Chapter III: New Horizons
Queensryche's 1986 release, Rage for Order, employed an interesting three-tiered lyrical theme, along with an equally layered and complex musical structure. Heralded by fans, Rage for Order is considered by many to be one of the defining albums of the sub-genre now known as "progressive heavy metal." It was produced by Neil Kernon.
Kernon said in an interview with The Breakdown Room in 2007 that drums for Rage for Order were recorded in an office park in Bellevue, Wash. He explained by recording it in such a large space with a mobile recording truck, it helped give the record a “big bashy” drum sound. Kernon brought in Le Mobile truck from Montreal that he had used on many live albums and several other studio albums, including Kansas’ Drastic Measures, and Dokken’s Under Lock and Key.
“Cold, hard and cruel,” particularly the latter term, were the key descriptors for the musical direction everyone desired on Rage for Order, Kernon said.
“We wanted it to be uncompromisingly cold sonically,” he added.
Queensryche already had most of the material well-constructed and arranged before the band hit the studio. But EMI Records was focused on getting a lot of radio airplay out of Rage for Order. What could have been a tense artist versus business situation was mediated by Kernon, who had the job of working with the band to balance what they wanted musically with the label’s demands. A few tweaks were made to the song demoes and a decision was made to cover a track by Canadian singer Lisa Dal Bello.
“[Pre-production] took a while, during which time I slowly emphasized to them the importance of concise songs for radio. There was no need to trim all the songs down to 3:45, but we needed several to be able to have an album campaign with some legs,” Kernon told The Breakdown Room. “So, we all talked about it and decided that we'd like one more song that was quirky and had single potential. We didn't want something that was out and out poppy, but something that had the potential to be dark and weird, but was still catchy. Lisa [Dal Bello’s] song was suggested and we all loved that idea. We chose "Gonna Get Close to You" over "Wait for an Answer,” which Heart went on to record a while later.”
Kernon’s favorite cut from Rage for Order, however, was -- and continues to be -- “Screaming in Digital,” featuring the point-counterpoint lyrics of a man and a computer with artificial intelligence that has developed a personal relationship with its owner.
“There was something magical about the vibe to that song for me -- really nasty, tense, hi-tech,” Kernon recalled. “I think it symbolized [Rage for Order] for me. The only thing I had to suggest for that song was to make it longer - the demo the band played me was less than half the length of the final version, so we needed to flesh it out a bit. I still love that song.”
Kernon also played keyboards on Rage for Order, recording the parts for “Screaming in Digital” and “Neue Regel.” But some of his fondest memories were from recording the sound effects.
Kernon, in his own words:
“One of my favorite [moments] was in recording ‘Chemical Youth.’ While Whip and I were tracking his lead guitars I had told him that shouting through the guitar pickup could make an interesting sound. So, once the [lead guitar] had been completed, we set about tracking some shouting through the amp via the pickup. Michael, in his inimitable way, decided to do an impression of Vivian from the Young Ones and started shouting ‘Neil, you bastard’ at the top of his voice, while I recorded the result onto some blank tape for use at a later date.
“He was crouching on the floor screaming this insult over and over again when the door burst open and in rushed several of the studio staff, the studio manager and receptionist etc. all looking very alarmed. We just looked at them standing there, and they just asked ‘Err…is everything ok? We thought there was a fight going on.
“I was [also] apprehended by the Vancouver police while recording Geoff doing burnouts in his car, in the underground parking lot of our hotel. They said we had to stop as there had been some concern from tenants. I was, meanwhile, armed with loads of mobile recording gear, all strapped to me, so we assured the cops that we'd stop, but instead waited a while and did more once they'd left. By the way, all of these bits, the tire-squealing and the shouting were all used on the album.”
The tour to support Rage for Order had Queensryche opening for some big acts, including Bon Jovi and Ozzy Osbourne, even if the band didn't quite fit in stylistically with those bands at the time. Queensryche also brought a sixth musician along on tour – keyboardist Randy “Random Damage” Gane. Tate's former MYTH bandmate played off-stage. The tour spanned approximately seven months and by the end, Queensryche were able to squeeze in some headline shows that further expanded its fan base. That included two sold-out performances on Feb. 13-14, 1987, at L'Amours East in New York, one of the more high profile clubs in the Big Apple for hard rock and metal acts.
-- Brian Heaton
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