(All Album Reviews by Duncan Glenday)
Style : Metal, with progressive elements
Rating : 3.5 / 5
Summary : A high quality piece – the best Queensr˙che has done in years. Will appeal to metal-heads and prog-metal fans, but devotees of other genres of progressive music need not apply.
Once upon a time, Queensr˙che was one of the most brilliant progressive rock acts in the business. But in recent years something (perhaps the publicized internal disputes) caused the standard of their music to deteriorate to the disappointing levels of their 1999 Q2K. So Tribe, with Chris DeGarmo temporarily back in the mix, probably represents a make-or-break point for these grand-daddies of prog-metal.
And the result is an album of contradictions. Be advised: This album will take many listens before it is fully appreciated.
Does the music have plenty of melodic hooks? Yes. So does it have commercial potential? No!
Is it heavy? Yes Is it progressive? To some extent, yes. Is it prog-metal? Not in the traditional sense, no.
Is it lethargic, repetitive, predictable, and devoid of solos? Yes. But is it subtle, melodic, and tight as a drum? Oh yes!
It is heavier than their recent releases. It is a solid performance that showcases the band’s maturity, but it is devoid of brilliance, and there is not one solo, of any instrument, worth mentioning.
Tribe is song oriented. With very short tracks (the longest is 4:32), and the whole album is just 40-odd minutes! Each track is structured along the classic lines of verse / chorus / verse / chorus / riff-heavy instrumental passage / chorus / fade. Predictable, and not very progressive, it has the hallmarks of classic metal – slow delivery, heavy bass and drums, and very riff-oriented. Those riffs are simple but effective, there are lots of power chords, and way too much distortion. Crunchy guitar work and metal are often viewed as synonymous – but too much fuzz is just filler and gets in the way and sometimes you have to strain to hear the gems hidden behind that curtain of distortion.
It is not a concept album, but it is a theme album. The topic and the lyrics are fairly simple and frankly un-poetic, but they lend an atmosphere that pervades the whole CD – adding an important dimension of complexity. That ambiance is sometimes dark, sometimes upbeat, always cynical.
Despite band’s internal squabbles the playing is very tight, and the guys really come together as a band. No instrument steals the limelight, and only the vocals stand out. And although Tate is still one of the very best vocalists in metal today, you won’t hear much evidence of it on Tribe. His delivery is subdued and almost lazy, but the range and power are still there – listen to the title track, and “Rhythm Of Hope”. Geoff Tate, vocalist extraordinaire, still lives. Sadly, he has matured.
So – an album of contradictions: Are there many, many valid criticisms here? Yes. So will you find yourself playing it again and again? Surprisingly, yes! And somehow, the appeal of this album increases with repetition – which is one of the marks of really good music.