A cause to rejoice, and then some.
Though best known for being the current vocalist of Seattle heavy metal icons Queensryche, and to a lesser extent as the one-time replacement for Midnight in the immortal power/progressive metal pioneering band Crimson Glory, Todd La Torre is an artist of many layers. Prior to being launched into international prominence via his association with both aforementioned bands in his mid to late 30s, this jack-of-many-trades cut his teeth in the local Florida rock and metal scene, and built a reputation not only as a vocalist, but also an accomplished drummer with a fair amount of skill on the guitar to boot. With the touring schedule of Queensryche being put on hold due to the ongoing Covid lockdowns, the time was ripe for La Torre to flex those creative muscles that had been put on the backburner since the late 2000s in a studio capacity, hence the near perfect storm of fire and fury that is “Rejoice In The Suffering.”
Drawing from a highly diverse well of influences, it’s tempting to file this sonic venture under the genre tag ‘various,’ but the best way to truly understand the game of notes at play here would be a modernized take on traditional heavy metal with a load of peripheral variations. The obvious comparisons to present day Judas Priest and Queensryche become almost unavoidable given La Torre’s highly dynamic and raunchy vocal display, which manages to both shatter glass in that prototypical 80s fashion while also delivering a forceful kick to the teeth via a solid mid-range delivery and even dial back the intensity a bit for a crooning fit of balladry. However, a strong helping of modern groove and progressive sensibilities that lean towards a less complex take on the dark character of latter day Nevermore and Warrel Dane’s last solo offering also come into view, with the vocals becoming correspondingly rawer and more melodramatic to fit the template, to speak nothing for the occasional melodic death metal moments that creep in from time to time.
While this project flies under the name of its front man, the creation of this modern masterpiece was also made possible by the work of La Torre’s longtime friend and compatriot Craig Blackwell, whom handled the entirety of the guitar, bass and keyboard work on this opus and also produced it. A brief perusal of the riff work and lead flashes that adorns these songs reveals an accomplished virtuoso whom could have been one of a number of guitarists to cut heads with Jeff Loomis during the formative days of Nevermore, but opts for a more concise approach that splits the difference between the punch of modern metallic bluster and the vintage melodic flourishes of the 80s USPM sound. Whether it be the speed metal bombast of “Dogmata”, the groove thrashing power of “Darkened Majesty” and “Rejoice In The Suffering” (the latter featuring a wild solo exchange with Jordan Ziff of Ratt fame), or the full on speed thrashing thrill ride “Vanguards Of The Dawn Wall”, there is much to be said for the high-impact approach that Blackwell brings to the table.
But for all of the pummeling auditory fists to the gut that this album brings to bear, it should not be forgotten that La Torre’s penchant for progressive nuance makes a fair share of contributions to this album’s effectiveness. The melancholic expressions of “Crossroads To Insanity” and the build up from an acoustic ode to a flashy mid-paced cooker “Vexed” sees a more spacey clean and acoustic guitar display out of Blackwell, while the vocals bring a whole new meaning to the concept of dynamic contrast as La Torre throws just about every vocalization in existence into the mix. Further up the totem pole of melodramatic progressivism stands the dark semi-balladry of “Apology”, which almost sounds like it could have been on the last Communic or Manticora album. All that being said, the absolute coup de grace of stylistic surprises is actually found among the bonus tracks in “One By One”, which is essentially an epic power/progressive excursion with a tall order of Gothenburg-inspired melodic death trappings along for the ride, with La Torre managing to fully emulate the chaotic drumming style associated with the latter style.
Without fail, there is always an album that comes raging into the scene within the opening months that has writers such as yours truly fighting the temptation to name it album of the year, and 2021’s version of this phenomenon is pretty clearly La Torre’s and Blackwell’s colossus of a creation here. If nothing else, it provides a formidable challenge to any other acts on either side of the Atlantic with plans to release their next LP before the end of next December, and it’s among the most aggressive things to come out of the heavy metal umbrella without crossing over into extreme territory completely in recent memory. Those who have largely experienced La Torre’s voice through the medium of Queensryche’s newer albums and most recent tours will find a familiar, albeit very different experience here that may well have surpassed his work on “The Verdict.” It’s prime cut for power and progressive metal fans who like their music dark, forbidding, and with a technical edge, but pretty much any red blooded metal head will find something to like here.
Released by: Rat Pak Records
Released Date: February 5th, 2021
Genre: Heavy Metal
- Todd La Torre / Vocals, Drums
- Craig Blackwell / Guitar, Bass, Keyboards
“Rejoice In The Suffering” track-listing
Perhaps known for being the replacement of such iconic vocalists as Midnight and Geoff Tate, this Florida-born up and comer takes the metal world by storm with a brilliant solo offering that runs the gamut of just about every subset within the metallic spectrum.