By Carl Begai
Back on October 24th, 1991 a 22 year-old head-in-the-clouds metalhead sporting the oddball name of Carl Begai took his kid brother to see Queensrÿche at Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto. The band was soaring on the strength of their now classic Empire album, and it was a show never to be forgotten by either sibling. A cult fave of the prog metal world through the ’80s, Queensrÿche had finally (and unexpectedly) hit the big time and gave the fans an arena show to match. Of course, if you’re a fan you’re fully aware of how things have gone to hell since then. Never mind the 20 years of pussyfooting around the band’s metal roots since Empire; amidst personal and professional ugliness there are now two versions of Queensrÿche, one featuring vocalist Geoff Tate and a new line-up, the other with former Crimson Glory singer Todd La Torre taking Tate’s place fronting the (almost) original roster. A recipe for confusion that will be rewritten in January 2014 when the battle over the band name goes to court.
Twenty-two years and a day after that fateful Toronto show, I caught up with the Todd La Torre fronted incarnation of Queensrÿche – the real QR for anyone that has heard their new self-titled album – in surroundings far and away from the glory of Maple Leaf Gardens. In the middle of a European tour, the band touched down in Munich, Germany to play a simple rock club catering to only a couple hundred people, one of several steps towards rebuilding the Queensrÿche name as it should be remembered. Prior to the show we sat down to discuss Todd’s rise to fame and the band’s return to greatness.
“I was going to do both,” Todd says of leaving Crimson Glory to join Queensrÿche, which was official as of February 2013. “When I joined (side project) Rising West which then became Queensrÿche, they knew I was in Crimson Glory but they never said ‘Hey, you’ve gotta quit.’ As far as the guys were concerned, as long as I could do both and Crimson Glory wouldn’t infringe on Queensrÿche’s touring, cool. They knew I had an obligation to do a record, so they weren’t going to tell me to quit. What upset me and still does is when I read statements from Crimson saying that the writing was on the go when I joined the band, but the fact of the matter is that’s not true. I’m still friends with the guys but I haven’t talked to Jon Drenning (guitars) in over a year. When I’m back home we try to get together for dinner – me, Ben, Dana, Jeff – just to maintain that friendship. I care about those guys.”
Todd has no regrets about leaving Crimson Glory for Queensrÿche. Looking back on when the offer came down, he agrees it was a no-brainer.
“This is a dream come true… exponentially. When things went down it was like, ‘I have to do this.’ Parts of it are surreal, other parts are not because I know these guys now. We’re all very close so I don’t see them in the same way I did before just as a fan. I’m still a fan, but not the way I used to be.” Continue reading BW&BK Interview: QUEENSRŸCHE – Rebuilding The Empire
By Carl Begai
On February 7th, I was contacted by vocalist Todd La Torre, who was known first and foremost as the frontman for Crimson Glory before replacing Geoff Tate as the singer of Queensrÿche in 2012, effectively pulling double duty. After a lengthy conversation and some minor editing, La Torre handed over a press release exclusively for BW&BK (found here) announcing that, after approximately three years as Crimson Glory’s voice, he had officially resigned.
La Torre was introduced to Crimson Glory by Matt La Porte (Jon Oliva’s Pain, Circle II Circle), becoming an official member in 2010. He helped to ignite and give new life to the legendary band that had been on hiatus for nearly ten years, and mourning the loss of original vocalist Midnight. Crimson Glory emerged back into the world arena metal scene with very high praise and acceptance. La Torre toured as the new voice of Crimson Glory throughout Europe in celebration of the band’s 25th Anniversary with great success.
Talk of a new album was highly anticipated and the band appeared to be firing on all cylinders.
“We were writing the new album and things were looking good, says La Torre. “We had interest from two major European labels, which was very promising. I was very honored and proud that we were on the rise, and the fans were embracing all that we were doing. We had wonderful momentum and we were working within an important window of time within which the new record should have been recorded and released to have the most impact given the bands resurgence. Unfortunately, the record never materialized despite my best efforts.”
