Rating:
8.0
Queensrÿche - American Soldier
31 March 2009


01. Sliver
02. Unafraid
03. Hundred Mile Stare
04. At 30,000 Ft.
05. A Dead Man's Words
06. The Killer
07. Middle Of Hell
08. If I Were King
09. Man Down!
10. Remember Me
11. Home Again
12. The Voice


"American Soldier" marks the 10th studio release for the Seattle based Prog-Metalers.

The album draws it's inspiration from the trials and travails of, well, as the title suggests, American soldiers. What makes this concept particularly interesting is the approach that Geoff Tate and Co. took. It is not a political statement. It does not portray the soldiers as being "just like pawns in chess" nor does the album portray them in a jingoistic "boot up yer ass!" way. It offers the unique approach of the songs portraying the thoughts of the soldiers themselves - with solemn reflections of sacrifice, whether it's the loss of a comrade in battle or the separation from their family.

Tate went to great lengths to get the stories of veterans of World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Desert Storm, Somalia, and the current conflict in Iraq. He received emails and phone messages of veterans and set up follow-up interviews with the service members. The end result of dozens upon dozens of interviews is that the album carries a great deal of authenticity with it.

Musically the album is predominantly mid-paced and fairly somber. When looking at an album centered around troops at war with song titles like "Killer", "The Middle of Hell", and "Man Down!" you might expect a couple scorchers - admittedly, I, coming from a primarily more aggressive metal background, had hoped for a couple - but the album is actually better served by keeping the tempo in check, as it maintains that somber atmosphere.

Geoff Tate's vocals are unmistakably his. If you've ever heard Queensryche before, you know what to expect. His voice is emotive that he does a good job in conveying the feelings of the soldiers whose stories he is trying to present. He still has the power to make his pipes soar a bit from time to time, but as with the musical tempo a lot of the vocals are a bit subdued.

One particularly interesting track, from the vocal perspective, is "Home Again" in which he performs a duet of sorts with his daughter, Emily. The song centers around two perspectives - that of the soldier abroad missing his child and the daughter at home longing for the return of her father. Perhaps because Emily has grown up with similar feelings with her dad being on the road for extended periods, there is an honesty in her voice which makes the song compelling.

This marks the first QR album in which Michael Wilton shoulders all guitar duties. While most of the songs are a bit subdued - fitting with the thematic atmosphere of the album as a whole - he does show off his chops with a couple good riffs like in "Unafraid" and with a few flashy solos -again, "Unafraid" comes to mind, as does "Man Down!"

Eddie Jackson's bass and Scott Rockenfield's drums are featured prominently audible in the mix and do a good job of driving some of the song forward while the guitar work focuses in a more atmospheric over riffing approach. They do a great job in carrying the songs.

Clips of the various interviews Tate conducted find themselves sprinkled throughout the album, helping set a poignant backdrop for some of the songs, and in the case of "Unafraid" make up the entirety of the verse section of the song construction, with Tate appearing only to sing the chorus. This approach was a good call in the studio booth as the snippets augment Geoff's lyrics.

Honestly, strictly from a musical perspective, I'd probably rate this album either between a 6.75 to a 7. The band is full of good musicians who have mastered their craft. The songs could perhaps be more varied in tempo - again the thrash freak in me is craving for a kicked up song or two. Sonically, it left me wanting a bit more.

However, the strength of the album is the concept, the stories. It was a difficult path to take - trying to write to reflect the strength, sacrifice, and raw emotions of the fighting man without politicizing it or taking some idealistic approach to the soldier could not have been an easy task. Trying to write a song like "If I Were King" about a man who lost a good friend in battle and who feels survivor's guilt for it - and being true to that soldier - is a tall order.

And again, the music does a good job in matching the mood of the songs, and that's a hell of a lot more important than showing off. Atmosphere counts and some times what you can play takes a back seat to what you are trying to convey.

