Chapter IV: 1986-1987: Rage for Order Era
By Brian Heaton
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 this author 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.
"We wanted [Rage for Order] to be uncompromisingly cold sonically," Kernon said.
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 said. "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.
Rage for Order
Title: Rage for Order
Walk in the Shadows -- (DeGarmo/Tate/Wilton)
Key Tracks: Screaming in Digital, Neue Regel, Walk in the Shadows
It is safe to say that Rage for Order is where Queensr˙che got its most "progressive" as a band, at least in the sense of how the word is defined today. Incorporating a number of time changes, keyboard work, use of samples, and experimental guitar work, Rage for Order ended up influencing bands of note in both the progressive and gothic subgenres of hard rock and metal.
Writing for Rage for Order commenced in 1985, shortly after the tour for The Warning concluded. As mentioned earlier, while most of the material was written and arranged before heading into the studio, pre-production took a while becaues the band's blossoming progressive tendencies and the label's wish for a radio campaign. But Kernon mediated between the band and label. He explained to Queensryche that not everything had to be boiled down to less than four minutes, but they also had to have a few that fit that mold and the label's expectations.
The band bought into the idea, and Rage for Order ended up with a bunch of shorter cuts, without sacrificing the song in order to make it happen. Aggressive tracks such as "Walk in the Shadows," "The Whisper," and "Surgical Strike" clock in under four minutes, yet they maintain musical complexities that set them apart from some of the band's earlier work. In addition, some of the more "epic" songs on Rage for Order, such as "Neue Regel" and "London" are only slightly longer than the aggressive tunes, but contain a distinctly powerful and magestic vibe that make them feel longer than they really are.
The music on Rage for Order is rightly lauded by fans as complex and dark, with those progressive and gothic leanings shinging through. But it's the lyrical theme that really set the stage for Queensr˙che's ascension with Operation: Mindcrime a few years later. According to Tate, while not a concept album, Rage for Order has a three-tiered lyrical theme running through the songs: Personal, Political, and Technological. The album title is also a contradiction itself: rage and order.
For the sake of brevity, this essay won't go through each song and highlight how each contains pieces of the theme. But if you sit down with the lyrics, listen to the record, and pay attention to things, you'll easily spot all the references.
Of note, however, is "Screaming in Digital," a song that is a conversation between an artificial intelligence (son) and the human (father) who created it. The song encapsulates what Rage for Order is all about, lyrically, and is consider by many to be sequel (some make an argument for prequel) to "NM 156" on The Warning. Queensr˙che also played the tracks back-to-back over the years, cementing that theory.
"Screaming in Digital" straddles all three themes on Rage for Order, and creates arguably the record's strongest statement, despite it being one of the album's shortest cuts (3:39). According to Kernon, apparently when the band came up with the initial idea for it, it was even shorter, about 2:30. Kernon said he immediately heard the potential in the track and encouraged the band to flesh it out a bit so they could use it. The demo Queensr˙che recorded for it is actually the same length as the album version, a little less polished, and significantly creepier.
As mentioned earlier, Queensryche recorded a cover of "Gonna Get Close to You," which ended up being one of the singles from Rage for Order, and the only video the band shot for the album. The band also recorded Simon & Garfunkel's "Scarborough Fair" during this time period. The tune wouldn't appear on the album, but was resurrected as a b-side in 1990, appearing on the CD single for "Empire" in 1990. "Prophecy," which was tagged onto later releases of the EP, was also recorded during the Rage for Order sessions.
There were a few leftover songs that were demoed by Queensryche for Rage for Order that have never seen a public release: The title track, "The Dream" and "From the Darkside." The title track featured a very "pre-Queensryche-like" Geoff Tate vocal delivery. Geoff showed his penchant for rap/spoken type of vocal here. The tune was scrapped, but pretty much everything except the verses and chorus were resurrected as an instrumental ("Anarchy-X") on Queensr˙che's next album, Operation: Mindcrime.
"The Dream" was only partially fleshed out, clocking in at just over 2:30. It has a big chorus, and probably could have been turned into a decent full tune on Rage for Order. It absolutely sounds like a song that could fit comfortably next to "The Whisper" or "Chemical Youth."
"From the Darkside," however, sounds like a fully completed tune, and has a length of just over five minutes. It has a bit of a MYTH (Tate's band prior to Queensr˙che) feel to it, and as a result, it is certainly one of the quirkier cuts Queensr˙che has ever done. The verses are more spoken-word from Tate, but it works in the context of the song, and the album's three-layered theme. The verses contain a pretty basic riff with an acoustic guitar underneath. The chorus is the title of the song, with "ohhhhh oh ohhhhh" repeated afterward, with no real instrumentation. The solo, however, really captures the dark mood of the song.
In this author's opinion, it is unfortunate that "From the Darkside" was never properly recorded. While it was certainly different from the rest of the songs on the record, and given the amount of mid-tempo and ballads on Rage for Order, it made sense not to move forward on this one, it really could have added to the depth of the album.
Rage for Order was recorded in Bellevue, Wash., Vancouver, Canada, and Glendale, California.
In 2003, EMI remastered the Queensr˙che catalog, including Rage for Order. It is not recommended for audiophiles, because it was redlined (as were all the 2003 reissues and subsequent repackages), but the Rage for Order remaster does help boost up some of the effects so that they are audible. Kernon noted to me that the initial pressing of the record was "quiet" and "bass-lite," which the remaster addressed. It contains four bonus tracks: live versions of "Walk in the Shadows" and "The Killing Words," an acoustic remix of "I Dream in Infrared," and the 12" single version of "Gonna Get Close to You."
Depending on the pressing, the color of Rage for Order's cover varied. The initial pressing featured the blue ring. It was later changed to black so that the wording could be read better. The Japanese pressing featured a black marble color ring. These are a few examples of the vinyl covers. The cassette versions varied as well, with multiple shades of blue, before eventually being black. The "blue ring" cassette is one of the rarest editions. "Blue ring" vinyl is also rare, but not as rare as the cassette. Below are various examples of the vinyl and cassette releases.
The Rage for Order Tour (1986-1987)
Queensryche's touring on the Rage for Order record cycle consisted primarily of opening for other bands. Queensryche had stints supporting Bon Jovi, AC/DC and Ozzy Osbourne, generally playing 30-45 minute sets. Queensryche's staging was fairly simple, given their status as openers. The exception, however, was Scott Rockenfield's "tubular" drum set, which featured what looked like high-tech metal tubes going around his kit.
In addition, since Rage for Order featured a heavy dose of keyboards, Randy Gane, Tate's old bandmate in Myth, was also a guest on the tour, playing keyboards off-stage for the band. Tate also played a small bit of rhythm guitar on the Rage tour to beef up the sound during instrumental sections, likely due to Gane handling all the keyboard parts, and Tate having nothing to do on-stage.
Queensryche's support and headline sets featured five-to-six songs from Rage for Order and a smattering of songs from the EP and The Warning. The band also debuted a medley of "The Lady Wore Black," "Nightrider" and "Blinded" that they played at headline gigs in Feb. 1987.
Here are examples of the opening and headlining sets on this tour:
1986-1987 Rage for Order Era Scrapbook