Queensrÿche // is an American progressive heavy metal band formed in 1982 in Bellevue, Washington out of the local band The Mob. The band has released 14 studio albums, one EP and several DVDs, and continues to tour and record. The original lineup consisted of vocalist Geoff Tate, guitarists Chris DeGarmo and Michael Wilton, bassist Eddie Jackson and drummer Scott Rockenfield.
Queensrÿche has been successful in the progressive scene, having sold over 20 million albums worldwide, including over 6 million albums in the United States. The band received worldwide acclaim after the release of their 1988 album Operation: Mindcrime, which is often considered one of the greatest concept albums of all time. Their follow-up release, Empire, released in 1990, was also very successful and included the hit single "Silent Lucidity". The band has received three Grammy Award nominations for songs off both albums. In the late 90s, drummer Rockenfield also received a Grammy nomination outside of Queensrÿche.
In 1997, guitarist and primary songwriter DeGarmo left the band for personal reasons. Over the years, his replacements have been Kelly Gray, Mike Stone, and Parker Lundgren, respectively. Following a highly publicized backstage altercation before a show in São Paulo, Brazil in April 2012, Tate was fired from the band and replaced with then-Crimson Glory singer Todd La Torre. In response to his dismissal, Tate and his wife Susan (who served as the band's manager from 2005–2012) filed a lawsuit in a Washington court, claiming that he was wrongfully terminated. The ruling in the preliminary injunction was that until the court date on April 7, 2014, both parties are allowed to use the name Queensrÿche; Tate has subsequently created his own lineup featuring former guitarist Gray and members from bands including Blue Öyster Cult, Ozzy Osbourne, Whitesnake, Dio, AC/DC and Quiet Riot. This version of Queensrÿche with Geoff Tate released the album Frequency Unknown on 23 April, while the version of Queensrÿche with Todd La Torre released their eponymous album on 24 and 25 June (European and American release date, respectively). Both bands toured in 2013 and 2014.
From The Mob to Queensrÿche (early 1980s)
The foundations for Queensrÿche began in the late 1970s. Guitarists Michael Wilton started the band Joker with friends in 1978, and they were joined by guitarist Chris DeGarmo in 1979. In 1980, Wilton met drummer Scott Rockenfield at Easy Street Records in Seattle, and they formed the band Cross+Fire together. They covered songs from popular heavy metal bands such as Iron Maiden and Judas Priest, and practiced in the garage of Rockenfield's parents. Before long, DeGarmo and bassist Eddie Jackson joined Cross+Fire, and the band name was changed to The Mob, after the Black Sabbath song "The Mob Rules". In need of a singer for a one-off performance at a local rock festival, they recruited Babylon frontman Geoff Tate. After Babylon broke up, Tate performed a few shows with The Mob, but left because he was not interested in performing heavy metal covers.
In 1981, The Mob put together sufficient funds to record a demo tape. Still without a singer, Tate was once again enlisted to help, much to the disapproval of his then-current band, Myth. The group recorded the four songs "Queen of the Reich", "Nightrider", "Blinded", and "The Lady Wore Black", the latter of which Tate had written the lyrics for. For an entire year, they brought their demo to various labels and were rejected by all of them. The Mob were ultimately offered a management contract by Kim and Diana Harris, the owners of Easy Street Records. However, as Tate remained committed to staying in Myth, the band reluctantly searched for another singer.
Because the name "The Mob" was not available, their manager urged them to choose a different name. They reportedly ran out of ideas, and decided to name the band after the first song on their demo tape, "Queen of the Reich". The spelling "Queensreich" was modified to prevent association of the band with Nazism; "ryche" is a Middle English cognate to "Reich" which, like the German word, can mean "realm", "kingdom" or "empire". The name "Queensrÿche" is written with a metal umlaut over the letter 'y'. As the band later joked: "The umlaut over the 'y' has haunted us for years. We spent eleven years trying to explain how to pronounce it." The umlaut is used on all of Queensrÿche's releases, except for their 2011 album, Dedicated to Chaos.
