Queensrÿche – The Verdict (Century Media)

It’s six years since Todd La Torre made his relatively understated debut on Queensrÿche’s self-titled album – a record released at a time when the band was at war with its former frontman and both versions of the progressive metal pioneers were seeking a fresh identity and a reason to rock.

If some believed La Torre was fighting a losing battle, then 2015’s visceral Condition Hüman proved it was a fight the feisty Floridian could win. The Verdict is aptly named – those looking to deliver the absolute judgement on Geoff Tate’s successor need look no further than a record which has his personality, passion and vocal prowess writ large across 10 powerful Queensrÿche compositions.

La Torre’s uncanny resemblance to Tate has proved to be a blessing and a hindrance since he took the helm of a band set to celebrate its 40thanniversary in 2020. The ‘new boy’ is the perfect choice to take the ‘Rÿche forward and, at the same time, breathe new life into the band’s late 80s and early 90s classics. And yet the striking similarity with Tate has led to lazy comparisons, unfair criticism and claims of imitation, rather than innovation. The Verdict sees La Torre stamp his own mark on a supreme album.

Blood Of The Levant and Man The Machine are tight, focused, sub-four minute slabs of modern metal that reflect Queensrÿche’s new-found confidence. Sitting somewhere in between Maiden’s most recent output and US arena staples Shinedown, both songs bring La Torre to the fore and yet there’s still plenty of room for Michael ‘The Whip’ Wilton to make his fret-burning presence felt.

Elsewhere Inside Out’s Eastern flavour adds another intriguing layer to a record rich in creative twists and turns while Dark Reverie’s intricate guitar work dazzles. The Verdict? Queensrÿche can reclaim their crown as the kings of prog metal.

The Verdict? Outstanding