Best Queensryche Albums

Despite the fact that much of the news out of the Queensrÿche camp(s) of late would rival the best soap opera, the fact remains they are one of the most influential and dominant bands in metal history. Their run in the '80s can rival any act. Their debut EP and first four records are legendary.

The combination of progressive complex musical passages and melodic memorable vocal lines laid the groundwork for countless bands to come. Formed in 1982 out of the ashes of local Seattle band The Mob, the musicianship front to back is stellar. Fronted by vocalist Geoff Tate, in his prime his incredible range and versatility was second to none.

Tate has split with his former band mates as the band has continued forward with vocalist Todd La Torre. With fourteen albums under their belt and a wildly successful career, we take a look into their extensive discography and pick their best albums.

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'Operation: Mindcrime' (1988)

Queensryche - Operation: Mindcrime
Queensryche - Operation: Mindcrime.

A complex tale about a recovering drug addict’s quest to overcome a corrupt political system by joining a radical revolutionary group is the ideology behind 1988s Operation: Mindcrime,.a stunning interwoven concept album that just might be the best that metal has ever seen. Containing three smash singles, the beauty in the release is that it works brilliantly regardless if you listen to it in its true conception or individually.

The term epic is thrown around nonchalantly in modern day metal, but the ten minute plus “Suite Sister Mary” is the epitome of the word. It begins with a choir backing a slow melodic arppegiated guitar until the song continuously builds to a rousing climax. Their penultimate track “Eyes of a Stranger” brings the proceedings to a mind-bending finale with its irresistible chorus and dramatic use of dynamics. Operation: Mindcrime finds the band at their pinnacle and is one of the strongest metal releases from the '80s.

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'Rage for Order' (1986)

Queensryche - Rage For Order
Queensryche - Rage For Order.

Principal songwriter and guitarist Chris DeGarmo raises the intricacy and maturity on 1986s Rage for Order. The record that put Queensrÿche into the mainstream finds the band growing as songwriters and musicians. Tate’s performance is pristine as some of his most impressive vocal passages are on display. The intelligent, thought-provoking lyrics find the band breaking down barriers as they present intellectual social commentary and destroy any stereotype that is associated with metal.

The luscious clean guitar picking of “I Dream in Infrared” blends with the haunting melodies of Tate before launching into one of their best choruses of their career. The pain and torment in the melody is executed brilliantly by Tate. The biggest single “Walk in the Shadows” features ripping riffs by DeGarmo and guitarist Michael Wilton. The duo's shredding guitar solos are performed with legato and implemented with precision, putting them on the same level as any duo in metal.

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'Empire' (1990)

Queensryche - Empire
Queensryche - Empire.

Queensrÿche’s success was on an upward trajectory, but 1990s Empire launched them into superstardom. Selling over three million copies, the record featured a staggering six singles including the top ten hit “Silent Lucidity.”  The production is crisper with the rhythm section of Eddie Jackson and Scott Rockenfield providing the biggest benefit. The drums and bass are fuller and the guitars are nastier and heavier. Along with Metallica’s Black Album, Empire helped carry metal into the next decade.

Leaving the majority of their progressive elements behind, the songs are driven by contagious melodies and contain numerous pop sensibilities. “Best I Can,” “Jet City Woman” and “Another Rainy Night (Without You)” were destined to be hits with their anthem like qualities. The title track features their best guitar riff and a venomous Tate who spews forth the tragic tale about the state of the American nation. “Anybody Listening” is a mammoth of a track that incorporates some progressive elements and makes for one of their stronger power ballads.

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'The Warning' (1984)

Queensryche - The Warning
Queensryche - The Warning.

Inspired by George Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984, Queensrÿche’s debut full-length The Warning is an indication of what was to come. This early on they show the creativity of incorporating outside influences into their progressive style. The nine-minute plus “Roads to Madness” is an accumulation of influences that blends early Judas Priest and Pink Floyd. The Warning is so significant that it launched an underground revolution in the progressive metal genre.

Coming off their hugely successful eponymous EP, the band felt the pressure and went over budget and were left out of the mixing process. Despite not being pleased with the final output, the record features some of their best material. The title track is a progressive monster with Tate’s vocals hitting stratospheric levels. The atmosphere created in the anthemic “Take Hold of the Flame” is untouchable, as it has earned classic status.

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'Queensrÿche' (2013)

Queensryche - Queensryche
Queensryche - Queensryche.

After countless years of straying away from metal, the frustration and inner turmoil within the band hit a boiling point. Geoff Tate was fired and replaced by ex-Crimson Glory vocalist Todd La Torre, while Tate went on to form his own version of Queensrÿche. Their thirteenth album finds the band digging into their roots and bringing back all of the elements that earned them their tremendous success. La Torre’s youthful energy revitalized the band, as this is their freshest set of songs since Empire.

La Torre’s excellent vocal presence is felt instantly on the grandiose “Where Dreams Go to Die.” Possessing a range almost equal to a youthful Tate, they are able to expand their songwriting. The guitars are recorded with a nasty bite and the riffs are more metal in nature. This is the album that Queensrÿche fans have been waiting on for two decades and it does not disappoint.

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'Hear in the Now Frontier' (1997)

Queensryche - Hear In The Now Frontier
Queensryche - Hear In The Now Frontier.

By the late nineties metal was becoming extinct in the mainstream. With their sixth release Hear in the Now Frontier, Queensrÿche shifted away from their metal roots and adapted some grunge influences into their sound. A bit heavier than their previous release, this was the swan song of founding guitar player Chris DeGarmo, who composed the majority of the material. The growth and maturity is heard within the diversity of the songwriting as they spread their wings and incorporate some Seattle influences.

Opener “Sign of the Times” features groovy staccato riffing and one of their best melodies with a tremendous acoustic breakdown. “Get a Life,” “Cuckoo’s Nest” and “Hit the Black” all retain the heaviness while steering their sound in a new direction.  Even though Tate is losing his range at this point, the melodies are rewarding and infectious, especially on “Saved,” “You” and “The Voice Inside.” This is an end of an era for one of the most crucial bands to ever take the stage.