April 9, 2009

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Queensryche, American Soldier
Rhino Records, March 31

In today’s culture’s schizoid black-and-whiteness, bankers are bad and soldiers are good, never mind Fallujah or the lady at Banknorth who bent over triple-backward to get you a car loan. In keeping with our mainstream media’s fear of having yellow-ribbon magnets thrown at them by Republican-for-the-heck-of-it soccer moms, Queensryche passes no judgment on the subject of this aural metal-ocumentary, declining to use their lyrics to footnote the whack-a-mole snatches of interviews that weave in and out of the tunes, words from soldiers of every war since WWII. In that, the wizened ’80s hair-metallers are no different from TV reporters trained in communications rather than journalism; the album is a compass without an arrow.

But the record will get you thinking about what war is like close-up. The music, toothier than anything they’ve done in a while, leverages such elements as “Rooster”-evoking wah-wah pedal and doom-metal ringouts to drag the listener kicking and screaming into the abyss the soldiers lived through but still obviously don’t fully comprehend. The hype-advance tune, “If I Were King,” is predictably the weakest, most cookie-cutter link, belying the decent amount of anger-management riffing that appears in other songs (the Alice in Chains-like “A Dead Man’s Words”; the P.O.D.-like “The Killer”). Though a lot heavier and more Iron Maiden-sounding than Operation: Mindcrime and whatnot, it nevertheless does have plenty of the boo-boo-face minor-chord arpeggios that comprised Queensryche’s bread and butter in their heyday. The band visits Hampton’s Club Casino on Wednesday, July 29. B+Eric W. Saeger