Queensryche’s “American Soldier”

April 14, 2009 at 3:24 pm 3 comments

Queensryche’s latest album is a concept album about the American Soldier, aptly named, “American Soldier”.  A quick note about my review: This is the first Queensryche album I have listened to, so there are no comparisons to their older work. I might go back and listen to their older stuff later, but for now, this is a perfect outsiders insight to the album.

First, let me begin by saying that I love concept albums. And this is a good concept album. Musically, the songs flow together nicely, with some great transitions between songs. Lyrically, all the songs are obviously about soldier’s experiences in war, and in coming back to civilian life. Only a few of the songs piece together into a story, while the rest just talk about the same subject matter. So in this sense, it is not a perfect concept album, but it creates an interesting effect. Unfortunately, I never got the full impact of the effect without reading the lyrics along with the album, which can detract some of the power of the album from those who don’t read along (and I usually don’t).

Like any good album, it is better as a whole than as individual songs. Many of the songs throughout the album would be unremarkable on their own, but when taken as a whole they add to the effect of the album. One aspect that got repetitive and annoying as the album went on was the amount of monologues within tracks. I understand that sometimes this is the best way to get the message across, and I also think that speaking within a song can have a very powerful effect. But to the extent that it was used in this album, it began to get old, even boring. I feel bad for thinking this because they are all very good monologues on very touching subjects, and individually, there is nothing wrong with any of them. I just think that if any technique is used too heavily, it begins to detract from the music.

Despite the use of too many monologues however, the album flows extremely well from one track to another, and by the middle of the album, it really draws the listener in to impact them deeply. The dynamics of the album are great, going from slow and chilling to hard and heavy, both within songs and between songs. This really drew me into the album, and allowed the louder bits to stand out more, while the softer bits carry the album. The lyrics are affected by the dynamics, as the louder songs are brought out more and leave more of an impact.

The two songs that stood out the most to me were “The Killer” and “Man Down!”. “The Killer” felt like the lyrical climax of the album, with the soldier facing off against the enemy face to face, wondering “Who will be the killer?”. Finally, in the bridge of the song, he exclaims “I’ve got to be the killer! I’ve got to live!” I felt that this was a good insight into what it might be like when facing an enemy face to face, knowing that one of you must die. I have never experienced it before, so I wouldn’t know for sure, but this sounds like what would be going through my head. “Man Down!” is the musical climax of the album, and it hits hard. It starts off with a short monologue about survivor’s guilt, which leads into a punching guitar riff that never lets down. The song culminates into a soaring chorus that gave me chills the first time I heard it, and was even more powerful after coming out of the guitar solo/bridge later in the song. The lyrics are all about survivor’s guilt and how hard it is for a soldier to readjust to civilian life. Because of the musical power of the song, the lyrics stand out against the rest, and become one of the more lasting impressions of the album.

Another powerful moment is toward the end of the album, on “Home Again”. A decent way into the song, it transforms into a duet, with a kid singing about how he wishes his dad would come home soon. This is hauntingly poignant, and one of the best moments on the album. Another interesting moment is in “Middle of Hell” where a saxophone trades leads with the guitar at the end of the song.

I was impressed with this album, despite my first thoughts. I feared that it would be thinly veiled propaganda about the glory of being a soldier, to be used as a recruiting tool (like that Three Doors Down song, blegh). I was relieved to hear an album about the trials and difficulties of being a soldier, and even more relieved that it stopped short of making any statements about American foreign policy. It would have been so easy to use the album as a protest, or as a testament to our righteousness. But “American Soldier” is neither, rather, it is just a musical journey through the life of a soldier.

Everything considered, I think that this is a very well written rock concept album. It has its flaws, but its qualities make up for them. Therefore, I recommend listening to this, at least twice. Its not background music, so it requires some attention, but I think that it is worth the time. 8/10


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3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Mark Hixenbaugh  |  May 3, 2009 at 9:51 pm

    Great review Aaron! I can’t believe Queensryche is still putting out these epic concept albums. I was a fan of some of their stuff way back… Mindcrime and Empire were killer albums.

  • 2. Earl Sciambra  |  May 18, 2009 at 12:57 am

    What a great review. I am a long time Queensryche fan and I felt the reviewer did an excellent job of describing American Soldier. I also felt that there were too many monologues when I first listened to it but after I got familiar with the record it felt right. That kid who sang on that song wasn’t a he it was the singers daughter Miranda. I read one review where the reviewer called it gaudy. Maybe that reviewer should read this review because this guy seems to know his forte because he hit the bulls eye with his review. For a song to give you goose bumps and chills seems to say something. Queensryche is my favorite band and I will be seeing them this Thursday @ House Of Blues New Orleans. Do yourself a favor and get your hands on the other Q/R material. Operation Mindcrime I is there first conceptual record they made over 20 years ago. Empire, Tribe, Hear In The Now Frontier, Rage For Order, Warning are all records that went against the grain and that’s what makes Q/R so special.

  • […] on the 2 week anniversary of its release. It probably won’t be as in depth as the review of Queensryche’s “American Soldier” was, but who knows, maybe I’ll get carried […]


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