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Queensrÿche: Dedicated To Chaos

Album Review

Seattle’s kings of prog pomp in a flawed attempt to get down with the hip kids.

That title has to be a joke. Never in the bloody-knuckled, sinus-battered history of rock’n’roll has a band been less unhinged than Queensrÿche.

The trio of effortlessly imperious albums with which they made their name – 1986’s Rage For Order, 1988’s Operation: Mindcrime, 1990’s Empire – were precision-tooled machines that rolled off the production line with all the anarchic edge of a showroom Alfa Romeo. Stately? Certainly. Intelligent? Undoubtedly. Chaotic? Not on your arse. Of course it could be irony, but then Queensrÿche don’t really do irony either. 

Still, that’s the least of their worries. Thirty years into their career, and Seattle’s sixth most successful band appear to be in the full throes of a mid-life crisis that has been brewing since the mid-90s. With its clunky electronic flourishes and references to such on-trend topics as iPhone apps and ‘the world wide web’, Dedicated To Chaos is a misguided attempt to reposition this most conservative of bands as an altogether more contemporary proposition. It’s the musical equivalent of your old history teacher pulling on a pair of brand new leather trousers and shouting, “Right Daddio, I’m off down the discotheque!” 

Part of the problem is their ongoing refusal to accept what they are: a state-of-the-art metal band with prog tendencies. Consequently, they’ve parked the big choruses, memorable riffs and gut-punching dynamics – ie, the interesting stuff – in favour of “texture”, that horrifically vague term that’s just a shorter way of saying “aimless burblings that add nothing in the way of interest to a song”. 

But a bigger problem is the tunes, or rather, the lack of them. The likes of Hot Spot Junkie and fist-gnawingly bad Wot We Do lack anything remotely memorable beyond the sheer desperation of their down-with-the-kids titles. Only one song, Around The World, holds its own with past glories, largely because it finds them playing to the crowd rather than themselves. 

Dedicated To Chaos is no Operation: Mindcrime. It’s not even an Operation: Mindcrime II. By attempting to update their sound, they’ve drifted free of what made them special in the first place. Queensrÿche have always fancied themselves the smartest kids in the class. Maybe now is the time to bring that intelligence to bear on exactly why they’re going so wrong.

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