Which band’s approach to songwriting do you prefer? Which band’s musicianship do you think is better? Which of these two bands, overall, taking everything into account, is the best progressive metal band there’s ever been? If you think some other band, like Fates Warning is better than either, that’s understandable too. I especially love early Fates Warning when they had John Arch on vocals.
I chose these two because in my recollection Queensryche was recognized as the pre-eminent progressive metal band of the 1980s and Dream Theater was recognized as such for the next decade (I realize there is some overlap so these time distinctions are approximate).
Personally I much prefer Queensryche and having listened to much more of them than Dream Theater, as a result I’m not nearly as familiar with Dream Theater’s catalog of work. Taking that into consideration, you may want to take the following statement with a grain of salt: In comparing what it is the two bands try to achieve, it seems to me that Dream Theater is more concerned with displays of virtuosity by each member of the band while Queensryche (I’m referring to the era I’m most familiar with - their self titled debut EP through their Empire album) despite frequent displays of virtuosity by vocalist Geoff Tate, who I consider one of the top three vocalists in the history of heavy metal, is less concerned with virtuosic, highly technical displays of musicianship than Dream Theater is and more concerned with the quality of the songwriting and the overall emotional impact their songs have on the listener.
Like most bands, both Queensryche and Dream Theater have songwriting as a high priority, but to me it seems that Queensryche, while being a progressive metal band of very good musicians, have put songwriting higher on their priority list than Dream Theater who strike me more as a band that wants listeners to say “Oh My God! Did you hear that guitar solo? Did you hear that drum fill? Did you hear what the bass player did there?”
To make it clear, I’m FAR from being against frequent displays of virtuosity. My favorite guitarist is Yngwie Malmsteen. I don’t see a direct link between the talent that allows someone to become a virtuoso level musician and the quality of one’s songwriting. There are plenty of virtuoso level players whose songs I don’t care for, while some of my favorite bands have musicians who are very competent but certainly not virtuosos.
I appreciate displays of virtuosity but I appreciate a good song even more. Sometimes you get lucky enough to find a song you love which does have displays of virtuosity. The era during which a song was released also matters. In their era, Led Zeppelin was one of the most capable, highly skilled rock guitarists in the world. To this day you’d be hard pressed to find a rock guitarist who has the diversity of high level abilities Page had. To have the lead ability to play a solo like the one in “Since I’ve Been Loving You” and then have the rhythm guitar knowledge and songwriting ability to write and perform the rhthym guitar parts in songs like “The Rain Song” and “The Song Remains The Same” is stunning.
Between Queensryche and Dream Theater, which band’s approach do you like better and which of the two bands do you prefer? Again, I realize I’m not objective here; I can’t be because I like Queensryche too much. You may think Dream Theater has better musicianship as well as better songwriting than Queensryche. I’m interested in hearing a variety of different perspectives as to which is the quintessential progressive metal band although I realize that for some, the answer to that will be “neither.”