In April 2022, QUEENSRŸCHE finished a five-week North American tour supporting metal gods Judas Priest. That tour wasn’t merely a fiery return to the stage for QUEENSRŸCHE after a two-year pandemic: it was a rejuvenation. The sound of a band locked-in and firing on all cylinders. “The Priest tour was a great springboard for us to get back onstage in what’s essentially a new world,” says founding guitarist Michael Wilton. “We had so much momentum going off of our last record [2019’s The Verdict] and then, the world, our business, came to a grinding halt. We had to survive, pick ourselves up and get back to being QUEENSRŸCHE.” Now, their legacy has coalesced into another career milestone for the Bellevue, Washington borne band with the release of their 16th studio album, Digital Noise Alliance.
Overcoming obstacles and defying expectations has always been at the heart of QUEENSRŸCHE. With 20 million albums sold worldwide, innumerable accolades and a career that has charted the course of multiple genres, QUEENSRŸCHE remains bloodied but unbowed. Teamed again with producer and mixer, Zeuss (Rob Zombie, Hatebreed), Digital Noise Alliance embraces and refracts QUEENSRŸCHE’s history from the classic drive of opener, “In Extremis” through the ominous strains of “Behind The Walls” to epic album closer, “Tormentum”. Digital Noise Alliance is that elusive career-embodying album that echoes the most classic elements of the QUEENSRŸCHE’s sound. It pulses with the sort of sonic ambitions that changed the hard rock and metal landscape on albums like their multi-platinum Empire or their magnum-opus concept album, Operation: Mindcrime.
It was the isolation of Covid-19 that fueled the first creative stirrings for QUEENSRŸCHE. “Being left to your inner abandons brought up a lot of feelings,” Wilton admits. “It was a weird, strange time and not knowing if you were going to see the light at the end of the tunnel. It sucked, but it did ignite some of the creative elements for the new record.” Those ideas started to come together in early 2021 when Wilton met up with vocalist Todd LaTorre and began assembling the bare-boned riffs for Digital Noise Alliance at the singer’s home studio in Tampa, Florida. “It was a chaotic, uncertain time,” says bassist Eddie Jackson. “But the bottom line for us was to do what we always have done, which is to continue to create music, even in the face of adversity.”
“We started from scratch, face-to-face, in a room with our producer Zeuss,” says LaTorre, who joined QUEENSRŸCHE in 2012 and has been a driving force in the band ever since. “We were creating together in the same room, not file sharing. “It was all immediate, in real-time and nothing came from earlier sessions or discarded ideas.” Writing sessions continued for a year with tracking on the album commencing in the first week of January 2022. Drums ended up being tracked in a Florida mansion that once belonged to wrestling legend, Hulk Hogan with Zeuss recording on a mobile rig. “There’s a trust factor with Zeuss,” says Wilton of the band’s now three-album-running relationship with their producer. “He came in as a fan and really understood what QUEENSRŸCHE is about. With Zeuss, there’s a level of trust and understanding that we’ve rarely had with a producer. Everyone’s ideas and energies are on 10 and he knows how to harness that.”
During the album sessions, Michael Wilton employed an arsenal of amps from QUEENSRŸCHE’s early days. “We ended up using Michael’s collection of old Marshalls,” says Zeuss. “The amp from The Warning and the amp from Rage for Order or Mindcrime or Empire. Each song has different amps and different guitars that reach back to that era. Some of these amps that hadn’t been turned on in years and had markings on them that dated back to those records. We’d turn them on and it would be like, ‘Whoah!’ Like we were awakening this beast. It brought a lot of great vibes to the album.”
That cloying together of QUEENSRŸCHE’s past and present has become the mark of the band who regrouped in 2012. Over the course of its last triptych of albums Queensryche (2013), Condition Human (2015) and The Verdict (2019), the five-piece took hold of the proverbial flame to give fans QUEENSRŸCHE in its purest essence. Moments like the lush, contemplative “Forest” echo career-defining highlights like the band’s Grammy-nominated hit single, “Silent Lucidity”. Digital Noise Alliance is every bit as emotionally passionate and forward thinking as anything in their expansive discography.
“QUEENSRŸCHE has always been a forward-thinking band,” says Todd, adding with a laugh, “The ‘Thinking Man’s Metal Band’ as they were called years ago! As early as The Warning QUEENSRŸCHE was experimenting, bringing in strings and orchestral elements. People like Michael Kamen. Back then, you’d only hear those elements on a Meatloaf album! Back then their staging was always very forward-thinking. They were using big ass projectors and screens. They were progressive in their own right and changed the landscape. They pushed things and expanded the genre in a thought-provoking, way. For us, the mission is really to get to preserve and elevate the essence of the QUEENSRŸCHE sound.”
With its current lineup of LaTorre, Wilton, Jackson, guitarist Mike Stone and drummer Casey Grillo, QUEENSRŸCHE is looking towards the future while looking back on the influence and impact of its past. “When you have two of the original members, you can’t help but get those QUEENSRŸCHE elements,” says Jackson, who founded the band with Wilton in 1982. “It’s in our DNA. But it’s also nice to hear fresh ideas or interpretations from Todd, Casey or Mike Stone.” For LaTorre, that balance between the band’s past and present is crucial. “We’re all advocates for certain characteristics that are very indicative to the band’s sound,” says the frontman. “The challenge for us is blending that history and the nuances that are important and true to the band but still feel modern.”
Digital Noise Alliance is quintessentially QUEENSRŸCHE. Track to track it embodies the lush melodies, passion and intelligence that’s been the mark of the band since they first took hold of the flame with their hugely received self-titled 4-song EP in 1984. “For me, musically and lyrically, QUEENSRŸCHE has always represented something cerebral,” says Todd “At a time when bands were writing about sex, drugs and rock n roll, QUEENSRŸCHE were writing about politics, religion, social injustice – topics that are more relevant now than ever. Even now, we’re walking that fine line between not telling people what to think, but simply to think.”