Queensrÿche (pron.: /ˈkwiːnzraɪk/) is an American progressive metal band best known for their critically acclaimed albums 'Operation: Mindcrime' and 'Empire', from 1988 and 1990 respectively, which involve strong, detailed social and psychological themes. The band has sold more than 30 million albums worldwide. It started as The Mob in 1981, which included guitarist Michael Wilton, drummer Scot Rockenfield, guitarist Chris Degarmo, and bassist Eddie Jackson. Lacking a vocalist, they recruited Geoff Tate to sing for them at a local rock festival.
At the time, Tate performed in Babylon, influenced by classic 70s hard rock vocalists. After Babylon broke up, Tate performed a few shows with The Mob but left. In 1981, the budding band put together sufficient funds to record a demo tape. Once again they asked Tate, then in in other outfit called Myth, to sing the vocals and otherwise collaborate. They recorded four songs: “Queen of the Reich”, “Nightrider”, “Blinded”, and “The Lady Wore Black”.
Because the name “The Mob” was not available, they decided to name the band Queensryche after the first song on their demo tape, “Queen of the Reich”. In 1983, Queensryche released their demo tape as a self-titled EP 'Queensryche' (often known today as 'Queensryche (EP)' or under similar names). After the EP garnered international praise, receiving much airplay and selling an unusual amount of copies for a small independent release as critics compared them to contemporaries such as Iron Maiden, Tate agreed to leave Myth and become Queensrÿche’s permanent lead singer.
The Early Years (1981-1988)
With the first full-length album, 1984's 'The Warning', and their follow-up album, 1986's 'Rage For Order', attracting critical adulation, Queensrÿche continued to prove their worldwide dominance as one of the most respected and creative metal bands of the 80s. It all took much work. After the EP tour, Queensrÿche already traveled to London to record their first full-length album. The band worked with producer James Guthrie, who had worked with iconic British groups Pink Floyd and Judas Priest.
Released in September 1984, 'The Warning' featured more progressive rock styled elements than the band's debut. It peaked at #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. (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.
The album 'Rage For Order', released in 1986, introduced a much more polished look and sound for the band. The released featured keyboards as prominently as guitars, and the group adopted an image more closely associated with glam rock and glam metal artists. A video was filmed for the song "Gonna Get Close to You", originally recorded in 1984 by Dalbello. A song titled "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 the 'Operation: Mindcrime' album.
Operation: Mindcrime and success (1988-1996)
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 who is brainwashed into performing assassinations for an underground movement; the junkie ("Nikki") is torn over his misplaced loyalty to the cause and his love of a reformed hooker-turned-nun ("Mary," vocals by Pamela Moore) who gets in the way. "Mindcrime" has often been mentioned by critics alongside other notable concept albums like 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 #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 band retained its socially conscious lyrics (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 United States 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 included an MTV Unplugged appearance at Warner Hollywood Studios in Los Angeles on April 27, 1992.
After taking time off to deal with the tour's resulting burnout and 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 #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 as grunge (which coincidentally got its start in Seattle, of which Bellevue—where the band was formed—is a suburb) and alternative rock surged in popularity.
Major changes (1997-1998)
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 #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, Geoff 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 remainder of the tour, which ended in August after only two months. The band played a handful of December shows in South America due to contractual obligations, and it was during this time that founding member Chris DeGarmo announced he was leaving Queensrÿche.
Although the official reasons for DeGarmo's departure have not been made public, members of the band have cited burnout and a desire to pursue interests outside of Queensrÿche as reasons for his departure. After he left Queensrÿche, DeGarmo recorded and performed with Jerry Cantrell and was in a short-lived band called Spys4Darwin, which released one EP in 2001. DeGarmo is now a business jet pilot.
Continued experimentation (1998–2001)
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, Geoff Tate's previous band. Gray had also previously worked as a producer for bands such as Dokken and Candlebox. Queensrÿche's first album with Gray was 1999's Q2K. It 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 stripped-down sound similar to Hear in the Now Frontier. Q2K has been called a continuation of the experimentation of Hear in the Now Frontier by Geoff Tate. Declining popularity forced the band to tour in clubs and theaters, rather than larger arenas and outdoor amphitheaters.
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, Queensrÿche moved to Sanctuary Records in 2001. In July of that year, the band performed a handful of dates at the Moore Theater in Seattle, Washington. The shows were recorded and released in September 2001 as Live Evolution, the band's second live album. Gray departed Queensrÿche soon after.
The Tribe Years (2001-2004)
The band entered the studio as a quartet in the spring of 2003 to record their eighth full-length album. 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.
