If the title hadn’t already been famously used, Queensryche might have named its 2015 album "Back to the Future." The album — actually titled "Condition Human" — is all about the band embracing its roots while keeping an eye on the future, says guitarist Michal Wilton.
“Obviously, the musicianship is there,” Wilton says during a telephone interview. "We brought back its depth and thought-provoking lyrics. That's something that Queensryche's been known for. For a lot of people, our early albums took a few listens to get it going with them and understand where the band was going, but the music had depth. There were innovative things happening. It was great creative energy. We tried to bring the spirit of that back with 'Condition Human.' "
If the Seattle band has been successful, fans will be comparing “Condition Human” to such albums as the band’s sophomore release “Rage for Order” (1986), its “Operation: Mindcrime” (1988) and “Empire” (1990). Those releases brought Queensryche popularity and a reputation for musically adventurous hard rock and thoughtful, topical lyrics.
Queensryche will perform at 8:30 p.m. Thursday, July 21, in the Lithia Amphitheatre at The Expo, 1 Peninger Road, Central Point. The show is part of the Jackson County Fair's lineup of live music. Rogue Valley rock band Hardway Bend will open the show at 7:30 p.m.
Reserved seating is $25 to $40 and can be purchased online at www.attheexpo.com and includes fair admission. Lawn seating is free with fair admission. Early-bird tickets for lawn seating are $5, $10 for a family of four, and are available at 6 p.m. at the amphitheater's ticket booth or fair gates.
While Queensryche returned to its popular roots on "Condition Human," the group also wanted to keep the forward-looking attitude that's also been part of its trademark.
“Queensryche is all about evolving, and evolving with each album,” Wilton says. “We needed to evolve and show that we were expanding, exploring, using our creative juices and pushing the envelope, not jumping 180 degrees so that we lose everybody. I think the goal was to really connect with the past, but record it in a modern way.”
The past three years for Queensryche have been about making a new beginning. After reaching a commercial peak with “Empire” — the album featured Queensryche’s biggest hit single, “Silent Lucidity” — and maintaining considerable popularity through the '90s, the group’s fortunes declined as Queensryche moved farther into the first decade of the new millennium.
At the heart of the situation was growing discord between singer Geoff Tate and the band’s other original members — Wilton, bassist Eddie Jackson and drummer Scott Rockenfield — as well as its more recent recruit, guitarist Parker Lundgren.
When a backstage fight broke out at an April 2012 show in Sao Paulo, Brazil, things got messier, and Tate was given his walking papers. Lawsuits over who owned the Queensryche moniker followed and finally resolved in May 2014.
By that time, Queensryche had found its new singer. Wilton met singer Todd La Torre at a National Association of Music Merchants event and recommended him to his band mates.
Everything clicked, and soon La Torre was touring as Queensryche’s new singer and working with several of the band members on a self-titled album that was released in June 2013.
With “Condition Human,” Queensryche returned to a more collaborative songwriting approach.
“There's a democracy in the writing,” Wilton says. “Everybody has the ability to write songs now and they all get worked on. They’re not cherry picked. It’s just a whole different scenario now.”
The bottom line is whether fans think Queensryche has recaptured its original magic with “Condition Human." Songs such as “Hourglass,” “Hellfire,” “Eye9” and “Arrow of Time” do have the progressive rock edge, advanced musicianship and powerful vocals that originally made Queensryche stand out, while “Toxic Remedy” and “Selfish Lives” are among the songs with the kind of provocative topical lyrics that were common on the early albums.
Wilton feels the renewed creative passion within the band is translating well into Queensryche’s live shows.
"When we’re playing live, the fans know we’re giving it,” Wilton says. “We’re out there performing, proving ourselves every night. If we prove ourselves one show at a time, so be it. We’ll just keep doing it. We’ve been doing it for the last two years and winning fans over.”