MENNO VON BRUCKEN FOCK

AMERICAN SOLDIER (E)

Artiest / Band: 
QUEENSRYCHE
QUEENSRYCHE

The American hard rock or melodic metal outfit Queensrÿche needs no introduction. Their magnum opus Operation: Mindcrime (1988) is a very popular album amongst both hard rock fans and fans of progressive rock music with a harder edge. This time Geoff Tate and his bandmates got their inspiration from Tate's father who used to be a professional military man. As many of them, who witnessed the horrors of war, he never opened up to his son Geoff until a few years ago. Tate became intrigued and started interviewing numerous soldiers and veterans of all ages. Lyrics and music were mainly written by Tate and producer Jason Slater, along with drummer Scott Rockenfield and contributors Kelly Gray (former guitarist) and Damon Johnson. Tate plays saxophone and clarinet on this album too. American Soldier starts with a sergeant’s drilling voice shouting 'on your feet!' and announces the shortest song on this album, a mid-tempo guitar driven rocker. Sirens are sounding because of an imminent airstrike in Unafraid and then a background of bass, drums and guitars and a little bit of orchestration features numerous quotes by soldiers. Hundred Mile Stare is perhaps the most characteristic Queensrÿche-tune, rather slow, melodic, Tate singing beautifully and a nice guitar solo by Michael Wilton. A short piece of an interview is followed by subtle plucking of guitars before the harder rocking parts come to alternate with the ballad-like ones. A Dead Man's Words is a rather slow soft rocker in the vein of some of the more relaxed tunes by Deep Purple (Rapture Of The Deep) and features Tate’s clarinet. A nice but rather mediocre rock song is The Killer. The B, D and E-chords, frequently used in heavy metal and rock, are used here too. In the last part several guitars are mixed in a nice harmony. The same slower pace is maintained in The Middle Of Hell, that has the same kind of atmosphere, no solos, no stunning effects, but a catchy melody and multiple vocals. Starting with another fragment of an interview, a quiet Led Zeppelin is combined with a bombastic strong riff-driven chorus, followed by another part of one of the many interviews and then the chorus again, ending rather abruptly. One of the most catchy songs is Man Down!: heavy but melodic guitars and the power equals that on Operation: Mindcrime. Finally some twin guitars can be heard! The first ballad on this album is Remember Me, a very emotional and sensitive song with great vocals by Tate. Another ballad with Emily Tate singing next to her brother is Home Again, a beautiful song full of true emotions. In the closing track The Voice we hear some words by Geoff’s father. It's a mid-tempo rather bombastic rocker, maybe the only one with fairly obvious orchestral components and a very smooth ending…'don’t be afraid'...

In conclusion, American Soldier is much more to my liking than its two predecessors. It has strong lyrics, a serious and respectful subject, but although the spoken words contribute to the album lyrically, musically sometimes I find them rather disturbing. The melodies are catchy, but I do miss some of the violent guitar parts that used to characterize the band in earlier days. The album should be categorized as melodic rock with some heavier parts, but I wouldn’t call it progressive at all. Live, with a full band and an additional guitarist, keyboard player and stunning visual melodramatics, I think the album would be much stronger and more bombastic than on the CD. The DVD which I think they will be going to record at some point will be a must have for me anyway.