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Queensryche - "American Soldier" (CD)

Queensryche - "American Soldier" CD cover image

"American Soldier" track listing:

1. Sliver
2. Unafraid
3. Hundred Mile Stare
4. At 30,000 ft.
5. A Dead Man's Words
6. The Killer
7. Middle Of Hell
8. If I Were King
9. Man Down!
10. Remember Me
11. Home Again
12. The Voice

Reviewed by on June 15, 2009

"Interestingly enough, the song that conveys the horrors of war the best, lyrically, is 'At 30,000 Ft,' which tells of a bomber pilot, who is lucky enough to avoid the hell he visits upon others. "

Queensryche's "American Soldier" is a noble attempt at honoring the men and women of America's fighting forces, but as an album, it's strictly a half-mast affair. It's a shame too, because the flag-waver in me really wanted to love this album. Unfortunately, a promising beginning eventually turns into schmaltz.

In preparing to write the album, singer Geoff Tate interviewed soldiers who'd fought in conflicts ranging from World War II to the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. On tracks like "Unafraid," he correctly deduces that their words are more powerful than any lyrics he could come up with, and uses their words over powerful playing by the rest of the band — singing only the chorus.

One problem I had with the album is that, other than "Sliver," "Man Down!" and "Unafraid," the album, musically, is quite mellow for a hard rock album. That seems to stand in contrast to the violent subject matter.

Interestingly enough, the song that conveys the horrors of war the best, lyrically, is "At 30,000 Ft," which tells of a bomber pilot who is lucky enough to avoid the hell he visits upon others. Unfortunately, it also reminded me of a "M*A*S*H" episode, in which Hawkeye and B.J. Hunnicutt show an American bomber pilot the injured villagers from one of his bombing runs.

Tate blends his interviews with his own lyrics to great effect in "If I Were King," a harrowing tale of a survivor's guilt over the death of his comrade in arms. Unfortunately, it's followed by the clumsy "Man Down!," in which Tate talks of being a living "casualty of war."

The album's worst track is "Home Again," which contrasts letters between a soldier and his daughter, and features vocals from his daughter, Emily Tate. It's every bit as schmaltzy as you'd think, and Emily's vocals aren't anything to write home about.

Overall, Michael Willton and guest musicians Kelly Gray and Damon Johnson do an okay job on the guitars, with the soloing on "Unafraid," and the Middle Eastern-sounding sections of "Man Down!" standing out.

Queensryche succeeds in paying tribute to America's soldiers, with some genuinely touching moments along the way. Still, in the attempt to talk about war without arguing whether it's justified or not, the album comes off emotionally flat a lot of the time.

As a thank you to America's defenders, "American Soldier" succeeds well. As an album, it's average at best.

Highs: "Unafraid" and "If I Were King," which feature recordings of actual soldiers.

Lows: The schmaltzy "Home Again" and the clumsy "Man Down!"

Bottom line: A great tribute to America's fighting forces — but an average album.

Rated 3 out of 5 skulls
3 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)