Kim Harris sent the demo tape and a band photo to a friend who wrote for Kerrang! magazine, resulting in a glowing review. On the strength of the growing buzz that surrounded them in both the United States and Europe following this review, the Harrises released Queensrÿche's demo tape as a self-titled EP on their independent label 206 Records in 1983. After the EP garnered international praise, receiving much airplay and selling an unusual amount of copies for a small independent release, Tate agreed to leave Myth and become Queensrÿche's permanent lead singer.
On June 29–30, 1983, Queensrÿche was the opening act for Zebra in Seattle. Kim Harris knew A&R manager Mavis Brodey of EMI-America from the time she was the music director of KZOK-FM, and he convinced her to come to one of these shows. Brodey offered Queensrÿche a contract with EMI, spanning 15 years and encompassing seven albums. EMI re-released the EP Queensrÿche to moderate success, peaking at No. 81 on the Billboard charts. The band toured with Quiet Riot through the south and with Twisted Sister to the East Coast and Canada, and opened for Dio in Seattle.
Queensrÿche's logo, the so-called Tri-Ryche (written without an umlaut on the 'y'), also stems from the band's early years. Artist Wes "Grizz" Griswold, who made the artwork for the Queensrÿche EP, used to sign his work with a doodle morphed from a crude drawing of a Peregrine Falcon. He also used it for the stage set and backdrop of Queensryche’s first tour, which he designed. After the band was signed, the record company adopted the doodle as the band's logo. However, the Tri-Ryche has never been trademarked by Queensrÿche due to a long-standing controversy over who actually created the Tri-Ryche. Todd Rockenfield, the brother of Queensrÿche's drummer, who designed the typeface of the word "Queensryche" on the front and back of the EP, claimed the design of the Tri-Ryche in its eventual form was his. The Tri-Ryche is prominently featured on most of Queensrÿche's album covers. Queensrÿche would later also use the word "Tri-Ryche" when founding the Tri-Ryche Corporation in 1989.
The Warning and Rage for Order (1984–87)
After the EP tour, Queensrÿche travelled to London to record their first full-length album. The band worked with producer James Guthrie, who had worked with Pink Floyd and Judas Priest. Released in September 1984, The Warning featured more progressive elements than the band's debut EP. It peaked at No. 61 on the Billboard album chart, a moderate commercial success. While none of the singles released from The Warning charted domestically, "Take Hold of the Flame" was a hit for the band outside the U.S., and particularly in Japan. The band's first full-scale U.S. tour (in support of this album) was as the opening act for Kiss on their Animalize tour.
Rage for Order, released in 1986, introduced a much more polished look and sound for Queensrÿche, while the band was forced by their label to adopt an image more closely associated with glam rock, glam metal or goth metal than with heavy metal (of which glam metal is a subgenre). However, the album itself was more progressive than the band's previous releases, having a layered and complex musical structure, and featuring keyboards as prominently as guitars. A video was filmed for the song "Gonna Get Close to You", written and originally recorded in 1984 by Dalbello. The song "Rage for Order" was written and demoed for the album, but it was not included on the final release. The main riff from this song was worked into an instrumental piece played during some shows on the tour in support of this album, and eventually morphed into the track "Anarchy-X" on their next album.
Operation: Mindcrime, Empire and success (1988–96)
In 1988, Queensrÿche released Operation: Mindcrime, a narrative concept album that proved a massive critical and commercial success. The album's story revolved around a junkie named Nikki, who is brainwashed into performing assassinations for an underground movement. Nikki is torn over his misplaced loyalty to the cause and his love for Mary, a reformed hooker-turned-nun (vocals by Pamela Moore), who gets in the way. "Mindcrime" has often been mentioned by critics alongside other notable concept albums such as Pink Floyd's The Wall, Dream Theater's Scenes From a Memory and The Who's Tommy. The band toured through much of 1988 and 1989 with several bands, including Def Leppard, Guns N' Roses and Metallica.
The release of Empire (1990) brought Queensrÿche to the height of their commercial popularity. It peaked at No. 7 and sold more than three million copies in the United States, more than their previous four releases combined (it was also certified silver in the UK). The power ballad "Silent Lucidity", which featured an orchestra, became the band's first Top 10 single. While the socially conscious lyrics were retained (touching on topics such as gun control and the environment), the arrangements on Empire were more straightforward than the band's previous efforts.
