Heavy Metal Band Finds a Wider Audience for Its Music

WINNER of the MTV Viewer's Choice Award and nominated for four other awards in the categories of best group video, best heavy metal video, video direction, and video of the year, Queensryche (pronounced queens-rike) has catapulted into the Top 40 and caused both critics and fans to stop and listen. The group's socially aware songs touch on issues like drug abuse, homelessness, and government corruption."What we do lyrically is what we experience in life. We're putting out ideas" and letting people interpret the words. That way they can make their own decisions as to what they want to do about the problem, says Scott Rockenfield, drummer. "Our songs are no big statement. We're not trying to change the world, but we like to write about ... subjects that changed our lives." "Silent Lucidity," an acoustic-guitar ballad about a child's dreams, from their 1990 "Empire" gold album, is the song that carried Queensryche over the threshold from cult status to regular play on top 40 radio stations. The name Queensryche comes from a song off their first LP, entitled "Queen of the Ryche." The five-member group has just ended its first headlining concert tour, after opening for other groups for years. On stage at the Worcester Centrum, in Worcester, Mass., lead singer Geoff Tate exchanges quick smiles with drummer Scott Rockenfield, guitarists Chris DeGarmo, and Michael Wilton, and bassist Eddie Jackson. What sets these musicians apart from other heavy metal bands is their lyrics and the way they package their music. They have been dubbed the "Thinking Man's Metal" band by the rock-n-roll music industry. In 1988, they released "Operation Mindcrime," a 70-minute concept album, where each song is a chapter of a fictitious book. The story revolves around a man caught in an underground revolution plotting to topple a corrupt American society obsessed with drugs, sex, and money. "At the time there was a lot of corruption going on, and we tried to tap that with the record," Rockenfield says. For example, "all the religious scandals going on with the PTL and the 'Put your hands in your pockets and reach deep - Give me money and God will be with you' slogans." There can be a fine line between religion and scandal, he says. On "Empire," their most recent album, they address other social ills such as poverty, homelessness, and crack dealing. The group has refused to adopt the "sex sells" attitude in its music and videos. "It's not what our music is about so why sell our music through something we're not? For some bands it works because that is what they write about and they are just your party-type band.... That's not us." The Queensryche audience is as different as their music. "We had a girl in the front row the other day, she must have been 10 years old," says Rockenfield. "Then there are people in their 80s that we see come to our shows," he says. "We have a very wide range, though the concentration of people that come are probably anywhere from 15 to 40 [years of age], which is a bigger spread than most bands, and it's cool because anyone that can enjoy it, does." Their audience has been growing steadily. "We sell to 80 percent of the people that bought our previous record because people tend to stick with us from album to album," Rockenfield says.

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