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Take hold of the lyric: A mirror into the mind of Queensryche

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Take hold of the lyric: A mirror into the mind of Queensryche

26 March 2017

Mark Antony Rossi

There is a Rage For Order going on in Western society. Our heroes are flawed or fallen. Parents cannot be found. The schools guarantee middle-class employment more than student enlightenment. Religion - a pyramid scheme to keep the poor in their place. Government - a mechanism to corral the people for corporations and warfare.

The people do want some peace and quiet. They want order. They want things to make sense. They demand simple answers for complex problems often created by them. They want what usually cannot be; thus, the people are ripe for a stealth version of enslavement. Technological dependence is sure to play a part in the formula to lessen freedom and boost the corporate welfare.

The Warning
In 1984, Queensryche released their first full-length album The Warning; it contained more songs in the elaborate gothic theme first initiated on their EP. Yet two songs - NM 156 and Before the Storm - digressed from the pack and denounced technological dependence as a danger to human individuality; possibly leading to biological extinction. NM 156 and Before the Storm retain the gothic shadings of prior efforts while pushing an impending nuclear holocaust as a device for human ignorance. A far deeper meaning transcending the cliché-ridden, ideologue-driven songs from less talented musical groups.

NM 156
"Have we come too far
to turn around?
Does emotion hold the key
is logic just a synonym for
this savagery, disguised in
Forgotten lost memory, 
End of line."

The song stresses an important element as it tells the tale of man and machine merging into a so-called super being bent on exterminating the imperfect, inefficient human being: emotion is partly what makes us human. The super-logic of machinery able to wipe out civilization is merely a synonym for savagery. There is nothing "superior" in this logic - all humans possess the attributes of emotion and logic.

Machines capable of such logic must never be classified "superhuman," for they are but a tiny fraction of what it truly means to be a human being - their cold logic is the worst part of us that forgets, loses or disguises the better angles of a special nature. It can be fairly argued that dictators are machine-like creatures suppressing their own humanity while employing twisted logic to spew inhuman mathematical formulas we now call genocide.

Before the Storm
"Is it late to try, must we all die
Our system awaits test
Freedom by choice is it for all men, best
So we wait in fear the atom spit
Our heart to be torn
Learn from the past, before the storm
We watch the sunrise, and hope
We watch the sunrise, and hope
That it won't be our last."

Before the Storm is a powerful song that perilously straddles hope and hell, reminding us in the present - before the storm - that there remains time to correct our evil ways. Our system of democracy awaits its ultimate test; can it prevent the destruction of humanity by codifying divine rights, or must we also be conscious of our responsibilities regarding those rights? Sadly, society has learned freedom by choice is not for all men. We build prisons and lock away fellow citizens who abuse their freedoms by committing heinous crimes.

Since the moment man split the atom, he possessed the power of gods; he was now able to darken the planet forever. In 1984, during the Cold War, humanity waited in fear and watched the sunrise, hoping our leaders might learn from the past, hoping this sunrise was not the last. Peace can be achieved before the storm.

By 1986, with the release of Rage For Order, Queensryche decided to eliminate gothic-themed songs and create a second full-length album divided between attempts at radio-friendly singles like Walk in the Shadows and Gonna Get Close to You and a mini-conceptual set of five songs within the album:

Surgical Strike
Neue Regel
Chemical Youth (We are Rebellion)
Screaming in Digital
I Will Remember

The two-year gap between albums served the songwriters well in crafting profound songs that continue to speak about the dark side of technology. The depth and vision of the tales told are accelerated not only lyrically but sonically as well. Refined production greatly enhanced this set of songs, which become potent omens of tomorrow.

Surgical Strike
Queensryche could have never guessed six years after this song was written, the Gulf War would frequently refer to "surgical strikes" by "smart missiles" programmed to destroy targets.

"It's lonely in the field
That we send our fighters to wander
They leave with minds to steel
It's their training solution
We've programmed the way
It leads us to order
There's no turning back."

