Despite the turmoil that has followed Queensyrche in recent years with former front man Geoff Tate's dramatic departure in 2012 and the heated legal battle that followed, Queensyrche are eagerly looking to start a new chapter on last fall's Condition Human. Like a progressive-metal phoenix, the band has remarkably risen from the ashes to reclaim their rightful place.
Speaking from his Florida home via telephone, current singer Todd La Torre recently explains the many changes in Queensyrche. In considering his contribution to the band, he defines their current status as "the rebuilding phase."
"I want the fans to be open-minded who haven’t seen this lineup and give the band a try again,” he says."
La Torre is full of optimism about what Queensyrche is capable of now that the difficult times are in the past. He’s clear about the recent changes not affecting the Seattle-formed group's sound.
“Never mind I’m in the band, if you just listen and compare the 2013 release and ConditionHuman, you can hear it’s corrective," he says. "The band is writing what they want to write, and that was missing in many records in the past.”
That past was crippling to the creative energy of the band. La Torre believes the entire group is in a new, productive place in their career. “I was a huge Queensyrche fan [before becoming a member], but the direction got weird and it wasn’t what I loved about Queensryche. I respect the purists, but I want this band to keep moving forward like we are.
"Everyone in the band is in a much happier place," continues La Torre. "We’re writing music we’re proud of. We do what we feel is good for us in our soul. We don’t have an agenda to change the music. We want to build the band up and have fans come see the shows. That’s all we can ask for.”
La Torre doesn’t think fans should pick a side either. “I think that everyone who’s been a Queensyrche fan should embrace all the records that band has put out, no one should ever deny the greatness that was there," he says. "But, things change, people move on, people have different tastes or they want a different direction.”
So far, so good. Condition Human has met with critical favor and La Torre is pleased with the overall response since its October release. “The album has a respectable sales figure for not being out very long," he says. "Which is good for a genre that’s not mainstream. We’re very proud of that and Queensyrche has a very devout following.
"The fans are really digging the new record," he continues. "I think they know Queensyrche is back and very true to form, it still has the diversity of material on the record that Queensyrche has always been allowed to do. Heavy songs like 'Guardian' to something a lot different, like 'Bulletproof.' For example, the title track is almost eight minutes in length, which is great because we don’t feel like we’re bound to three minutes for radio. We just write how we write.”
Reflecting on La Torre’s seamless addition to a band that has arguably been around for years is a tremendous feat. Yet the singer disagrees, saying it’s because he was a Queensyrche fan first. “I was always a fan of the band, and I understand what Queensyrche’s music is," he says. "I’m also a songwriter and a drummer of 30 years…I also play guitar. I’m able to collaborate on so many levels with the band members musically. I’m not just a lyricist, I can get in there and get into all the details.”
Those details are essential to the longtime Queensyrche fan. La Torre says he and the band wanted to capture the signature sound of '80s Queensyrche without sounding dated. “The writing style of the band is pretty identifiable to the fan," he says. "The song arrangements, chord structures and the production is Queensyrche from the '80s but created in the modern day. It’s a sound that’s 35 years in the making, but these don’t sound like songs written in the '80s. It’s fresh, current songs that translate into something very modern. The record is very dynamic and has all of those sonic qualities that are happening today.”
La Torre has mastered many musical talents, but for this band in particular, he says writing lyrics is paramount. “Obviously, there was a reason they felt I was good for this band," he notes. "There are other reasons, nuances vocally and the phrasings they want, then you have the whole other part, deeper lyrical matter. You know we don’t talk about subjects like cars and you know, chicks taking their clothes off. We talk about social issues, political issues, global issues, things that are thought-provoking.”
La Torre believes the fans demand it. “[We] peel back the layers and scratch the surface for deeper [content]. The fans of Queensyrche are very intelligent people, they like to read the lyrics. We pride ourselves on trying to write songs that aren’t trendy, we do care about things that are current and how does that relate to people in all walks of life. If it gets you thinking, then we’ve done our job.”
For this tour, La Torre hints at some surprises for fans. “We have changes we did to the set list. I think the fans are going to be excited with what we’ve put together. We’ve been playing a lot of the same material for the last couple years and we’ve changed some songs out. We will be playing new material of the new release, Condition Human and bringing back some obscure back catalog material — the stuff the fans have been saying they really want to hear for quite a while. It’s going to be a surprise.”
Queensyrche performs with special guests Meytal, Halcyon Way, Pulse Rate Zero Saturday, January 16 at Scout Bar, 18307 Egret Bay Blvd. in Clear Lake. Doors open at 6:30 p.m.
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Kristy Loye is a writer living in Houston and has been writing for the Houston Press since July 2015. A recent Rice University graduate, when not teaching writing craft or reciting poetry, she's upsetting alt-rights on Reddit.