The subsequent "Building Empires" tour was the first full-fledged tour to feature Queensrÿche as a headlining act (the band had previously headlined a tour in Japan in support of Operation: Mindcrime, and had headlined a handful of club and theater shows in the U.S. between 1984 and 1988). The group used its headlining status to perform Operation: Mindcrime in its entirety, as well as songs from Empire. The tour lasted 18 months, longer than any tour the band had undertaken before or has since. The tour also added a black page to the band's history, when during a show in a sports hall in Ichtegem, Belgium on November 20, 1990, a scuffle in the audience resulted in an American fan getting fatally stabbed in the chest. Tour manager Howard Ungerleider immediately stopped the show as the band was only playing the seventh song on the set list, "Roads to Madness". A live album, recorded May 10–12, 1991, was released later that year as Operation: Livecrime. The tour also included an MTV Unplugged appearance at Warner Hollywood Studios in Los Angeles on April 27, 1992.
After taking time off to deal with the burnout resulting from the tour and with other personal issues, the band released Promised Land in October 1994 (a companion CD-ROM, featuring a Promised Land-themed game and other interactive features, was released in March 1996). It was a dark and intensely personal album, reflecting the mental state of the band at the time. Although the album debuted at No. 3 and was eventually certified platinum, it was clearly not the commercial success Empire had been. As with many other heavy metal and hard rock acts, Queensrÿche's commercial fortunes waned because of the surge in popularity of genres such as alternative rock and grunge (which coincidentally got its start in Seattle, of which Bellevue—where the band was formed—is a suburb).
Major changes (1997–98)
Queensrÿche released their sixth full-length studio album, Hear in the Now Frontier, in March 1997, to mixed critical and fan reception. The album debuted at No. 19 but quickly vanished from the charts. The musical sound and style of the album was more basic and stripped down than anything the band had released to date, and some fans and critics pointed to the grunge musical style as being a major influence on the record. Despite the reaction, the singles "Sign of the Times" and "You" received substantial airplay.
Compounding the disappointing sales of the album were issues that plagued the band on the subsequent tour. Less than one month into the Hear in the Now Frontier tour, Tate became seriously ill and the band was forced to cancel concert dates for the first time. In an even bigger blow, the band's longtime label, EMI America Records, went bankrupt during the same period. Queensrÿche was forced to use its own money to finance the remaining two months of the tour. The band played a handful of December shows in South America because of contractual obligations, and it was during this time, late 1997, that founding member Chris DeGarmo announced he was leaving Queensrÿche. However, his departure was not announced to the public until January 28, 1998. Members of the band have later cited burnout and a desire to pursue interests outside of Queensrÿche as reasons for his departure. For example, Rockenfield has said: "He wanted to pursue other things. He felt like he had done what he wanted musically in his life, and wanted to move on." After leaving Queensrÿche, DeGarmo began a full-time career as a professional business jet pilot. His involvement with music has since been sporadic. He remains highly regarded in the eyes of Queensrÿche's fan base.
Continued experimentation (1998–2002)
DeGarmo was replaced by guitarist and producer Kelly Gray. Gray's connections with Queensrÿche went back to the early '80s, when he was the guitarist for Myth, which was also the band Tate fronted prior to joining Queensrÿche. Gray had previously worked as a producer for bands such as Dokken and Candlebox. Queensrÿche recorded one studio album with Gray, Q2K from 1999, which was also the first album for their new label, Atlantic Records. Musically, Q2K bore little resemblance to the progressive metal of the band's past, and also displayed a similar stripped-down sound as Hear in the Now Frontier. Tate has described Q2K as a continuation of the experimentation of Hear in the Now Frontier. Declining popularity forced the band to tour in clubs and theaters, rather than in the larger arenas and outdoor amphitheaters where they played before. Following the Q2K tour, Rockenfield and Grey formed the side project Slave to the System with band members from Brother Cane and recorded a self-titled album.