High points for me - "100 Mile Stare", "Man Down!", "Home Again"

Performance: 7
Songwriting: 9
Originality: 9
Production: 8


Band profile: Queensrÿche
Album: American Soldier


 



Written on 07.04.2009 by
Xnoybis
BitterCOld has been officially reviewing albums for MetalStorm since 2009.
More reviews by Xnoybis ››



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jupitreas - 07.04.2009 at 20:33  
Good review, I usually have a problem with long reviews like this but luckily you avoided the 'Pitchfork' pitfall in keeping it interesting and fun to read throughout. Im not a QR fan but I can appreciate what they are doing here, I think I'll check this album out.
Angelique - 07.04.2009 at 21:24  
Then again, I am a huge QR fan, been since O:M, I wasn't expecting a lot from this album to be honest... and still it was a disappointment.. I find it boring and dull, production is superb like always with them but musically this album is a disappointment, even Tate's vocals are somehow lame.. not very keen on this castrated adult QR it has been last albums (I do like Tribe for some reason tho). On a good side, I do like the concept of the lyrics, I think it's a genius idea and even more, I like your review
Xnoybis - 07.04.2009 at 21:36  
Thanks for the compliments. was an odd review as it's out of my normal musical comfort zone. musically it left me a wanting, but it was the concept and the authenticity of the execution that buoyed the score up.

the fact that i'm a vet and have friends/family that have served (and are serving) in WW2/Korea/Nam/Iraq undoubtedly impacted my feelings towards the concept.
Farbsryche - 07.04.2009 at 21:47  
I've been a QR fan since I saw them support DIO on The Last In Line Tour, with the release of Warning. I've been there through all the ups and downs. We all crave another release like Empire, or Operation Mindcrime, or Rage For Order, or even Promised Land... Alas those days seem to be over.
I am, yet again disappointed with another release by QR. American Soldier is well written, and the music is crisp. So what's the problem? Jeff Tate's vocals seem to struggle in places, and as for backing vocals they are flat, and at times seem off key.
I want to believe in QR, but my patience is wearing thin, where are the tunes that inspire you to sing loudly like Jet City Woman or masterpieces such as Silent Lucidity?
In a nutshell American Soldier is a great concept, but the music labours and the vocals struggle.
THE_BLACK_GOD - 08.04.2009 at 11:25  
First when I looked at review I was frightened! cause it was too long, but I started to read and finally it was ended. it was such a short story man. very nice review, Im not their fan but I will take a look at this album for sure.

Edited at same day: I heard the album, and I finally realized that your review was so better than album I cant rate it more than 6.
Jeff - 09.04.2009 at 00:05  
Well I like the review and actually now that I've listened it, I fully agree with you!

This album is not so great, the music is a bit weak but the lyrics are just excellent (as always with Queensryche).

Well this album is not amazing maybe but still, it remains cool to listen to it.

Nice work man.
munson - 09.04.2009 at 07:45  
Written by Angelique on 07.04.2009 at 21:24

Then again, I am a huge QR fan, been since O:M, I wasn't expecting a lot from this album to be honest... and still it was a disappointment.. I find it boring and dull, production is superb like always with them but musically this album is a disappointment, even Tate's vocals are somehow lame.. not very keen on this castrated adult QR it has been last albums (I do like Tribe for some reason tho). On a good side, I do like the concept of the lyrics, I think it's a genius idea and even more, I like your review



You = Nail -> Head

I completely agree. I did not expect anything from this album, and still somehow got less than that. I do disagree with the lyrical and subject content. I think it's cliché and played out. This album was a complete flop, in my opinion.
MrSpaceman |BR| - 09.04.2009 at 14:52  
Don't know about you, but one of the most "sincerely" album about soldiers and their thoughts and feelings it's Iron Maiden's X-Factor. Somehow that songs with Blaze Bayley singing are so sad and somber that really takes me to the point of fear and confusing of someone surrounded by death or even a soldier that his war was gone and now he's a nobody, just remaining his scars and fears haunting him from inside his mind. That I think are really great "unknown soldiers" songs. You keep with your guts wrenched while wait for some kind of redeem - mostly his own death.

Maybe I could be wrong, but doesn't seems that QR takes the lyrics to a deeper psychological state like that. Talk about the daughter waiting for his father, or vice-versa, it's quite too mellow and such an easy hit.

