TVD Live Shots: Queensryche at the Islington Assembly
Hall, 8/14

The mighty Queensryche made their triumphant return to London last week, stopping by the Islington Assembly Hall for an intimate gig between a slew of European metal festivals.

Touring in support of The Verdict, their third studio record with bonafide rock god Todd La Torre on vocals, the band finds themselves with a functional problem: too many great songs for one set. How does one select songs from such an incredible legacy and catalog to fit into a 90-minute set? I would love to be a fly on the wall in that conversation as the band painstakingly chooses between pre-Mindcrime and post which represent two incredibly different styles for the band. Which one is better? The answer is neither, as they are equally epic in their own right.

The new album is an absolute beast of a metal album from start to finish. I won’t go as far to say that The Verdict is a return to form, because that happened on 2015’s breakthrough Condition Human. Oh, and did I happen to mention that La Torre played the drums on this record filling in for the recently departed Scott Rockenfield? Take a moment to let that soak in—this guy hits the notes on the classics without breaking a sweat, takes it up a notch or two on the new material, and now he’s taking over drum duties from one of the all-time greats? This guy is a fucking juggernaut of all things metal.

Not only that, he was quoted during the recording of the album by Blabbermouth as saying, “So I recorded the drums, and I decided to show more reservation than to overplay.” Reservation? Holy hell, are you kidding me? It begs the question, what else can this guy do that we don’t know about?

Maybe La Torre sold his soul to the devil at the crossroads of metal or something, but you’d never guess so because he has to be the most polite frontman in all of metal. Unlike many of his contemporaries who have become a mockery of themselves for asking, “How’s everybody fucking doing tonight?” in the highest pitched metal scream possible, La Torre talks to the audience more like he’s just hanging out with them, telling stories in between melting their faces off.

Queensryche is one of the few bands that I would go see every day of the week if possible. Their setlist brings together the best of the old and new in a seamless journey of all things progressive rock and metal. The only complaint that I have is that the band had an opener instead of simply doing a two or three-hour evening set. Now that would be spectacular—four songs from The Verdict, two from Mindcrime, three from Empire, and two each from Rage and The Warning, and a pleasant surprise of “I am I” as the second song in the set. I also love Promised Land, and this set up the encore of “Light Years” from the new record which takes a cue from that undercelebrated, classic album.

Queensryche proves once again that they are still incredibly relevant in every way to the metal community. Original members Michael Wilton and Eddie Jackson still look to be very much enjoying the gigs and Parker Lundgren seemed a bit more reserved than usual, but maybe he wasn’t feeling well as he had a beanie on for the gig. Newcomer Casey Grillo who’s handling the drums is an absolute machine, but it was a bit difficult to see with the insanely challenging stage lights for the first three songs which us photogs get to shoot.

If you are a fan, go see Queensryche while they are still firing on all cylinders in this incarnation, you won’t miss anyone who’s previously left—it’s just that good. By the way, I wonder if the band has ever considered doing an Empire II as I think it would be fascinating to see how they continue that story and what La Torre could bring to the table in creating a follow-up to that epic masterpiece. Just a thought…

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