After the release of a greatest hits collection in 2000, Queensrÿche embarked on another tour, this time in support of Iron Maiden. This enabled the band to play Madison Square Garden for the first time. Unhappy with the lack of support they felt they received from Atlantic Records, Queensrÿche moved to Sanctuary Records in 2001. In July of that year, the band performed a handful of dates at the Moore Theatre in Seattle, Washington. The shows were recorded and released in September 2001 as Live Evolution, the band's second live album. In 2001 and 2002, Tate worked on his self-titled first solo album, which was released on June 25, 2002.
Gray was fired from the band in May 2002, which according to Rockenfield was "because of [his] personal abuse habits and ongoing problems".
The Tribe years (2002–04)
The band entered the studio as a quartet in the spring of 2003 to record their eighth full-length album, while a compilation of greatest hits was released as part of the Classic Masters series on March 9, 2003. In April, they announced they had been joined by Chris DeGarmo, although his future status with the band was uncertain. In July, Queensrÿche released its first and only album of new material on the Sanctuary label, Tribe. DeGarmo, who played on and co-wrote four songs, neither officially rejoined the band nor took part in the supporting tour.
Queensrÿche found a replacement for Gray in Mike Stone, who had previously worked on Tate's solo album. Stone accompanied the band on the Tribe tour as second guitarist to Wilton's lead, though he never was a full member of the band. In June 2003, Queensrÿche launched a co-headlining tour featuring another progressive metal band, Dream Theater. The two bands alternated the opening and closing slots, and ended the shows by playing a handful of songs together. Fates Warning was the special guest for the tour. A recording from this tour was released to CD and DVD as The Art of Live, which included two covers performed with Dream Theater.
Following this tour, Lars Sorensen was dismissed, and Geoff Tate's wife Susan was promoted to band manager, after having worked as an assistant manager for the band since 2001. In this period, Wilton spent time recording the self-titled album of his side project Soulbender.
Operation: Mindcrime II (2004–07)
In July 2004, Queensrÿche announced its plans to record a follow-up to 1988's Operation: Mindcrime. To generate fan interest in the upcoming album, the band hit the road in the fall of 2004 with the "An Evening With Queensrÿche" tour. The tour opened with a shortened greatest hits set, followed by a revised production of Operation: Mindcrime with live actors and video; Pamela Moore reprised her role as Sister Mary. The band played a pre-recorded version of "Hostage," a track from the upcoming album, through the PA as an encore after the end of their set. The second leg of the tour began in early 2005. Before embarking on a third leg in the fall of 2005, Queensrÿche toured with Judas Priest across North America, playing an hour-long set consisting mostly of the band's older works and one song from the soon-to-be released sequel, entitled "I'm American".
Operation: Mindcrime II was released internationally on March 31, 2006. The album was Queensrÿche's first for their new label, Rhino Entertainment, to which it signed in 2005. Ronnie James Dio provided the vocals for Dr. X, the villain. The album debuted at No. 14, the highest chart position for a Queensrÿche album since 1997. The group embarked on a headlining tour in support of the album, joined by Pamela Moore in her role as Sister Mary. The tour featured performances of both Mindcrime albums in their entirety. Dio appeared at the Gibson Amphitheatre show in Universal City, California to perform his vocals as Dr. X on "The Chase", and was shown on a video screen at the other shows. Dio's appearance was recorded, and included as an extra on the 2007 DVD release Mindcrime at the Moore.
Declining popularity (2007–12)
On August 9, 2007, the band announced that it would release a new greatest hits album, entitled Sign of the Times. The album was released on August 28, 2007, and a special collector's edition featured a bonus disc including various demos and a new song, "Justified", featuring Chris DeGarmo on guitar. On November 13, 2007, the band released an album of covers entitled Take Cover. The album contains covers of songs by Queen, U2, The Police, Black Sabbath, Peter Gabriel, and Pink Floyd, and was the band's second release for Rhino Records.
On February 3, 2009, Stone announced the end of his association with Queensrÿche to focus on his side project Speed-X, although court declarations later revealed Geoff and Susan Tate fired him for "making too many grand demands", without discussing their decision with the other band members.
Wilton recorded both lead and rhythm guitar on the band's eleventh studio album, American Soldier, released on March 31, 2009. The concept album regards war from the perspective of those on the front lines of American wars from World War II through to the present, especially the Iraq War. Parker Lundgren (formerly of The Nihilists and Sledgeback, who also played on Tate's solo tour and was in a relationship with Tate's stepdaughter Miranda) replaced Stone on the ensuing tour.