I don't believe that a prog melodic metal band should be the kind of band to try to talk about this in a more serious manner. Iron Maiden did it in a album that doesn't fit in it's discography with that dark atmosphere and down-tempo mostly of the album songs. I think it fits better to prog rock bands, that often uses much more of feeling then instrumental virtuose.

Just to let it clear, I didn't listen to the album yet. Maybe I could be wrong and this album it's *really* somber, atmospheric and deals with the subject in an adult manner. I'm just observing that the style that Queensryche plays maybe is not the most appropriate for this kind of material.

Cheers!

Douglas - exulting after a great Opeth gig in São Paulo!
madgarry - 13.04.2009 at 12:13  
Unlike most of you who have commented on this album,ime not a QR fan and never have been,but with this album I fell in love so to speak. Maybe its because like the reviewer Bittercold ime a vet(UK) and still have friends serving in Afganistan,but whatever the reason this cd felt good and bought back feeling long forgotten.Its not the best album in the world but its a damn good one. 8/10.....
JohnDoe - 13.04.2009 at 16:48  
Good review; personally I love this album, all I can say is "welcome back QR" - the album is not a masterpiece, but still a really good one, there are no fillers as far as I'm concerned, I love the saxophone parts, it's great that these guys can still surprise.
DayFly - 14.04.2009 at 12:20  
Good review, says all that needs to be said. Generous rating though
Xnoybis - 14.04.2009 at 18:50  
Written by DayFly on 14.04.2009 at 12:20

Good review, says all that needs to be said. Generous rating though


yeah, and as mentioned a couple times, it was primarily based on the concept and execution of the soldiers' perspective and how it resonates with me rather than the musical composition and song structure.

based on the music, and allowing for alternate concepts/lyrics, this album with typical QR lyrics is probably a 7. this same album with typical throw-away lyrics is a 6. give it some metal cheeze lyrics (riding with power to slay the evil necromancer) is a 5.
Introspekrieg - 22.04.2009 at 01:37  
Nice review, very informative. My Dad really enjoys it also (he's a vet). I don't see the originality in this though, even just last year Filter made an album with the soldier theme. But props to Tate for going the extra mile and getting the authentic commentaries from real American soldiers, I guess that alone is unique in music. As for military themed albums I think Iced Earth did it the best with The Glorious Burden...

Great Review
jupitreas - 22.04.2009 at 01:49  
Written by Introspekrieg on 22.04.2009 at 01:37

even just last year Filter made an album with the soldier theme.


Was a pretty decent album too.
Xnoybis - 22.04.2009 at 01:51  
Written by Introspekrieg on 22.04.2009 at 01:37

Nice review, very informative. My Dad really enjoys it also (he's a vet). I don't see the originality in this though, even just last year Filter made an album with the soldier theme.

Great Review


it might not be the first album with the soldier as the primary/central theme, but it is the first i am aware of in which the band went to such great lengths to converse with veterans (across multiple conflicts, to boot) to have the focus be on seeing things from the perspective of the soldier.

it's one thing to comment on war or to try to get into the mind of a soldier, but another to actually interview dozens of them and write your lyrics based upon the stories/memories/feelings which they've told you.

if another band has indeed done this - gone to this level of detail and trouble - i'll be sure to check it out.
Introspekrieg - 22.04.2009 at 02:03  
Written by Xnoybis on 22.04.2009 at 01:51

it might not be the first album with the soldier as the primary/central theme, but it is the first i am aware of in which the band went to such great lengths to converse with veterans (across multiple conflicts, to boot) to have the focus be on seeing things from the perspective of the soldier.

it's one thing to comment on war or to try to get into the mind of a soldier, but another to actually interview dozens of them and write your lyrics based upon the stories/memories/feelings which they've told you.


Wow, I just looked into the American Soldier website and it definitely shows the hard work and dedication behind the album.
http://images.jamsbio.com/video/american-soldier/video2.html

Elemental stuff...

