When Todd La Torre joined the beleaguered battleship Queensrÿche in 2012, helping them to create their most squarely metallic album in well over a decade the following year, it was almost universally hailed as a good decision. Even the people who had initially doubted the potential strength of a Tate-less ‘Rÿche had to concede that, at the very least, the band had made a return to the realms of true metal. For me, going beyond how heavy Queensrÿche was, it was also a cracking album: the best they had put forth since 1990’s Empire.
A very minor issue I had with Queensrÿche was that it lacked just a little bit of variety; it was pretty much straight power metal through its entire run time. That is not a bad thing necessarily, but when you’re a band that has previously worked with as much light and shade and variety as this one, your listener looks for those curveball moments that give the record that extra bit of life and individuality. While on Condition Hüman there are a lot more of those interesting curveball moments, they present their own unique problem…
Some of this shit is straight nu-metal. That’s not to say that Todd is suddenly rapping, or that everything is now down tuned farther than anything with a Queensrÿche logo has any business being. But there are certain riffs here and there, like the main riff in “Eye9”, and the melancholic guitar work underpinning the verse of “Hourglass”, that are just so 2001 I feel like I should be wearing camo cargo shorts and a Ecko Unltd. hoodie. Still, there is some of signature ‘Rÿche goodness to be found throughout the album, like on “All There Was” or “Hellfire”, both of which can go toe-to-toe with the best from Queensrÿche, shining bright like some of the best tracks from the bands catalogue.
Todd has clearly grown a lot more comfortable with his role in the two years since the last record. He’s a little more laid back and in the groove of the songs, while in the last album you really felt like he was pushing himself a lot. He has added more texture and dynamics to his voice, which makes him the real star of the album. Even when the music is in those weird nu-metal moments, he is still a joy to listen to. He’s definitely one of the best vocalists in metal today.
Condition Hüman is a varied and interesting release, but it lacks the intensity of its predecessor. It’s definitely worth a spin, and will have something for just about every fan to enjoy, but it just won’t hold up as well as Queensrÿche does. That album was exactly what this band needed at the time and lifted them back from the brink of being completely written off by the metal community at large. While not groundbreaking, this new effort with Mr. La Torre at the mic is a simply good, steady addition to the band’s story.
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