Queensryche before the split (photo: Greg Watermann)
Queensryche before the split (photo: Greg Watermann)


Among those I interviewed for my recent Seattle Times story on local rock band Queensryche and its legal woes was rock journalist Jeff Wagner, author of “Mean Deviation: Four Decades of Progressive Heavy Metal.”

About a year and a half ago, Wagner — who has followed the ongoing lawsuit among original band members Geoff Tate, Michael Wilton, Eddie Jackson and Scott Rockenfield and their split into two separate groups with the same name — did a “Hall of Fame” oral history for Decibel magazine on Queenryche’s “Operation: Mindcrime.”

Often cited as one of rock’s great concept albums, “Operation: Mindcrime” was released in the late ‘80s, an era when concept albums weren’t as popular as they had been in the previous decade.

“It was well-produced and well-written, and it was too good to not strike a chord with a ton of people,” Wagner, the former editor of Metal Maniacs, said in a phone interview.

“Operation: Mindcrime” also came out at the time of Queensryche’s greatest commercial success, just before grunge and alternative-rock changed the course of rock ‘n’ roll. A key member of the band at the time was guitarist Chris DeGarmo, who contributed immensely to the album’s creation and the band’s overall creative direction.

When DeGarmo left the group in 1997 to pursue a successful career as a corporate jet pilot, he was mum about his reasons for calling it quits. But Wagner thinks DeGarmo’s departure created a power shift in Queensryche that over time contributed to the band’s internal tensions. Previously, the group had been more collaborative.

“Once DeGarmo left, Tate took the reins and left people like Wilton, Jackson and Rockenfield to kind of go along the trail he was blazing,” he said.

Until a lawsuit is settled on or before Nov. 18, the two bands are functioning as separate Queensryches, each with its own new album, website and Facebook page.

The band led by Wilton (and featuring new singer Todd La Torre) will perform at the release party for its new album, “Queensryche” (Century Media Records), Wednesday, June 26, at the Crocodile Cafe. Tickets are sold out.

Tate, meanwhile, has released his own Queensryche album, “Frequency Unknown” (Deadline Music/Cleopatra Records), with such players as bassist Rudy Sarzo (Quiet Riot, Ozzy Osbourne, Whitesnake, Dio and Blue Oyster Cult) and drummer Simon Wright (AC/DC and Dio). Tate’s band will perform the entire “Operation: Mindcrime” album live (on the 25th anniversary of its release) Saturday, June 29, at the Moore Theatre.

Read my story in the Seattle Times by clicking on this link.

And find Wagner on Facebook here.

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