Headbangers’ Brawl is a weekly column where Metal Insider’s contributors take a moment to debate and analyze opposing sides of a topical issue occurring in the world of metal and/or the music industry.
To make a long story short, now there’s TWO versions of Queensryche. In one corner, there is Michael Wilton, Eddie Jackson, and Scott Rockenfield with a new singer. On the other is Geoff Tate (who technically got kicked out of the group) with an “all-star” lineup. Truth be told, we want there to be two Queensryches as much as we want to see multiple versions of Great White and L.A. Guns. However, with all the drama surrounding this (with more surely to follow), we could help but ask ourselves one thing: if we had the choice, which version of Queensryche would we pay to see?
That very question started quite a debate amongst Bram, Kodi, and Zach. So without further ado, let’s let the three of them Brawl over which version of Queensryche is worth checking out live.
Zach: If I was a die-hard Queensryche fan who has been disappointed with every album released after Operation Mindcrime, I’d probably say the version without Tate. But the honest truth is that I’m never been a fanatic fanboy for the group. So from the perspective of a metal fan who’s “familiar” with Queensryche, I’ll choose to see Tate’s version live first.
Before I move forward, let me make one thing clear: I DO NOT support Tate’s decision to form his own version. It’s a blatant attempt to fuck over his former bandmates, and if Tate really cared about the band’s legacy, he wouldn’t be doing this. HOWEVER, the chance to see Tate performing with notable musicians (whether it’s truly an “all-star” lineup is a separate debate for another time) is personally more intriguing to me than seeing three of the five original members perform Queensryche. If I was more attached to Queensryche’s catalog (especially the earlier material), I’d probably feel different. But again, I’m not.
Bram: I’m not that ashamed to admit that I was a big Queensryche fan in their mid-to-late ‘80s run. Rage For Order was a few decades ahead of its time, Operation: Mindcrime is a fantastic concept album, and The Warning and Empire bookended those two albums nicely. In their prime, the band transcended hair metal, flirted with prog, and made some great music, and Geoff Tate’s voice held it all together. By 1994’s Promised Land, either due to my changing taste in music, or a decline in the quality of their music, I began to lose interest in the band. I’d still pay attention to what they put out, but just didn’t care that much as they morphed into a generic radio rock non-hitmaking machine.
Ironic then, that the Queensryche release I cared about the most in the past 20 years were the court documents earlier this year about the band’s split with Geoff Tate. I can’t think of a band in recent history that unraveled so publicly and messily. While it doesn’t get much messier and more public than spitting on your band while playing a show, hearing the back and forth via court documents and interviews between the band has been fascinating. Especially when Queensryche members Scott Rockenfeld, Eddie Jackson and Michael Wilton said that they wrote plenty of music that hearkened back to the band’s glory days, but Tate and his wifeager shot it all down. And the less said about Queensryche Cabaret and Operation: Mindcrime II, the better.
So if I have to settle for the core of the band I really used to like with a new singer or Geoff Tate’s temporary all-star revue playing uninspiring songs from the likes of Q2K, I’ll take the Todd La Torre version. Tate’s still got quite a voice on him, but it’s going to be hard to reconcile the sound that comes out of his mouth with the shit (and spit!) that’s been coming out of it. Might new music from the Todd La Torre version sound a bit dated? Perhaps, but I’m willing to give them a chance. The fact that there might be two versions of the same band could certainly lead to some confusion with some fans, but then again, I’d doubt that there are any “casual” Queensryche fans at this juncture anyway.
Kodi: When it comes to Queensryche, I’m all kinds of “That Guy Who Only Loves the First EP.” I’m not really loyal at all to the band, and while Operation: Mindcrime was a tremendously well-constructed album, it’s not something I’d place among my all-time favorites by any means whatsoever. But I’m also totally indifferent to most of the ’85-’91 arena metal scene, and that kind of leads me into my key issue here: I like Queensryche just enough to see them live, but I’d be really hesitant to buy a ticket to either current lineup’s shows. They’re more of a curiosity to me at this point, and I find it really difficult to believe that either version of the band is going to do something that anyone who didn’t come up on the band’s golden era will find musically interesting.
To be fair, it’s pretty clear that Geoff Tate has been the big obstacle to this band doing anything relevant for a number of years. But why would I want to hear stuff from, say, Empire without the original singer? Even after years of making subpar music, Tate’s best work is just a slight notch below metal’s Holy Trinity (Dio, Dickinson, Halford) in a lot of minds, and maybe even right there or higher with serious Queensryche fans. And I’m admittedly also in the minority of Megadeth fans who really dug Glen Drover when he was in that band, so it could be interesting to see what he’d do in this “all-star” lineup. But I don’t trust this band to not put out something like Chinese Democracy, and although I do like him, Drover is no Buckethead. If Tate’s driving the songwriting, this lineup doesn’t have enough of an X-factor – and very few would – to avoid walking right into another Dedicated to Chaos.
At least the remaining members have a chance at putting out an album with Todd La Torre on vocals that’s actually metal, which has been escaping Queensryche for too long. But Tate going on the road with a different lineup damages the integrity of both and creates a really serious distraction. By the time Queensryche-minus-Tate cuts an album, will anyone still care about what they’re up to? They’d have to make a scorcher of a comeback to make it work, and if they can, more power to them. In the meantime, ask me this question again after each version makes a record.
Z: In regards to any new music either version may release, I’d agree that the Todd La Torre version has more potential (or at least something I’d be more interested in). I’ll make this prediction now: if (key word being if) Tate’s version records new material, it will be missing at least one of these “all-stars.”
However, my original pick is regarding which version of Queensryche I’d pay to see FIRST live. And as Kodi points out, Tate is the original voice (granted, it’s a voice that’s decreased in quality over the years) and his version features recognizable names that make this venture very promising. I too loved Glen in Megadeth, and Rudy Sarzo is a hell of a bassist. As a metal fan not all that familiar with every single song of Queensryche, that sounds more intriguing to me. Would I feel that way if my options were Tate-less Queensryche and a Tate solo tour? Probably not, though if Sebastian Bach has proven anything, sometimes a singer’s solo set featuring covers from his previous band can sometimes be better than seeing the “original” band itself.