(Dominion 1997, Metal Blade 1999)
“Really? Quiet Riot is opening for Savatage? Ok, cool. Come on feel the noise, I guess.” That’s what I said to myself when my new college co-ed friend told me who was going to be opening for the mighty Savatage. This show was going to be really interesting. Oh, it was, but not in the way I had expected.
Now, let’s set the stage a bit for this scenario. It was 1994, I had recently turned 18, and Savatage was one of my favorite bands on the planet. I was, naturally, completely devastated and heartbroken when I learned of Criss Oliva’s tragic death the previous October. Still, I was not about to miss Savatage, now with Testament’s Alex Skolnick on guitar, when they rolled through Denver that November. Plus, this was an 18-and-up show, so it was destined to be a historic moment for me: my first-ever metal concert.
Of course, life rarely works out how one expects. When the opening act took the stage the night of the Savatage show, I definitely didn’t see Kevin Dubrow or Rudy Sarzo. I didn’t hear anything resembling “Metal Health” or “Come on mama, we’re all crazee now!” What I did witness was five unknown longhairs wearing regular jeans and t-shirts, and playing some of the most amazing and technical metal I’d ever heard in my nascent life. Their sound was pristine and powerful, the riffs heavy and crunchy, the vocals melodic and piercing. The duo of shredding guitarists played some of the most intricate and deliciously harmonized riffs known to metalkind. Most importantly, their music was dynamic and exciting, a veritable roller coaster of sonic peaks and valleys. Oh yeah, the band’s logo on the bass-drum head read, “The Quiet Room.” Oops, that explains my little auditory mix-up.
The Quiet Room’s inspiring 30-minute set prompted me to immediately hit their merch booth and shill out $5 for their Demo ‘93 cassette. This three-song tape (yes, remember those things? I’ve still got a tape deck in my 23-year-old Toyota) presented an enticing sample of TGR’s unique brand of progressive metal, albeit in a raw form. I remember all three tracks were copied on both sides of the tape, so there was no need for the rewind button or auto reverse. Anyway, I was already so geeked about this band that I wrote a letter to the address printed on the insert. Jason Boudreau, one of TQR’s guitarists and band co-founder/leader, wrote me a prompt and friendly response. That began a pen-pal correspondence that lasted a few years through many local Denver shows, including one TQR performance I witnessed at Metropolitan State College’s student union. Also on the bill that school day was a prog-metal trio called Killing Time, fronted by an up-and-coming young guitarist/vocalist named Chris Broderick. Meanwhile, TQR released their five-song Promo ‘95 CD and their long-awaited full-length debut, Introspect. Originally released in 1997 through Dominion Records, Introspect represented the apotheosis of progressive metal in America.
On Introspect, TQR were proudly flying the flag of melodic, intelligent, and technical prog metal ala Queensryche, Fates Warning, and Dream Theater, albeit with a more song-oriented approach than the latter act. The DT reference is strengthened mainly by the addition of keyboardist Jeff Janeczko, whose lush and fluid lines added more depth to TQR’s twin-guitar attack. But make no mistake, TQR was a phenomenal GUITAR band; the duo of Boudreau and George Glasco specialized in writing fast, technical, and harmonized riffs, usually followed by shredding but always melodic and memorable solos. TQR balanced their speedier moments with heavier, groove-based riffs (not dissimilar to Pantera), and plenty of mellower sections with clean-guitar arpeggios. Vocalist Chadd Castor could hit the stratospheric notes like a Dickinson or Tate, but he also possessed a bit of a rasp and nasally tone similar to Geddy Lee. Drummer Mike Rice and bassist Josh Luebbers buoyed the rhythm section with intricacy and power, while also lending a jazzy texture to the proceedings.
Introspect crushes right from the opening gallops and blistering, intricate and harmonized guitar riffing of “A Difference Scene.” Another brand new song, “Grudge,” features a wickedly heavy and staccato groove of a main riff; this more mid-tempo tune showcases the band’s disparate influences. Next up are three masterful songs originally recorded for Promo ’95: “Second Time Around,” “Altered Past,” and “Drowning.” These songs embody TQR’s seamless blend of pounding groove, blazing rhythm guitar interplay, and mellow sections for dynamic effect. Other standout cuts include the heartbreakingly somber ballad, “Holding On,” the incisive speed metal glory of “Extramental,” and the dramatic one-two punch of the piano-based “Suspended Seconds” into “Undetermined.”
Obviously, Introspect is a good record – a damn, great record, in fact. It created enough of a splash for Metal Blade to re-release it in 1999. TQR released one more album on Metal Blade, Reconceive, in 2000 to mixed reception. After putting out one last demo in 2002, TQR disbanded. Though it always seems a shame when a great band becomes lost to posterity, the music lives as long as we strive to remember it. This thought, and album, deserves some introspection.
--Review by Jonathan Kollnot