative concept album that proved a massive critical and commercial success. The album’s story revolved around a junkie who is drugged into performing assassinations for an underground movement; the junkie (“Nikki”) is torn over his misplaced loyalty to the cause and his love of a reformed hooker-turned-nun (“Mary”) who gets in the way. “Mindcrime” has often been mentioned by critics alongside other notable concept albums like Pink Floyd‘s The Wall and The Who‘s Tommy. The band toured through much of 1988 and 1989 with several bands, including Metallica.
The release of Empire (1990) brought Queensr˙che to the height of their commercial popularity. It peaked at #7 and sold more than three million copies in the US, more than their previous four releases combined (it was also certified silver in the UK). The power ballad “Silent Lucidity”, which featured an orchestra, became the band’s first Top 10 single and was said to be the last chart topping single of the ‘80’s metal bands which had by this time all but disappeared. While the band retained its socially conscious lyrics (touching on topics such as gun control and the environment), the arrangements on Empire were more straightforward than anything they had released to date.
The subsequent “Building Empires” tour was the first to feature Queensr˙che as a headlining act. The group utilized their headlining status to perform Operation: Mindcrime in its entirety, as well as songs from Empire. The tour lasted 18 months, longer than any tour the band has undertaken before or since.
After taking time off to deal with personal issues, the band released Promised Land in October 1994 (a companion CD-ROM, featuring a Promised Land-themed game and other interactive features, was released in March 1996). It was a dark and intensely personal album, reflecting the mental state of the band at the time. Although the album debuted at #3 and was eventually certified platinum, it was clearly not the commercial success Empire had been. As with many other heavy metal and hard rock acts, Queensr˙che’s commercial fortunes waned as grunge music and alternative rock surged in popularity.
Queensr˙che released their sixth full-length studio album, Hear in the Now Frontier, in March 1997, to mixed critical and fan reception. The album debuted at #19 but quickly vanished from the charts. The musical sound and style of the album was more basic and stripped down than anything the band had released to date, and some fans and critics pointed to the grunge musical style as being a major influence on the record. Despite the reaction, the singles “Sign of the Times” and “You” received substantial airplay.
Compounding the disappointing sales of the album were issues that plagued the band on the subsequent tour. Less than one month into the Hear in the Now Frontier tour, Geoff Tate became seriously ill and the band was forced to cancel concert dates for the first time. In an even bigger blow, the band’s longtime label, EMI America Records, went bankrupt during the same period. Queensr˙che was forced to use self-finance the remainder of the tour, which ended in August after only two months. The band played a handful of December shows in South America due to contractual obligations, and it was during this time that founding member Chris DeGarmo announced he was leaving Queensr˙che.
Although the official reasons for DeGarmo’s departure have not been made public, members of the band have cited burnout and a desire to pursue interests outside of Queensr˙che as reasons for his departure. After he left Queensr˙che, DeGarmo recorded and performed with Jerry Cantrell and was in a short-lived band called Spys4Darwin, which released one EP in 2001. DeGarmo is now a commercial airline pilot. He was replaced by Kelly Gray for Q2K (1999).
DeGarmo was replaced by guitarist and producer Kelly Gray. Gray’s connections with Queensr˙che went back to the early ‘80s, when he was the guitarist for Myth, Geoff Tate’s previous band. Gray had also previously worked as a producer for bands such as Dokken and Candlebox. Queensr˙che’s first album with Gray was 1999’s Q2K. It was also the first album for their new label, Atlantic Records. Musically, Q2K bore little resemblance to the progressive metal of the band’s past, and also displayed stripped-down sound similar to Hear in the Now Frontier. Gray was not embraced by the fans, who felt that his more bluesy style did not suit Queensr˙che. Additionally, declining popularity forced the band to tour in clubs and theaters, rather than larger arenas and outdoor amphitheaters.
After the release of a greatest hits collection in 2000, Queensr˙che embarked on another tour, this time in support of the newly reunited Iron Maiden. This enabled the band to play Madison Square Garden for the first time. Unhappy with the lack of support they felt they received from Atlantic, Queensr˙che moved to Sanctuary Records in 2001. In July of that year, the band performed a handful of dates at the Moore Theater in Seattle, Washington. The shows were recorded and released in September 2001 as Live Evolution, the band’s second live album. Kelly Gray departed Queensr˙che soon after.
