Chapter VI: Promised Land?
From the end of 1992 through 1994, times were difficult for some of the band members. While a couple of the guys enjoyed well-earned vacations, others struggled with personal demons and a whole host of family problems. Rumors circulated that the band had even broken up during this time period - with Tate admitting later that he felt he was close to leaving the band.
Eventually, all five members of Queensryche got together in a log cabin in the San Juan Islands called "Big Log" to write and record what would become Promised Land. It was revealed in 2012 that the Promised Land sessions were filled with tension between DeGarmo and Tate. Both Rockenfield and Tate had gone through divorces and rumors floated that DeGarmo helped put a roof over Tate’s head during the time period, which could have played a role in the disagreements.
As artists, difficult times usually mean a well of ideas to draw upon, and Queensryche was no exception. The lyrics of the Promised Land album connected in a theme of self-examination – the idea of someone reaching the pinnacle of what they are told is "success" and realizing they left a lot of their lives behind attempting to reach a goal. Musically, If Operation: Mindcrime was Queensryche's heavy metal conceptual opus, Promised Land was the band's nod to Pink Floyd and cerebral hard rock.
Released in October 1994, Promised Land eventually sold more than one million copies. The number was respectable, but a significant drop from the sales of Empire. Although EMI got behind Promised Land with a massive marketing campaign, it had been four years since the release of Empire – a lifetime in the music industry. By that time, the mainstream audience was more interested in Seattle's grunge movement, as Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains and Soundgarden had taken the Pacific Northwest and the world by storm.
Promised Land also wasn't as accessible as Empire, turning off fans that had jumped aboard the Queensryche bandwagon during the heights of melodic hard rock in the late 1980s and early 1990s. As a result, the support from MTV the band had received from 1989-1992 disappeared. Videos made for "I Am I," "Bridge," and "Dis-con-nec-ted" were aired just briefly in late 1994 and early 1995, leaving the band without much TV and mainstream attention.
The touring cycle for Promised Land was shorter than the one for Empire - but no less stunning, visually and musically. A few warm-up dates were scheduled for late 1994, but the “Road to the Promised Land" tour kicked off in earnest in early 1995 in Europe, concluding in late July of that year in the United States. The entire Promised Land album was performed (although not in sequence), along with familiar hits and some rare cuts from The Warning and Rage for Order. An interest tidbit for hardcore fans -- Queensryche did an instrumental cover of The Rolling Stones' "Waiting On a Friend" during a guest spot on a European music channel.
Much like the Building Empires tour, video footage enhanced the music and dramatic scenes were performed live by the band, including a second stage made-up as a bar to perform the album's title track. Tate took on a more theatrical role on this tour, expanding the stage acting approach he incorporated on the previous tour when Operation: Mindcrime was presented in its entirety.
Queensryche offered up a section of seats each night to fans that wanted to record their performances and solicited copies in an effort to release an “official bootleg” of the Promised Land tour. Despite fan outcry for the footage, no official DVD has ever surfaced from the band. Fans also were given opportunities to view the concert from the stage as “bar patrons” during the performance of the song, “Promised Land.”
To tide fans over until its next release, Queensryche released in 1996 what could be the first band-related video game. Called the “Promised Land CD-Rom,” the game featured five distinct worlds where players could explore the personalities of each band member. Along the way, users have to solve riddles and search for pieces of the Queensryche totem pole depicted on the Promised Land album cover. Once all pieces of the totem are recovered, the game reveals its reward – a new acoustic song from Queensryche titled “Two Mile High.”
-- Brian Heaton
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