Album review: Queensryche, The Warning

So, do you ever have an album from a band that’s regarded as the band’s magnum opus but your favorite album from that band be another one?

Yeah. That’s how I feel about Queensryche’s 1984 album The Warning. Everybody claims Operation: Mindcrime was the band’s best album, but I’ve said before that I think The Warning was the album that showed Queensryche at the top of its game as a power/progressive metal band. ’84 was a great year for real metal music with Metallica’s Ride the Lightning and Iron Maiden’s Powerslave, but even as comparatively understated and low-key as Geoff Tate and his bandmates were here, there’s some classic metal riffing and lyrics to be found on this album.

I’ve heard The Warning described as Maiden-esque, and instrumentally speaking it certainly is, with the Chris DeGarmo-Michael Wilton twin guitar attacks on the record’s faster numbers like “Deliverance” and “NM 156.” Lyrically, though, it leans much more towards Rush territory with the emphasis on fantasy and science fiction:

“The child of centuries, forgotten in time, you talk in circles of rhyme. Seer of places future and past. The warning you gave us is surely our last.” (“Warning”)

“One day a king will rise with the sun, the moon, and the stars. And you are he and you must die! To be born again, come again, once more be again the king.” (“Deliverance”)

“You’re walking halfway in, but you’re crawling halfway out. There’s a void in your mind, that you cling to. You feel lost in time, you’ve got no words to rhyme. No more charms, no more spells to protect you.” (“No Sanctuary”)

There’s much more where that came from, of course, but you get the general idea. The band’s full-blown political musings revealed themselves fully on the next album, 1986’s Rage for Order, but there are hints of them here, with the anthemic “Take Hold of the Flame,” which has perhaps the best line of any song Queensryche ever recorded:

“Throw down the chains of oppression that bind you. With the air of freedom, the flame glows bright.”

On the other end of the spectrum, there’s the terrifying “NM 156,” a tale of a dark dystopian future which was based on the George Orwell book 1984:

“Erratic survey, freethinking not allowed. My hands shake, my pushbuttons silence the outside crowd. One world government has outlawed war among nations. Now social control requires population termination.”

The title track and “Take Hold of the Flame” were the first songs I heard from The Warning, but “NM 156” was the song that prompted me to get off my tail and go buy it. And boy, am I ever glad I did. No disrespect to the greatness of Operation: Mindcrime — or, for that matter, the more focused & refined approach the guys took with Rage for Order — but the rawness, the speed & dynamics, along with Geoff Tate’s phenomenal voice, all combine here for a work whose greatness absolutely cannot be denied. After you buy Iron Maiden’s Powerslave, buy this one. You’ll thank me later.

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11 Responses to “Album review: Queensryche, The Warning

  1. PISSED Says:

    Excellent review and album! I think they were at the top of their game with Empire, that is such an amazing album.

    I also agree with “Ride the Lightning”.

    Some of my favorite albums by band are:
    Van Halen “1”
    Rush “2112”
    Pink Floyd “Dark Side of the Moon”
    Yes “Fragile”
    Blackfoot “Strikes”
    Triumph “Allied Forces”
    Bad Company “Straight Shooter”

    Many others…

  2. southtexaspistolero Says:

    Oooh. I don’t have any of those, but what I’ve heard from them are great. Straight Shooter has my favorite BadCo tune on it, “Shooting Star.” I like what I’ve heard from the Triumph & Rush albums, too.

    And Empire IS a great album, mainstream tendencies notwithstanding. Geoff Tate rarely sounded better than he did on “Jet City Woman,” and “Anybody Listening?” is my all-time favorite Queensryche song. I also loved “Another Rainy Night” and the title track.

  3. TBeck Says:

    I like a lot of the material they did in in ’90s such as PROMISED LAND and HEAR IN THE NOW FRONTIER. The band has matured along with me. I still love listening to “Take Hold of the Flame” but my hair left a long time ago and my mosh days are over.

  4. southtexaspistolero Says:

    I like everything up to Promised Land , but after that Queensryche just lost me. Geoff Tate’s abandonment of the higher octaves of his voice was the lion’s share of why. I can handle limited doses of him singing lower, but not an entire album’s worth. One of the greatest voices in metal and he just lopes along with it.

  5. BL Says:

    Those are all good but one should also remember to buy Powerage and High Voltage! (BTW, my new experimental guitar project came out right and through one of my old Fender amps it sounds just like Malcolm if I want it to! 😉 Boomer Lad is HAPPY Boomer Lad!

    I mean, that’s rock and roll, man, just as much as Maiden or Rush or Metallica, just a different variant. Music is fun and if it isn’t fun it isn’t guns or music or fast cars, right?

    • Albatross Says:

      Once again, I agree fully with BL. High Voltage and Powerage are top-notch, classic hard rockin’.

      And, yes, I do promise to buy The Warning, too. Eventually.

      • BL Says:

        If you take a Godin telecaster looking electric electric-classical you bought off a friend you were in a band with so he wouldn’t get a warrant for not paying a speeding fine and restring it with GHS Silk and Bronze steel strings and run it into a Marshall on the CLEAN CHANNEL, Malcolm never used distortion much, truthfully…it sounds like Malcolms rigs he used for Powerage and High Voltage. Godin did some cussed ’em guitars for me and I called up the dude I know there and told him what I’d done and he said “well, we can’t advocate doing that but if it isn’t hurting the guitar, we won’t advocate that to our customers, but it’s a cool thing to know…” 😉

        If you dink around with the midrange and bass sliders you can make it sound a LOT like Pete on Substitute too!

        I is not normal. Weird guitars and multiple BREN ownership! Gotta have fun someplace, right?

        Rock and roll with any appliance that does it!

      • BL Says:

        FWIW, these are some friends of mine that sometimes show the world that rock and roll is fun too! With telecasters and steel. I was talking to “Troy Wayne Delco” this morning and he convinced me we should stick around as long as possible to stick our thumbs in the eyes of the people that seem to want to create a war on everything fun.

        Anybody can do a pseudo-ironic country band version of a rock classic, but it’s funnier to actually do it like the original to a crowd of people that were two-stepping moments before. More fun to me anyway. Although sneaking rock licks into classic country tunes as a sideman is fun to, but the in your face of just ROCKING is way fun…

      • southtexaspistolero Says:

        And, yes, I do promise to buy The Warning, too. Eventually.

        You should. You’ll be kicking yourself for having missed out all those years. 😉

        I’ve heard most of High Voltage and Powerage and really like them. “Rock’n’Roll Singer,” “The Jack” and “Down Payment Blues” have always been favorites of mine.

      • BL Says:

        I also like “little lover” cos that’s what got all of us to go from violin and piano and horns to guitars 😉 True story for most of us, plus guitars are FUN!

        BTW, this thread needs a song about guitars!

        Sidenote that may amuse…I got me a new stage shirt for country gigs like the one worn by Steve Vegas in the Halloween incident and it has skulls and roses too, but different so we’ll never end up looking like the bobsy twins! Rock on and play some country too and mix em up and sometimes just play country, right?

  6. BL Says:

    Interesting rock side note, friend of mine is buddies with Tracy G. and has been for years, used to roadie for some bands he was in, he was told his hands were too small, he had limited dexterity, and he’d never learn to play guitar…as proven here, right? Never listen to people that are trying to keep you from trying. If you think you can or can’t you’re probably right either way, but I prefer to assume that I’ll be able to do things if I try hard enough (other than be handsome or polite or politically correct, of course).

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