The band entered the studio as a quartet in the spring of 2003 to record their next album. In April, they announced they had been joined by Chris DeGarmo, although his future status with the band was uncertain. In July, Queensr˙che released their first and only album of new material on the Sanctuary label, Tribe. DeGarmo, who played on and co-wrote four songs, did not officially rejoin the band nor take part in the supporting tour.
Kelly Gray’s official replacement turned out to be Mike Stone, who accompanied the band on the Tribe tour as second guitarist to Michael Wilton’s lead. In June 2003, Queensr˙che launched a co-headlining tour featuring another popular progressive metal band, Dream Theater. The two bands alternated the opening and closing spots, and ended the shows by playing a handful of songs together. Fates Warning was the special guest for the tour.
In July 2004, Queensr˙che announced their plans to record a follow-up to 1988’s Operation: Mindcrime. To generate fan interest in the upcoming album, the band hit the road in the fall of 2004 with the “An Evening With Queensr˙che” tour. The tour opened with a shortened greatest hits set followed by a revised production of Operation: Mindcrime with live actors and video; Pamela Moore reprised her role as Sister Mary. The band played a pre-recorded version of “Hostage,” a track from the upcoming album, through the PA as an encore after the end of their set. The second leg of the tour began in early 2005. Before embarking on a third leg of the tour in the fall of 2005, Queensr˙che toured with Judas Priest across North America, playing an hour-long set consisting mostly of the band’s older works and one song from the soon-to-be released sequel, entitled “I’m American.”
Operation: Mindcrime II was released internationally on 31 March 2006, and is said to answer some of the questions posed by the first album. The album is Queensr˙che’s first for their new label, Rhino Entertainment, to which they signed in 2005. Ronnie James Dio provided the vocals for Dr. X, the villain of both albums. The album debuted at Number 14, the highest chart position for a Queensr˙che album since 1997. The Operation: Mindcrime II tour will begin in June 2006, and the band will be joined by Pamela Moore to perform both Mindcrime albums in their entirety.
Geoff Tate has one solo release to date, a self-titled album released in 2002 on Sanctuary Records. Tate toured to support the album in the summer of 2002. Michael Wilton, with his band Soulbender, released a self-titled album in 2004. Scott Rockenfield and former Queensr˙che guitarist Kelly Gray are members of Slave to the System, who released a self-titled debut album in February 2006 and toured in April 2006. Rockenfield has also collaborated on a number of projects with musician Paul Speer. Rockenfield/Speer was nominated for a Grammy Award (Best Music Video, Long Form) for their 1999 release TeleVoid.
Dedicated to Chaos (2011) is something of an auditory dreamscape that musically spans the ‘60s through the ‘80s, bringing in elements of everything the band grew up with. Don’t worry though, modern elements are all in place as well. Queensryche remind us they are still progressive and experimental, perhaps just less on the metal side than in years past.
When we look at what technology has wrought on the fabric of world cultures, especially here in America, where it has done more to divide us then bring us together, Queensryche take us on a journey of remembrance to what binds us– music.
Dedicated to Chaos is Queensryche at their most colorful, willing to put their legacy under fire for what they believe in, and coming out the other side renewed and inspired.
years of music making, most bands are content to simply trudge along, putting
out the same old type of album again and again, trying to recapture the glory
of days past. Not this band, not Queensryche. With every new release, Geoff
Tate and company push themselves into new directions, new sounds, and dizzying
new heights. The result is that Queensryche is just as vital and musically
relevant today as ever they ever were.
they revisit older ideas, as they did in 2006 with the long awaited sequel to Operation: Mindcrime, the result was one
of the most thrilling releases of their extraordinary career. Now, a new
chapter is about to be written, a new album, and a new line-up that unites
frontman Tate with a stellar group of new players and seasoned vets. Arguably the
heaviest version of Queensryche ever assembled, the band not only wrote and
recorded the ten brand new songs on Frequency
Unknown (2013), but also will be hitting the road to perform the entire Operation: Mindcrime album at select
venues across the nation in celebration of that album’s 25th anniversary. Make
no mistake about it, Queensryche is still a musical force to be reckoned with
and their legions of fans will undoubtedly be celebrating in 2013!