Queensrÿche - Rage for Order (1986)Release ID: 581
Washington progressive metallers Queensryche became a reasonably big deal in my life around 1990/91 after I stumbled over a couple of songs from their fourth album “Empire” on a late-night metal radio program. I’d quickly go about purchasing the album on CD only to find that it wasn’t as consistent as I’d hoped & relied pretty heavily on those songs that I’d grown to love. Nonetheless, I would soon find myself investigating the band’s now legendary 1988 concept album “Operation: Mindcrime”, a release that commands the respect of any self-respecting metalhead, & it would unequivocally seal the deal for me. My extreme metal affiliations would prove to be too strong for me to spend much time with Queensryche’s earlier material for many years though. In fact, it wouldn't be until Ben & I were running the Metal Academy podcast back in the mid-2010’s, at which time I’d conduct an extensive deep-dive into the 1983 self-titled E.P. & 1984’s debut full-length “The Warning”. Despite being their first proper release, the E.P. served more as a transitional record in my opinion as you can easily see the band moving from a more traditional heavy metal outfit into a more expansive & progressive one across the course of the fours songs. It was still a very solid release though & I thoroughly enjoyed it for its accomplished execution & overall professionalism. “The Warning”, on the other hand, represents perhaps the first genuine progressive metal release & saw Queensryche starting their upward trajectory towards their creative peak in “Operation: Mindcrime”. Sure, there were other releases that saw bands mixing heavy metal with progressive rock influences but none had done it as cohesively in my opinion. And this brings us to Queensryche’s highly praised sophomore album “Rage For Order”, a record that I’ve somehow managed to overlook for all these years.
“Rage For Order” sees Queensryche taking the sound they’d created on “The Warning” to it’s next logical step in what can only be described as a clinical display of classy progressive metal music. The production job is a piece of art in itself as there’s so much packed into it & It'd be remiss of me not to at least entertain the idea that it could be a touch overproduced. This element in itself could be cause for putting off some of your more traditional metal fans as this a very expansive record. The Rush influences that floated around “The Warning” in the shape of rhythmic complexity have perhaps been toned down a touch but the layering & adventure has only been accentuated which makes “Rage For Order” quite a varied & ambitious undertaking. Much like the albums either side of it, it’s baffling that RYM members have tagged it as a Heavy Metal release because it’s certainly not. This is about as Progressive Metal as Progressive Metal gets so NWOBHM fans should think twice before approaching it with the expectation of Iron Maiden worship.
The musicianship on show is nothing short of superb with glistening clean guitar arpeggios, wonderfully melodic guitar solos & inventive drum fills appearing like an everflowing stream & being further highlighted by an array of external influences that give each song its own unique identity. Front man Geoff Tate puts in a masterclass of virtuosic, operatic heavy metal singing & is the clear highlight, particularly those stunning harmonies. As with the earlier Queensryche releases though, I can’t quite see myself reaching the upper echilons of my rating options & it comes down to the consistency of the song-writing. Don’t get me wrong, there are some truly magical tracks included on “Rage For Order”. “The Killing Words” (my personal favourite) & “Screaming In Digital” build into some of the most transcendant pieces of progressive metal I’ve ever encountered & “London” isn’t all that far behind them but these highlights are balanced out with filler tracks in roughly equal measure. There’s nothing weak here mind you but I can’t say that I get anywhere near as much out of material like “Walk In The Shadows”, “The Whisper”, “Surgical Strike” or “I Will Remember”. It’s only Queensryche’s undeniable class that sees them able to pull off some of those songs to be honest.
Regardless of the album’s inconsistencies, I still think it was Queensryche’s best release to the time & have found it to be a thoroughly rewarding experience. They’d take things even further with their next release “Operation: Mindcrime” of course however I’d go so far as to say that I place “Rage For Order” in second place as far as Queensryche’s discography goes these days. Fans of Fates Warning, Crimson Glory & Savatage’s shouldn’t let this one pass them by.
Following on from The Warning wasn't that much of a challenge in my eyes as I found it to be a largely flat album with only Tate showing any real sign of enthusiasm for the performance. Going into Rage for Order therefore it was safe to say that my expectations were low. Still only able to really enjoy Empire I didn't rate the sophomore's chances of replacing that release as my preferred listen or even coming close. The fact is though that Rage for Order is a half decent record with some good ideas let down only by the execution.
First off, the album feels more like a band effort this time around as opposed to a further extension of the Geoff Tate Show that was the debut. Yes, the drama and at times cringey warblings of the frontman are still by far the most memorable aspect of the release but also this time you can hear the other guys putting in an actual shift. DeGarmo and Wilton make their presence known and fire their fair share of licks and riffs around to spice up the feel of the record. Scott Rockenfeld puts in a solid performance on the skins also driving the machine of the band well and Jackson and DeGarmo do a stellar job in supporting Tate with their backing vocals. All in all things feel a lot more cohesive this time around.
Sadly though the band appear to overreach themselves on the songwriting front, failing to deliver the progressive side of their sound with any real panache. Instead some the songs feel clunky in structure and underdeveloped. By far the better moments on the record are when they just go for a straight out rock tune or a swoony ballad. It seems harsh to criticise them as the willingness to try and mix things up is commendable in itself but I just feel their overall ability didn't quite support the means they were trying to deliver in the end product.
As a result of these tracks that do little to impress the album feels a tad bloated as it goes on and there's a definite feel for me that we could leave a couple of tracks on the editing room floor. Still a much more promising effort than what came two years earlier.