BY DYLAN SKRILOFF
Vocalist Geoff Tate, the most famous member of the Seattle-based heavy metal outfit Queensryche, will no longer be a member of the band, Billboard reported this week.
Tate and band-mates had been rumored to be at odds on a recent tour, and rumors became reality when four members of the band, including three original members, formed a new outfit Rising West with Crimson Glory lead singer Todd La Torre. But Rising West wasn’t so much a new band as a continuation of Queensryche under another name, as two shows last week displayed.
Rising West’s set-list harkened back to Queensryche’s golden days as heavy metal icons in the 1980s and early 1990s, compete with La Torre’s vocals that sound eerily similar to Tate in his prime.
And what a prime Tate had, widely heralded as a Top 10 or even Top 3 heavy metal vocalist of all time, and one of the main writers of the 1988 concept album “Operation Mindcrime,” which has gone down in history as one of the best pieces of Rock n’ Roll artistry ever.
In 1990 the band saw major commercial success behind the “Empire” album and the hit single “Silent Lucidity,” but since the release of moody “Promised Land” in 1994, Tate led the band in an entirely different direction. First with lead guitarist and songwriter Chris DeGarmo by his side with the 1997 failure “Hear in the Now Frontier,” and then as the undisputed leader of the band from 1998 till 2012, producing a litany of poorly received albums along the way.
In that time the vast majority of Queensryche fans agree that the music produced not only lost quality, but lost the style that made it uniquely Queensryche. Live shows were still good because the band played many older tunes, and the band was still profitable for the members, but the new music and vibe wasn’t the same.
Tate had become more enamored with adult contemporary, psychedelia, and grungy alternative vibes, and also became somewhat pretentious intellectually, while the rhythm section of the band, Scott Rockenfeld (drums), Eddie Jackson (bass), and post-DeGarmo lead guitarist Michael “Whip” Wilton, often wore facial expressions on stage that said “why are we playing this music that doesn’t rock? We’re Queensryche.”
By parting ways with Tate and hiring a singer that loves the original heavy metal vibe of Queensryche and who can sing like Tate did in the 1980s the band has given itself new life. Whether the act will sell as many tickets without the icon Tate on board, remains to be seen, but those who do show up are sure to enjoy the non-stop delivery of heavy metal they have been yearning for.
In addition, the band has promised to record a new album this year, and fans can look forward to the first classic-sounding Ryche album in a long time. The only problem is that their main songwriter had always been DeGarmo, who left the band way back in 1997. Without DeGarmo, even Tate was at a loss, bringing in outside writers and often times outright purchasing song structures from them.
It’s been said that Wilton, though he is credited with writing much of “Operation Mindcrime,” is only proficient at writing individual riffs and not at structuring an entire song. So the Queensryche vibe is back, but if the ability to write will be awakened in the current band members remains to be seen.
Also remaining with the new version of Queensryche is Parker Lundgren, who is about half the age of the founding members of the band. Lundgren had joined Tate’s Queensryche the old fashion way, he married into the Tate family. He has since divorced Tate’s step-daughter and one must wonder if he’s sticking it to his former step-dad-in-law by helping take his band away.
Tate will continue his 2012 solo tour as well as promote his wine brand “Insania.” A solo album is expected from Tate in the not too distant future.