In late 2009 and early 2010, the band toured for The Queensrÿche Cabaret.
In November 2010, Queensrÿche played several shows for U.S. troops stationed in Iraq. While at a U.S. military position, explosive shells began falling on the base as the result of a bomb attack. Contrary to some news reports stating that some band members were injured, Tate has said in several interviews that he was misquoted and none of the band members suffered any injuries.
The band's twelfth studio album, Dedicated to Chaos, was released on June 28, 2011 on Roadrunner/Loud & Proud Records, to which the band had signed on August 25, 2010. The album was a drastic departure from the band's previous efforts, featuring a greater emphasis on the bass and drums, and with minimal guitar work. The album was released to mixed reviews and was the lowest charting full-length album for the band in its history.
According to Tate, Queensrÿche was already writing new material for a follow-up to Dedicated to Chaos as of June 2011, and were planning to return to the studio in late 2012 to re-record Operation: Mindcrime, releasing it in early 2013 for its 25th anniversary.
Queensrÿche split and legal proceedings (2012)
In a band meeting on April 12, 2012, which Tate did not attend, the band fired Tate's stepdaughter, Miranda, from running the band's fan club, and also fired the band manager, Susan Tate, because according to Wilton, "the last 3 years, basically it just came to a point that we didn’t have a voice in the band anymore. It was all run by the singer and his manager, the wife." On April 14, 2012, before the soundcheck for a show in São Paulo, Brazil, Tate had an argument with his bandmates about the firing of his family. It became heated, leading to Tate retaliating by throwing over the drum kit, throwing several punches and physically assaulting and spitting on Rockenfield and Wilton.
Over the course of the band's next shows, Wilton, Rockenfield, and Jackson felt that Tate continued to misbehave and they came "to the conclusion that they can no longer work or perform with Mr. Tate." They called a band meeting on June 5 (some sources say June 6). Tate withdrew from this conference call, after which the other band members voted to "[c]onsider Geoff Tate expelled from the band" and "continue to use the Queensrÿche name with a new lead singer".
On June 12, Tate and his wife filed a lawsuit in a Seattle court against his former bandmates, claiming that he was illegally fired from the band. They also sought a preliminary injunction to prevent both the plaintiffs and the defendants from using the Queensrÿche name. On July 13, 2012, the Washington state superior court defeated this motion, as well as a motion for a preliminary summary judgment filed by the defendants. The court ruled that both parties may use the brand Queensrÿche until the next court date. As a result of the judge's preliminary verdict, there are currently two versions of Queensrÿche until the court date or until a settlement determines who officially owns the name and imagery. The court date was continued and rescheduled several times due to settlement negotiations.
Two Queensrÿches (2012–present)
The 2012 split resulted in two bands using the name and brand of Queensrÿche simultaneously. They are identified by their frontman:
- The version led by new singer Todd La Torre, with original members Rockenfield, Wilton and Jackson, as well as guitarist Lundgren (2009–present).
- The version led by original singer Geoff Tate, with former guitarist Gray (1998–2002, 2012–present), Randy Gane, Rudy and Robert Sarzo, and Simon Wright.
As Tate was working on his solo album Kings & Thieves and an ensuing tour, Queensrÿche's other band members started the side project Rising West, playing earlier Queensrÿche material, from the Queensrÿche EP to Empire. The frontman of this band was Todd La Torre, who also was the frontman of Crimson Glory at that time. The band booked two shows at Seattle's Hard Rock Cafe for June 8 and 9, 2012, which were publicly announced on May 29, 2012, and both sold out in 48 hours. Shortly afterwards, Tate was fired from Queensrÿche, and La Torre was the obvious choice as the replacement singer, so that the Rising West line-up continued under the name Queensrÿche. Things started developing quickly for the group when Glen Parrish of PGM Management approached them after the Rising West show on June 9, 2012, offering them to become their band manager. According to Wilton, Parrish had told the management company in Los Angeles: "I have something very hot here and we should grab these guys before someone else does". After band negotiations with "at least 3 or 4 record labels", Parrish chose to sign Queensrÿche with Century Media.