Gray's replacement turned out to be Mike Stone, who accompanied the band on the Tribe tour as second guitarist to Michael Wilton's lead, though 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 spots, and ended the shows by playing a handful of songs together. Fates Warning was the special guest for the tour. A live album and DVD were recorded during this tour - The Art of Live - including two covers performed with Dream Theater.
Mindcrime II (2004-2007)
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. Operation: Mindcrime II debuted at #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.
Take Cover and American Soldier (2007-2010)
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 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 Queensryche to focus on his side-project Speed-X. Wilton recorded both lead and rhythm guitar on the band's next release. Parker Lundgren (formerly The Nihilists and Sledgeback), who played for Tate (and is also his son-in-law) during his solo tour, replaced Stone on the 2009 tour.
On March 31, 2009, the band's eleventh studio album was released, titled American Soldier, a concept album about war from the perspective of those on the front lines of American wars from World War II through the present.
As of late 2009 and early 2010, the band were on tour as part of The Queensrÿche Cabaret.
Dedicated to Chaos (2011-2012)
The band's 12th studio album, Dedicated to Chaos, was released on June 28, 2011 on ROADRUNNER/LOUD & PROUD RECORDS. 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.
Split with Geoff Tate (2012–2014)
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. 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".
Meanwhile, 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.
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 a court ruling or settlement would arrange otherwise. As a result of the judge's preliminary verdict, both parties had a band that used the name and brand of Queensrÿche from 2012 to April 2014; the current lineup fronted by La Torre, and a band fronted by Tate. Due to settlement negotiations, the trial was rescheduled several times.
While the court case and settlement negotiations were ongoing, Queensrÿche with their new frontman La Torre 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".
A settlement was reached on April 17, 2014, and a statement from both parties was released on April 28, 2014. The statement announced that Tate lost the brand Queensrÿche to Rockenfield, Wilton and Jackson, who together with La Torre and Lundgren were to be "the sole band recording and touring as Queensryche", while former vocalist Tate had the right to play Operation: Mindcrime and Operation: Mindcrime II in their entirety "in unique performances". On May 5, 2014, a press release was released through Wilton's Facebook page, further clarifying the specifics of the settlement as:
Eddie Jackson, Scott Rockenfield and Michael Wilton have successfully agreed to purchase Geoff Tate’s portion of the Queensrÿche name. The band will buy out their former lead singer’s share of the Queensrÿche corporation while allowing him the ability to be the only one to perform Operation: Mindcrime and Operation: Mindcrime II in their entirety. He will no longer have use of the TriRyche logo or any other album images aside from the Mindcrime releases. He can only refer to himself as the “Original Lead Singer of Queensrÿche or “Formerly of Queensrÿche" for a period of two years and that text must be at least 50% smaller than his name in all materials. After this two year period passes, he can only refer to himself as Geoff Tate with no mention of Queensrÿche at all. Geoff Tate will be able to finish any confirmed dates billed for his Queensrÿche lineup scheduled to terminate on August 31st, 2014.
Tate will henceforth front a band titled Operation: Mindcrime. It consists of him with Rudy Sarzo, Simon Wright, Randy Gane, and Kelly Gray. Simon Wright had previously notably worked with AC/DC and Dio while Sarzo had worked with Ozzy Osbourne and Whitesnake. That outfit stated in mid-2014 that they will enter the studio soon to begin recording a trilogy project that Geoff's been reportedly working on for the past two years.
Looking back, the band has sold more than 30 million albums worldwide over its history. The group achieved received worldwide acclaim after the album "Operation: Mindcrime" came out in 1988, a release that's often considered one of the greatest concept albums of all time. The follow-up album in 1990 "Empire" was also very successful and included the hit single "Silent Lucidity". The band has received three Grammy Award nominations for songs off both albums. Rockenfield has also received a Grammy nomination outside of Queensrÿche. They continue to have popular tours as well.
Todd La Torre – lead vocals (2012–present)
Michael Wilton – lead, rhythm & acoustic guitars, backing vocals (1981–present)
Parker Lundgren – lead, rhythm & acoustic guitars, backing vocals (2009–present)
Eddie Jackson – bass, backing vocals (1981–present)
Scott Rockenfield – drums, percussion, keyboards (1981–present)
Chris DeGarmo – lead, rhythm & acoustic guitars, backing vocals (1981–1998, 2003, 2007)
Mike Stone - lead, rhythm & acoustic guitars, backing vocals (2002–2009)
Geoff Tate – lead vocals, keyboards, saxophone (1981–2012)
Kelly Gray – lead, rhythm & acoustic guitars, backing vocals (1998–2002)