Formed in the early 1980s, Queensryche started their career sounding much like a junior version of Iron Maiden or Judas Priest. However, by the mid-'80s, the Seattle-based metal band had begun to form its own musical identity, culminating in 1988's OPERATION: MINDCRIME, a sprawling cinematic concept album that received widespread acclaim and led to international success. The group's follow-up, EMPIRE, featured catchy melodies and more straightforward songwriting, showcasing the vocals of frontman Geoff Tate and leading to an even wider audience, thanks in no little part to the unlikely top 10 hit lullaby "Silent Lucidity." In the late 1990s, Queensryche experienced a bit of a slump, largely due the departure of founding guitarist Chris DeGarmo, but in 2003, DeGarmo returned to record TRIBE.
It doesn't take very many fingers to enumerate the number of American heavy-metal bands who traversed the treacherously shifting musical tastes of the 1980s and '90s intact and prosperous. And though their multiplatinum days peaked well before contemporaries like Metallica, Queensryche soldiered on, their sound evolving and maturing in remarkably similar fashion; one might argue they lead the way in that regard. Greatest-hits collections are suspect affairs, but this one presents a taut history lesson, documenting the evolution of one of America's most consistently underrated metal outfits from the Judas Priest-clone days of their self-released debut to the heights of Operation: Mindcrime and Empire, and into their equally rewarding '90s output. Along the way, the band managed to pick up an often artsy social conscience as well as an impressive musical range (the quiet dynamics of "Silent Lucidity" being light-years away from singer Geoff Tate's original Halford-esque howl) and a catchy pop sensibility ("Jet City Woman," "Sign of the Times"). Fans will also welcome two bonus tracks, the bluesy "Chasing Blue Sky" and an alternate, full-band version of "Someone Else?" --Jerry McCulley
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