Tate's father served during Korea? Must have been quite an inspired experience making the album.
Xnoybis - 22.04.2009 at 02:20  
Yeah, apparently on a tour break, they got together and were drinking lemonade on his pop's porch when his dad, for the first time, started talking about his experiences in Korea.

when Geoff told his wife about it, she said, "maybe you should write a song about it!" which then morphed into the entire album concept.
Nicko's Nose - 23.04.2009 at 06:56  
I liked O:M II, should I buy this album?
Valentin B - 24.06.2009 at 23:25  
just 3 songs(Sliver, The Voice and Home Again) and i'm completely sold..

CAN QUEENSRYCHE DO ANY FUCKING WRONG????
Ozman - 25.06.2009 at 18:51  
Written by Valentin B on 24.06.2009 at 23:25



CAN QUEENSRYCHE DO ANY FUCKING WRONG????



Yes, they can.

Perform live. They were terrible at Hellfest.
Valentin B - 25.06.2009 at 19:20  
Written by Ozman on 25.06.2009 at 18:51

Written by Valentin B on 24.06.2009 at 23:25



CAN QUEENSRYCHE DO ANY FUCKING WRONG????



Yes, they can.

Perform live. They were terrible at Hellfest.

it's because of Tate's voice right? well that's a bummer to hear... but then again i would expect nothing less of you than telling me half the bands were crap

i mean i saw the video of Manowar doing their self titled song and they nailed it, i don't get where you say they played it badly...
Ozman - 25.06.2009 at 19:34  
Written by Valentin B on 25.06.2009 at 19:20


it's because of Tate's voice right? well that's a bummer to hear... but then again i would expect nothing less of you than telling me half the bands were crap



Not only Tate's vopice but alsothe playing. They did play the songs tight but way too poppy. Hell, even Europe sounded heavier and more metal than Queensryche.
Valentin B - 25.06.2009 at 19:37  
Written by Ozman on 25.06.2009 at 19:34

Written by Valentin B on 25.06.2009 at 19:20


it's because of Tate's voice right? well that's a bummer to hear... but then again i would expect nothing less of you than telling me half the bands were crap



Not only Tate's vopice but alsothe playing. They did play the songs tight but way too poppy. Hell, even Europe sounded heavier and more metal than Queensryche.

well the Ryche never was a metal band(at least that's how i consider them), but i kinda agree playing them too poppy would be weird.. we shall see this sunday
Ozman - 25.06.2009 at 19:39  
Written by Valentin B on 25.06.2009 at 19:37

Written by Ozman on 25.06.2009 at 19:34

Written by Valentin B on 25.06.2009 at 19:20


it's because of Tate's voice right? well that's a bummer to hear... but then again i would expect nothing less of you than telling me half the bands were crap



Not only Tate's vopice but alsothe playing. They did play the songs tight but way too poppy. Hell, even Europe sounded heavier and more metal than Queensryche.

well the Ryche never was a metal band(at least that's how i consider them), but i kinda agree playing them too poppy would be weird.. we shall see this sunday


Never a metal band? What about the Queen of the Reich mini and The Warning? If those two aren't metal than neither is Iron Maiden's work.
Valentin B - 25.06.2009 at 19:52  
Written by Ozman on 25.06.2009 at 19:39

Written by Valentin B on 25.06.2009 at 19:37

Written by Ozman on 25.06.2009 at 19:34

Written by Valentin B on 25.06.2009 at 19:20


it's because of Tate's voice right? well that's a bummer to hear... but then again i would expect nothing less of you than telling me half the bands were crap



Not only Tate's vopice but alsothe playing. They did play the songs tight but way too poppy. Hell, even Europe sounded heavier and more metal than Queensryche.

well the Ryche never was a metal band(at least that's how i consider them), but i kinda agree playing them too poppy would be weird.. we shall see this sunday


Never a metal band? What about the Queen of the Reich mini and The Warning? If those two aren't metal than neither is Iron Maiden's work.

damn yeah you're right

aanyway as long as it's not overdone i'd be pretty cool with a softer sound as long as the awesome infectiously catchy guitar parts are there
AndMetalForAll - 08.01.2012 at 02:27  
Really good, I was thinking in making one review about this album, but definitely there is no necessity.

Congratulations...

greets,
AndMetalForAll

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