QUEEN — Queen II (review)

QUEEN — Queen II album cover Album · 1974 · Proto-Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
5/5 ·
siLLy puPPy
While QUEEN has become one of the most respected and loved rock bands of all time, the first two albums don’t seem to receive nearly as much admiration as the blockbuster mega-hits of “Night At The Opera” and “Sheer Heart Attack,” however despite the debut not being quite as popular in more esoteric circles, QUEEN II definitely hits a high note in both the hard rock and prog crowds for its clever advanced musical developments from QUEEN I. Despite no catchy hit like “Bohemian Rhapsody,” QUEEN II is nevertheless a primo album experience that found the band riding the momentum from their first album tour and finding a new musical mojo with producers Roy Baker and Robin Cable adding all the art rock sensibilities to QUEEN’s already flamboyant take on hard glam rock of the early 70s.

While often thought of as a concept album of sort, QUEEN II is more of a collection of tracks that flow nicely together with “Side White” mostly composed by guitarist Brian May and “Side Black” constructed by Freddie Mercury with his larger than life fantasy worlds coming to full life and decorated by his signature piano playing style. QUEEN II offered a leap in production techniques which found catchy multi-layered overdubs that would become the band’s trademark as well as the more varied and textured vocal harmonies that were progressively strewn together with musical styles that amplify the energetic hard rock performances. This all finds the band performing not only one of their most heavy of albums but also their most majestic with intricate melodies slinking around and stitching together loose themes and heavy beats that is all graced with the famous album cover that band would use for their entire career in videos and advertising purposes.

The album begins with “Procession” which is a short funeral march displaying May’s famous multi-guitar track techniques but quickly morphs into “Father To Son” which finds Freddie Mercury upping his game with the more sophisticated piano tinkling that revolves around May’s heavy guitar bombast that he magically creates through his famous series of different amps and gear. Drummer Roger Taylor and bassist John Deacon are not only on top of their game instrumentally but the whole team is smoking hot with their some of their most intricately designed vocal harmonies that the quartet has ever pulled off. In addition to the standard rock instruments there are tons of acoustic guitar parts, harpsichord, bells, marimba and various percussive instruments. When all is said and done, QUEEN II finds the bombast of early heavy metal trading off with classically inspired piano riffs and Medieval folk sounding segments that are all teased out in a rich tapestry of progressive time signatures and art rock sensibilities.

While “Side White” showcases May’s contributions, “Side Black” finds Freddie Mercury letting loose like he never did on QUEEN I. One of his earliest songs that dated to 1971, “Ogre Battle” found Mercury expanding his vocal talents as well with dramatic screams, passionate heart-felt lyrical deliveries and a knack for his flawless high pitched vocals segueing into falsetto and back. While every track is stellar, the album’s absolute pinnacle of creativity and peak performance surely belongs to “The March Of The Black Queen,” which displays an early similarity to Mercury’s most outrageous track “Bohemian Rhapsody” as it shares not only a similar piano run but also the progressive complexities that include dueling polyrhythms in 8/8 and 12/8 time signatures with all the dramatic flair that would make QUEEN one of the most successful bands of the entire 70s.

While QUEEN II may lack the instantly sugary sweet addicting qualities of future albums, for those who have more refined tastes and crave a more subtle mix of savory, acrid and salty with their sucrose, QUEEN II is the absolute pinnacle of the band’s career with a sophistication of a progressive rock band without sacrificing the melodic driven developments that flashy virtuosic playing tended to sacrifice during the prog era. Luckily the decades that have passed have allowed future fans to learn to appreciate this second album by the legendary band whose goal was not only to rock your world but to take you on an unexpected journey along the way. While i’m a fan of pretty much all the 70s albums that QUEEN released before they stagnated into a world of mediocrity, QUEEN II remains at the top of my list for most cleverly designed and compositionally perfect albums of their entire canon. This was the album that opened the magic gates to the new kingdom where they would wear the crown for the rest of the decade.
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Tupan wrote:
17 days ago
I love this album, catchy and progressive at the same time! Nice review too!
UMUR wrote:
17 days ago
There are other great yet more polished albums from the 70s that I enjoy too. Can´t say I enjoy their 80s stuff much either.
siLLy puPPy wrote:
18 days ago
I agree. Those two are the most consistent but i do like the other wilder ones as well. They just seemed to lose it for me once they went totally pop in the 80s.
UMUR wrote:
18 days ago
This one a and Sheer Heart Attach are probably my favorites. They were still nicely unrefined and experimental at this stage....and occasionally pretty heavy too :-)

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