Tribe is the eighth full-length studio album by the Seattle based Progressive Metal band Queensrÿche. It was released in 2003 to mixed reviews, and of all of Queensrÿche’s albums to date it is probably the most misunderstood and underrated.
Following on the heels of the unpopular Q2K album, and featuring a credibility-questionable semi-return from former guitarist Chris DeGarmo which some fans accused of being cynical, the album is sometimes unfairly dismissed as being an awful record that fans should avoid.
In my opinion there is still actually quite a lot to like about Tribe and it is by no means the band’s worst outing to date. The band have always been big fans of evolution, and never made two albums in a row that sounded much alike. Tribe has its own sound like all Queensrÿche albums do, even though people sometimes lump it in with the previous two records as being ‘that alternative period.’
Though it uses Alternative Rock influences like Hear In The Now Frontier and Q2K as well as Alternative Metal influences like Operation Mindcrime 2, it uses them in a different way, like all Queensrÿche albums do, only this time it’s a way that almost makes some concessions to their earlier sounds and consequently Tribe feels very much like Queensrÿche even though you wouldn’t really expect it to given the fan reaction it received. I have to admit that after reading about its reputation, and after hearing Q2K, I didn’t really expect the album to be one of the band’s better efforts, but upon hearing it initially, and indeed after listening to it numerous times, I was surprised by just how much I did end up liking it.
The three heavier numbers, ‘Open’ ‘Tribe’ and ‘Desert Dance’ have that mixture of slow Metal, an eastern flavour and an Alternative feel that the heavier moments on Promised Land like ‘Damaged’ and ‘I Am I’ had. ‘Desert Dance’ incorporates a few controversial touches of Nu Metal and ‘Tribe’ has a mixture of Grunge-gone-Psychedelic guitar and tribal percussion that actually brings to mind Undertow-era Tool.
‘The Art Of Life’ has something of the feel of classic closers like ‘The Lady Wore Black’ and ‘Roads To Madness’ about it, (highlighted on ‘The Art Of Live’s acoustic rendition of Roads To Madness’) although obviously through the filter of Alternative Metal rather than classic Heavy Metal. Not to mention that its main riff is vaguely similar to the vocal pattern from ‘The Killing Words’ off of Rage For Order.
Finally, the ballads ‘Rhythm Of Hope’ ‘Doing Fine’ and album highlight ‘Great Divide’ (which I’d recommend that even if you skip the album, you still check out this one song) all have the feel of the band’s great lineage of ballads like ‘Silent Lucidity,’ ‘Della Brown’ ‘Bridge’ and ‘I Will Remember.’ Admittedly, they aren’t just as good, and they are once again played through an Alternative filter, but that doesn’t diminish their quality all to significantly as long as you don’t just outright dislike anything Alternative sounding.
The only real place where the album feels like a bit of a let down for me is in the second and fourth track as well as, more importantly, in the order of the tracks. ‘Loosing Myself’ has that post-Tate’s discovery of U2 feel that ‘Burning Man’ and ‘Wot Kinda Man’ from Q2K had, and ‘Loosing Myself’ has great lyrics and some great acoustic guitar work but the wrong chorus for a song in that point of the album.
I personally rearranged the album in my music library so that ‘Tribe’ and ‘Blood’ are tracks two and four, and this way the album flows a hell of a lot better (I’d recommend this to people who haven’t heard the album yet incidentally, do it before hand and you’ll get a better first impression.)
Overall; I think that if it had of had a more open minded and accepting fan base, if it had followed up Promised Land, which it spiritually does rather than chronologically does (which would also have made the band’s career trajectory feel more natural), if the situation with Chris had not been unclear or misrepresented in the press and if it had have been two tracks shorter with the tracks placed in a slightly different order, then Tribe would actually be a very good album that a lot of people liked.
This isn’t the case however, and as it stands Tribe is a good but mildly flawed album with a disproportionately bad reputation but a lot of potential. OK, if you only like Prog Metal that still sounds like Power Metal or Thrash Metal you probably mightn’t like it, and if you dislike the Alternative sound it may well just be irredeemable, but equally if you are the kind of fan who isn’t as strict with their tastes as the stereotypical quick-to-cry-foul Metalhead, then there is a hell of a lot to enjoy about Tribe and it can offer a few great new Queensrÿche songs for your collection.