“My involvement with Queensrÿche had nothing to do with the album progress,” he continues. “I haven’t been contacted to write with Crimson Glory for over six months. As a band, our writing sessions were slow, eventually becoming non-existent before I ever joined Queensrÿche. During the specific timeframe that I was in talks with Queensrÿche, members of CG were simultaneously occupied by other external and internal endeavors that apparently absorbed the time and/or will away from CG, which is not fallacious per se, but it proceeded in passivity. The main reason for my resignation from Crimson Glory is primarily due to its inertia status.” Continue reading BW&BK Exclusive: QUEENSRŸCHE Vocalist Todd La Torre Resigns From CRIMSON GLORY
By Carl Begai
I recently caught up with Crimson Glory guitarist Jon Drenning for BW&BK to discuss the band’s surprising decision to carry on with a new singer (click here). “Surprising” because original vocalist Midnight, who passed away in July 2009 due to liver and kidney failure, was a defining element of the Crimson Glory sound. As far as the metal universe was concerned it could never be duplicated faithfully, with Drenning and his bandmates at the top of that list. New voice Todd La Torre has proven everyone wrong, even though he had no designs on doing so when he was asked to step up.
“Matt Laporte from Jon Oliva’s Pain and I are friends, and he told me he was doing some rehearsing with them, but it really didn’t mean anything to me,” La Torre admits. “I’d heard the name Crimson Glory before but that was about all I knew about them. Matt told me that if the guys were to hear me sing they’d shit themselves, so that night I checked out some of their stuff on YouTube. The ‘Lonely’ video was the first thing to come and I thought it was cool that the guys had been on MTV before (laughs). When I heard the first verse I though the vocals were beautiful, and I loved it. It had everything I liked in a song.”
“Long story short; when I got to the rehearsal there was a part of me that was nervous. I’d done some research on them probably two days before the rehearsal, so I was able to pick out the guys in the band from the videos (laughs). It was cool but I wasn’t really starstruck or anything like that. Sadly, and blasphemy for the true Crimson fans, I didn’t know their stuff (laughs).” Continue reading CRIMSON GLORY – In Todd We Trust
(Go to this location for Part 1)
By Carl Begai
As previously reported, Crimson Glory frontman Midnight (real name John Patrick McDonald Jr.) passed away on Wednesday, July 8th at 3:30am EST due to kidney and liver failure at the age of 47. During my recent exclusive interview with guitarist Jon Drenning, he discussed the band’s 1999 comeback album Astronomica and its connection to their Strange And Beautiful record from 1991, which was deemed a colossal flop in the wake of their 1988 breakthrough, Transcendence, due to a change in musical direction.
Drenning comments on vocalist Wade Black being tapped as Crimson Glory’s new frontman for Astronomica, making some startling revelations with regards to the writing for the album.
“Nobody could copy Midnight, but Wade fit the Crimson Glory style,” Drenning says of choosing Black, who is arguably the closest they could have gotten to a worthy successor. “Astronomica was originally written and recorded for Midnight. Continue reading CRIMSON GLORY – A Tribute To MIDNIGHT — Part 2: The Truth About Strange And Beautiful
I’ve been planning to do a Retro Fit of Transcendence for quite some time, as it’s easily in my Top 5 Metal Albums You Need To Own Or Get Out Of My Yard chart, but with the tragic death of frontman Midnight (real name John Patrick McDonald Jr.) on July 8th , 2009 it’s become a tribute to greatness. This would still read as a gushing letter of fanboyship if Midnight was with us, though, because Transcendence was an album that took everything I thought I knew about guitar / vocal / prog shred at the time and twisted it sideways. The band wasn’t being overly experimental or increasingly off-the-wall compared to their self-titled debut from ’86; there was just more of everything. Big, open air production (it could have done with more bottom-end, but them’s small potatoes), twin guitar leads for miles backed by insane shred-ability that never fell into the future Dream Theater trap of being too damn technically proficient for its own good, ballsy and unique song arrangements, and a vocal performance that remains unmatched within the genre. Continue reading CRIMSON GLORY – Transcendence (1988)