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April 15, 2009

Overnight Open Thread: Queensryche’s Latest Album Pays Tribute to Those Who've Served (genghis)

I wasn’t even aware that ‘80’s/’90’s metal band Queensryche was still even actively recording or touring until I ran across this article in the “Music/Nightlife” section of The Seattle Times. Not only are they still active and touring (300 days per year) but the band has just released a new album titled “American Soldier.” How ‘bout I shut up and let the article explain it: (some paragraph breaks from original content have been removed to save space)

”For the first time in the band's three-decade career, Queensr˙che has an album that is not about Queensr˙che. Instead, the Bellevue metal group looked outward for inspiration. "American Soldier," the band's 12th studio album, is based on the words and voices of others, distilled from numerous interviews with veterans of wars from World War II to Iraq. The idea came from a conversation Queensr˙che frontman Geoff Tate had with his father, who fought in Vietnam and Korea.”

WTF? Musicians aren’t allowed to write songs regarding the military and foreign conflicts unless they’re protest songs written from an 8-year-old’s perspective and logic, meaning in the form of a juvenile tantrum. (for reference, see “System of a Down’s” tune “B.Y.O.B,” which I’ll provide a link to approximately when Hell freezes over.) Read on:
”"It was 2006, and we were sitting on the back porch in the sunny weather, and he suddenly opened up and talked about it. My jaw took the table. I was shocked. I quickly grabbed my camcorder."

"I've never been in war myself," said Tate, 50. "I figured anything I talked about would be speculation from a platform of complete ignorance." So Tate started interviewing veterans, finding folks through word-of-mouth, at airports, malls and shows. Many had already shared their experiences with him at meet-and-greets backstage, so he started interviewing them formally. "All the conversations led to more questions and more people," said Tate, who sampled the interviews in the songs. "I started to filter through them, watching the interviews, seeing the emotions and reading the body languages. It helped me walk away with musical tones and impressions."

“When Tate previewed "American Soldier" in front of soldiers, it was also a "cryfest," said Susan, with soldiers saying they were happy that the "real story was in there," and their lives were no longer a "punch line." The album was released last month by Rhino Records.”

Oodles more below the fold…

The band goes to great length to explain the rationale for making the album and the meaning behind many of the songs on their website. They also document many of the interactions they’ve had with members of the armed forces, both in the interviews with them and shows they’ve performed for them. They’re like a complete one-band USO organization. A couple of quick excerpts from their “media” page:

”“…And people sometimes lose the vision of where we came from. They’re sitting in the laps of luxury in a country that was built on over 3.5 million deaths…””

“So begins the saga of American Soldier.”

“American Soldier is more than a concept album; it is a statement of mission, a revelation of purpose, and a march for understanding. One thing that it is not is political. “People have a tendency to misconstrue the difference between political and social issues. This record is not political at all,” affirms Tate. “It’s very much a statement of the soldiers; it’s where they are at and what they have experienced. I hope the album, as a whole, is a statement that can get them talking to each other and begin that process of connecting that needs to happen between people.”

There’s also a link to a review of the album at Military.com well worth reading. Some snippets:

”The album opens with the strident voice of every squad leader yelling, “On your feet!” signaling that the band has stepped off the line of departure wearing a warfighter’s boots. The elements of combat inform songs like “Hundred Mile Stare,” “If I Were King” (also the album’s first video, which had its world premiere at Military.com), and “The Killer.” Voices of real vets weave in and out of the tunes, giving the narrative a transcendent company-street cred. Aviators are also brought into the battle with the slow build of “At 30,000 feet.”

“My main concern when I first heard about this project was the “Soldiers as victims” trap that these sorts of projects (whether albums, films, or books) too often fall into. Too often the only takeaway from the military experience is trauma, heartache, and personal devastation. (I generally think of Metallica’s “One” as the perfect cartoon-ish example of this phenomenon.)” (emphasis mine-ed.)

“But “American Soldier” deftly avoids this trap, primarily because Tate developed the concept by letting servicemembers, including his father, and families tell their stories without clouding the message with his own preconceived notion. In fact, in a recent podcast interview at Military.com, when I asked Tate what he learned about the military by virtue of putting the album together, he said, “I learned I knew nothing going into this.” The album isn’t a recruiting poster, necessarily, but it’s an honest reading of what happens when brave Americans are sent to war.”

Oh snap! Pretty nasty rug-burn for Metallica, but one of their own making. If they’d simply stuck to writing songs about Cthulhu and not stumbled into the political realm, well…But like too many celebrities they started to believe that because so many people liked their work that they had also somehow become sage political and policy analysts. That last statement by Tate is actually kind of stunning given the over-inflated egos of so many musicians and actors. It demonstrates humility and a willingness to actually learn about a particular subject before trying to spout off about it. Too bad that those traits are so rare these days.

Queensryche may not be your particular cup of tea musically, and I haven’t bought or listened to the album. I was sort of a fan of theirs during the early ‘90’s, particularly their concept album “Operation: Mindcrime” They’ve always been a sort of straightforward metal/hard rock band (that somehow managed to avoid becoming a “big hair” band), and also managed to stay somewhat prominent during the height of the grunge period while all the “hair metal” bands walked the plank. But this isn’t a musical review anyway. I had some trouble trying to play any of the audio clips on their site, but Military.com does have video of some of the songs from this album posted there. It’s a glitch on my end, so you may have to hunt around a little on both sites if you want to hear all the content.

Notice: Posted by permission of AceCorp LLC. Please e-mail overnight open thread tips to xgenghisx@gmail.com. Otherwise send tips to Ace.

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posted by xgenghisx at 10:19 PM

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