With the 2007 release of Sign of the Times: The Best of Queensryche (two-CD set released on Capitol), this ranks as at least the fourth best of or hits collection by four different labels in seven years for this one band. But who's counting?
There is a single disc version of this release, but the average Queensryche fan will likely already have most if not all the tracks on it, so it would be a waste of money to buy the whole thing when you could buy mp3s of the few you don't have. The question though is whether the two-disc version is a better deal.
Well, longtime fans should be mostly pleased with the selections that made both discs, as the wall-shaking metal of "Jet City Woman" is here, as is the album and a live version of "Silent Lucidity," two of the band's biggest hits.
The ambitious side of Queensryche is highlighted on songs like "Silent Lucidity" and "Real World," the latter of which is from Last Action Hero, one of the better rock soundtracks of the 1990s. The track, which starts out with some symphonic work, was one of many collaborations with the late acclaimed composer Michael Kamen, whose work with the band dated back to 1984's debut full-length Warning.
Kamen of course would become better known in hard rock circles for his work in the 1990s with Aerosmith and Metallica. His work, along with Queensryche's ever-growing ambition and nearly flawless execution in the studio had earned the band an Iron Maiden-meets-Pink Floyd comparison by the time the band's arguably best album Empire came out in 1990.
The biggest gripe amongst the fandom out there will be what's not on the compilation.
It is mystifying why a few tracks, like "Revolution Calling" from Operation: Mindcrime, Empire's title track and most notably "Anybody Listening?" are missing.
There's only one song each from albums Q2K and Operation: Mindcrime II, and none from 2003's Tribe CD. [It should be noted that Kelly Gray had replaced original guitarist Chris DeGarmo – who left the band in the late 1990s – for the Q2K album, and Mike Stone replaced Gray in 2005 in time for Operation: Mindcrime II the following year.]
Also, if Capitol is going to include an impressive stripped-down version of "Della Brown" from Queensryche's 1992 MTV Unplugged show, why not include the whole show as a bonus DVD? Better yet, why hold on to the show all these years and not make it available as a live CD/DVD itself? I digress.
The real draw here is the music on the second CD, though the remastered (in stereo) versions of the band's early material, including classics like "The Lady Wore Black" on Disc One are a nice touch.
The three previously unreleased 1980 demos by Myth – singer Geoff Tate's precursor to Queensryche – that start CD Two bring out the band's inner Iron Maiden. Two of them later became Queensryche songs ("Take Hold of The Flame" and "Walk In The Shadows"). This disc also includes the aforementioned live/acoustic versions of "Della Brown" and "Silent Lucidity."
Call me crazy, but the previously unreleased and final track "Justified" sort of reminds me of the pure, mid-tempo hard rock side of A Perfect Circle – at least the guitar-driven intro does – or perhaps something from the post-grunge era. Written with original guitarist Chris DeGarmo, this raw, rocking track is also one of the heaviest in their catalogue, as the Dropped D tuning would indicate. Why it never made an album (like Hear In The Now Frontier) is a sin.
In all, between the two discs, you only receive about eight "unreleased" tracks, most of which are early demos. Therefore, Sign Of The Times is not a must-have for big time Queensryche fans. If this compilation contained a more complete set of demos or a full live show, then those fans might buy it.
An unreleased live track or two here, a few demos there, and about seven bonus tracks from previously reissued albums may be worth the price of one CD, but not two!
Nonetheless, most of this compilation is worth giving multiple spins, though metal heads will probably skip the sappy "Until There Was You" track near the end of Disc One. Much of the rest of it is required listening for those who have missed out on Queensryche, a band that built its legacy on making highly acclaimed, structured and accessible concept albums or progressive hard rock and metal records for most of their nearly 25 years together.
I would recommend however, their 2000 release Greatest Hits if you just want the hits and none of the extras or recent recordings. Both fall a bit short on including all the essentials but whatever you're missing, MP3s and digital music stores should fill the gaps.