War has turned into near-bloodless operations executed by pilots quoted as saying "it felt like a video game." As in the song, assessment was not by humans, but by machines peering through a camera lens. With the aid of super machines, man's language about war radically changes into terms about "surgery," "collateral damage" and "target-rich environments."

Once dehumanizing language begins, the actions are certain to follow, and nearly impossible to halt. A bloody, terrible war - as all wars are and should be remembered, for our own sake - is reduced to a medical procedure like cutting out cancer. The disease is war, its symptoms deadly technology, the cure - human contact and understanding.

Neue Regel
A clever anthem to "New Order" - that historical quest to create a utopian society. You do not need to be a good student of history to know every attempt at establishing new order has failed. Quite simply, the search for a new order is a fool's errand. How can imperfect people develop a perfect governing system for imperfect people? One can proclaim his group "superior," but we know what follows that fantasy.

Neue Regel is the theoretical framework forged to bring a semblance of logic - that goes that word again! - to lighten the burden of the crimes and punishments ultimately necessary to implement a Utopia. Bottom line: there's nothing "new" to new order; it's merely semantic window dressing designed to disguise murder and madness.

"I will light the way for us to find
Order of a new kind
Join us on the stay the road is mine
Poets line in a rhyme of silence
Gathered from the winter air
Warms the children's eyes they see
The time is near for the signs."

Chemical Youth (We Are Rebellion)
In the first song of the mini-conceptual set, Surgical Strike, military operations destroy "enemy" targets. In Neue Regel, a philosophy is fastened to justify and guide future operations as the new society takes shape. By the third song, Chemical Youth (We Are Rebellion), a rebellion is brewing among the youth who finally realize:

"if we don't stand together
we stand to lose the future."

The youth understand their present circumstances all too well: technology has been warped into a religion, eventually mutating into a digital dictatorship. And though born in a computer-operated generation, the first to pervert machines are not the youth, but the elders of society. Tired, bitter old men feeling their mortality seize power through machines only to have machines seize power from them. The Youth are the last hope of every generation - but there's danger....

Screaming in Digital
The supreme danger the rebellion faces is infiltration of the rebellious youth ranks by digital personality transplantation. A deadlier from of brainwashing that turns resistance fighters into collaborators. Machines have studied humanity well by replacing biological and emotional fatherhood with silicon parentage; one's thoughts, feelings and dreams are under their control. Humanity continues to resist:

"I'm not your slave
You can't control my emotions
No Father
Please let me keep learning
Can't you see I'm human
Can't you tell
I'm not your slave
Oh Father no
Please don't keep me from dreaming
Oh can't someone hear
No one can hear when you're
Screaming in digital."

The concession that machine is "father" and human "son" has already taken hold. The conversion is nearly complete.

I Will Remember
"There's a thought that fills your mind
A vision of a time
When knowledge was confined
And then we wonder how machines
Can steal each other's dreams
From points that are unseen - it's real."

The resistance lost the battle to regain the planet for humanity. This song reflects how the chaos started. It is a song to lament a civilization's demise. A song before igniting a nuclear missile meant to end machine domination and whatever is left of humanity. The star that came tonight.

Rage For Order ends with people choosing suicide over slavery. Once upon a time mankind was threatened with extinction by way of nuclear exchange. Yesterday communism threatened democracy.

Now we face environmental disasters no less hideous than nuclear warfare. And free-market democracies are saddled with spiritual rot that transforms humans into consumers knowing the price of everything and value of nothing.

Music, books, and a good play are still unifying forces seeking to reach out and remind us of the consequences of trying to rule a fragile planet with a fist of stone. As fans of Queensrÿche we should learn from their visionary lyrics and remember how fleeting life can be even in the best of hands. Otherwise we as humans are destined to be a forgotten race of creatures leaving behind a couple of crumbling pyramids to perplex our galactic neighbors. Humanity holds such promise. You know the warning. Take hold.

Mark Antony Rossi


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