This version of Queensrÿche has toured through the U.S., Canada, and incidentally other places, performing songs from the band's old catalog as part of their "Return to History Tour", and at the same time recorded their first album with this line-up between December 2012 and April 2013. Wanting to return to their sound from that particular era, the band chose to work with James "Jimbo" Barton, who had mixed and engineered the band's hit albums Operation: Mindcrime and Empire, and whom they had last worked with in the mid-90s, when he produced their album Promised Land. The resulting self-titled album, Queensrÿche, was released on 24 June 2013 in Europe, and on 25 June 2013 in the U.S. and Canada. A European leg of the tour, scheduled for the second half of April, was postponed to late October and early November 2013, due to "changes in the band's promotional schedule", involving additional demands from the label, to be fulfilled before their 2013 album could be released, and according to Wilton, the band "just barely made the deadline we had".
With regard to there being two versions of Queensrÿche, La Torre has explained: "There's no point in throwing mud around, and it doesn't make us look good if we do that", insisting that "you have to maintain a level of professionalism". Guitarist Michael Wilton has similarly expressed little interest in the two versions of Queensryche, saying: "That other stuff is being taken care of on a legal aspect, and we’re all good with that. We’re really concentrating on rebuilding the business, rebuilding the brand and showing the fans who have been waiting so long to see a good hard rock show that we’ve got it." With respect to their chances in court, Rockenfield said: "We look forward to the case very optimistically", and La Torre said: "Everyone on our side feels very confident that Michael [Wilton] and Scott [Rockenfield] and Eddie [Jackson] will be awarded the name."
On September 1, 2012, Geoff Tate announced a new Queensrÿche lineup on his official Facebook page, featuring Rudy Sarzo, Bobby Blotzer, Glen Drover, and two of his former band mates from Myth, Kelly Gray and Randy Gane. Drover left the band on November 23, 2012, later explaining that: “[t]he musical direction of where Geoff wanted to go wasn’t what I wanted to go forward with. I’m more into the first five Queensrÿche albums, the original template of the band. For me, when I think of the band, I think of those records.” On January 25, 2013, his replacement was announced to be guitarist Robert Sarzo, while Blotzer was replaced on drums by Simon Wright.
The band released their album Frequency Unknown on 23 April 2013 through Deadline Music, a sub-label of Cleopatra Records. It was co-written, produced and mixed in 6 weeks by Jason Slater and mastered by Maor Appelbaum, but Billy Sherwood was later hired to remix the album, "[as it] seems there are sonic issues with the previous versions". Several days later, however, Sherwood pulled out of the project, citing scheduling issues. The work was subsequently spread out over at least four remixers, because of a deadline that had to be met. "Cold", the first single off Frequency Unknown was released on April 3, 2013. It was remixed and produced by Anthony Focx.
Queensrÿche with Geoff Tate is promoted by their booking agent under the name "Queensrÿche Starring Geoff Tate the Original Voice". They are performing an "Operation: Mindcrime Anniversary Tour" since April 6, 2013, in celebration of the album's 25th anniversary, predominantly in the American Southwest. The tour is scheduled to continue through to September 2014 with several breaks, among others with Tate touring with his solo band in May 2014.
Tate created controversy during a show in St. Charles, Illinois on May 17, 2013. Ten minutes into the show, he grabbed an audience member's smartphone, turned around, and threw it over his shoulder into the crowd.
- The Warning (1984)
- Rage for Order (1986)
- Operation: Mindcrime (1988)
- Empire (1990)
- Promised Land (1994)
- Hear in the Now Frontier (1997)
- Q2K (1999)
- Tribe (2003)
- Operation: Mindcrime II (2006)
- Take Cover (2007)
- American Soldier (2009)
- Dedicated to Chaos (2011)
- Queensrÿche with Todd La Torre
- Queensrÿche (2013)
- Queensrÿche with Geoff Tate
- Frequency Unknown (2013)
Awards and nominations
The Grammy Awards are awarded annually by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.
MTV Video Music Awards
The MTV Video Music Awards is an annual awards ceremony established in 1984 by MTV.
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