Queensrÿche – Digital Noise Alliance Review

A new Queensrÿche platter almost mandates a look back at the many peaks and valleys the band traversed over their long career. Early releases like their eponymous EP and The Warning were timeless pieces of traditional metal. They created what is arguably the best metal concept album of all time with Operation: Mindcrime, and they had major commercial success with Mindcrime and Empire without having to “sell out.” Lean years followed as Geoff Tate and company drifted into drab alt-rock (Hear in the Now Frontier, Q2K), then came the trend hopping (Tribe), and finally, phoning it in (Operation: Mindcrime II). Afterward was the acrimonious split with Mr. Tate and the war of words between the two competing versions of Queensrÿche. The one with Michael Wilton, Eddie Jackson and new frontman Todd La Torre was the “winning” project and went on to release a pair of surprisingly good albums that kept the classic sound alive while slightly modernizing it.1 2019s The Verdict was the first miss of the La Torre era, feeling flat and muddled at times. Digital Noise Alliance is the next chapter, with Parker Lundgren out and Mike Stone back in on guitar, and long-time Kamelot drummer Casey Grillo making his debut. Could this mean a new age of Empire?

This is the band’s COVID lockdown album, largely written during the worst parts of 2020 and 2021, and at just over an hour, Digital Noise Alliance has a lot to say. Opener “In Extremis” is like a classic Rÿche tune from the late 80s. The urgent prog-metal attack would have fit on Rage for Order and Mindcrime without a bump, and Todd La Torre does an impressive Tate homage as the song rumbles along with power and poise. The bulk of what follows is very good. “Chapters” and Lost in Sorrow” feel like lost Empire cuts and have that same slick, easy charm. “Lost in Sorrow” feels especially classic, reminding me why I love this band’s 80s/early 90s output so deeply, and “Behind the Walls” is a big highlight, delivering an extra emotional set piece full of passion and power. Mr. La Torre is unleashed and shows what he can do with his massive voice and feelings will be felt here with chanted lines like “Did you ever love me? Did you ever love you?” “Nocturnal Light” also brings the thunder with a powerful, brooding energy that seethes as it gathers momentum.

Unfortunately, the album’s second act has a few late game potholes. Lengthy penultimate piece “Tormentum” features dark moods and a proggy bent, but it never finds its footing and drifts along as you wait for the big hook that never arrives. The album ultimately concludes with a cover of Billy Idol’s “Rebel Yell” which seems incongruous and unnecessary. The hour of runtime ends up feeling extra long due to this less-than-ideal parting combo. Cutting both of these would have made for a much tighter more compelling spin.

According to the promo material, Michael Wilton broke out the old amps he used on the band’s classic albums and played through them on certain songs to lend the material a connection to the band’s past. This worked, as I’m often reminded of past glories by the guitar phrasing and song structures. Rage for Order, Mindcrime and Empire influences all appear and are welcome additions. The guitar work is 100% Ryche and the regal, polished yet understated playing by Wilton and Stone gives me a warm and fuzzy feeling. Todd La Torre continues to impress with his Geoff Tate on growth hormones style, showing power and versatility. He’s got a voice like a mining laser and even the lesser songs get a shot of mega-adrenaline from his contributions. Casey Grillo is a great addition, pounding away in the backline much like Scott Rockenfield did in the band’s heyday. This version of Queensrÿche is tight, talented, and able to deliver impressive songs, and they almost delivered a full album’s worth here.

Digital Noise Alliance takes time to really crack into and fully appreciate. Despite its surface accessibility, there’s actually a great deal of depth to explore and the album grows significantly with exposure. It’s certainly a big step up from The Verdict and fans of the band should be pleased. Fans of the Fates Warning progeny acts like A-Z will also find things to admire. Looks like we’re heading back up another peak. I’m looking forward to the climb.

Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Century Media
Websites: queensrycheofficial.com | facebook.com/queensrycheofficial
Releases Worldwide: October 7th, 2022

Show 1 footnote

  1. Geoff Tate’s Queensrÿche managed but one album and it was not good. Mr. Tate then changed names to Operation: Mindcrime and released several more albums that were also not good.
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