QUEENSRŸCHE — Rage For Order (review)

QUEENSRŸCHE — Rage For Order album cover Album · 1986 · Heavy Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
5/5 ·
There are a few times in my life when I can recall hearing something so unlike anything I had heard before that I was instantly amazed and hooked: Judas Priest's "Screaming for Vengeance" (quite a change from AC/DC and Van Halen), Metallica's "Ride the Lightning" (my first Metallica album), Nine Inch Nail's "Further Down the Spiral" (hadn't heard The Downward Spiral yet), Bathory's "The Return...". And this album: Queensryche, "Rage for Order" (inspired by deplorably slow service at a roadside diner perhaps?)

I had been a heavy metal fan for four or five years. I was 15 years old and I tried to learn as much as I could about this form of music that I had embraced, from the poppier non-metal stuff like Boston and Bon Jovi to the extreme stuff like Celtic Frost and Bathory. I picked up Queensryche's debut ep the moment I heard about it, eager to hear this new band, and I loved it so much I wrote a short essay in grade 8 English class why I thought Queensryche were a top-class metal band. Though not as heavy, "The Warning" stretched out the soundscape more with the long tune "No Sanctuary" and the futuristic "NM 156". While other metal bands were all about leather, spikes, chains and - in the case of W.A.S.P - saw blades on the crotch, Queensryche were more sophisticated and intellectual it seemed. No thrusting pelvic saw blades at the female members of the audience for these guys!

When "Rage for Order" came out, I was excited - a new Queensryche album!. But nothing could prepare me for what this recording held on its magnetic tape or the photos on the inlay card. What the heck was this? The band was in leather but long leather coats, high fashion leather boots, and decked out in leather gloves. Their hair was long but styled in a way that made them look like heavy metal corporate wizzos from the far future - say the year 2,000. I wasn't sure if I liked this new level of sophistication or what it meant. Did they look a bit too... womanly? Was this sophisticated glam?

The first track, "Walk in the Shadows" totally rocked, opening with bombast. "I Dream in Infra Red" had some beautiful acoustic guitar and a powerful chorus with music that built up through the guitar solo and climaxed with the following chorus. And what lyrics! "As you woke this morning and opened up your eyes / Did you notice the tear stains lining your face were mine?" Had he been crying on her face that night? Weird.

But it was the fourth track that really left me reeling. The creepy stalker song "Gonna Get Close to You" was minimalistic musically with a steady solid drum beat and simple bass line, rapidly scratched high tone guitar and some synthesizer, with some heavy bits thrown in at the appropriate places. It was not metal. It was not techno either though it sounded more like it than it did metal. It was the most unusual thing I had heard on any metal album and I liked it. Somehow this sound made my music collection different from the AC/DC-Motley Crue rockers at school. My musical tastes were becoming more... sophisticated.

The rest of the album includes some other enjoyable and intriguing tunes like "London" and the acoustic ballad "I Will Remember" ("An orbit survey finds your mind"); however, it was the futuristic rocker "Screaming in Digital", with its voices and sound effects that painted a haunting picture of life in the future where computer minds feel a longing for connection with their human users and the disconnection from their masters that slavery brings. ("Am I the son that you've always been wanting? " "Oh, Father, no. Please don't keep me from dreaming.")

Musically, the album is very cohesive. It has excellent metal guitar and riffs, excellent solos, Geoff Tate's operatic vocals, acoustic guitar, and some cool drum parts, as well as sound effects. But it was the use of synthesizer and perhaps guitar and bass synthesizer that really challenged me to like this album. I was dead against synthesizer, preferring the classic two-guitar (or one guitar), bass, drums, vocals bands I heard from 1982 to 84. Then Van Halen came out with "Jump" and "1984" and Def Leppard used synthesizers. Ugh! That's why thrash metal was so successful as a backlash against this new heavy metal with keyboards. But on this Queensryche album, synthesizers were used mostly for atmosphere or effects, and when they were an integral part of the music as a rhythm instrument, it actually sounded good. It worked!

I just listened to this album from start to finish for the first time in probably 15 to 20 years and in the context of a progressive metal album I could really sense that these guys were trying to introduce us to something new. They had a vision of heavy metal some ten years or more into the future and tried to tell us about it in 1986. I don't think any of their other albums captured an atmosphere of something so fresh and new as well as "Rage for Order" did.

There might be a couple of fillers on here but even the songs I previously passed by have parts that stand out for their musical ingenuity. I unquestionably consider it a landmark album. What others were only just figuring out, Queensryche took and made intelligent and advanced. From me, 5 stars.
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