Despite the what the album cover might suggest, we are before Bohemian Rhapsody.
Queen had written a lot of material by the time they released their debut album (Queen) but didn’t feature a lot of it. The main aim for the first album was to establish the sound of the band, and it did, indeed I may review that soon. The point of Queen II, however, was to try and expand the sound; longer studio time was given and a more fantasy based theme was allowed.
The album is split into two sides, not labelled A and B, but rather the white side and black side. The first side is more songs about life and love, while the latter focuses on themes of a completely different fantasy world. This phased out in the later years but nevertheless the “adolescent” Queen sound has its place.
The white side first then. We open with Procession, a rarer instrumental track, it’s short and opens with a continuous pulse – almost a heartbeat sound, followed by the over-driven sounds of May and Deacon on the guitars, well it’s identifiable.. and we break fully into the first main track Father To Son. It’s exactly what you expect from the title, quite inspirational and showing a fondness from a familial perspective; the father can be proud of all the things the son will achieve:
Take this letter that I give you,
Take it sonny, hold it high
You won’t understand a word that’s in it
But you’ll write it all again before you die
Musically it’s solid with a very heavy layered queen guitar sound. This album is quite heavy in the way of the rock sound, an inkling that queen could have possibly gone metal, though the implication is minor.
White Queen is pretty lovely, a slower number on unrequited love; the lyrics sound like they are from a bygone era, lots of “thee”s and “upon”s. It’s pretty simple with some nice chord sequences and a solid choral sound that is even somewhat replicated by the guitars too. The next track Someday One Day has some great chord sequences but represents something like Queen at the bare bones; it’s uncomplicated and a little minimal but it’s nice enough. I don’t know the track just left me wanting more!
The white side closes with Loser in the End and it’s a Roger Taylor one, you can tell with that heavier more straightforward sound. I like these songs punctuating through Queen albums as a general rule; it really showcases now the diversity of sound of the band. It also represents a mild punk free in the advent of punk music!
And now… the black side… Everything is more conjoined here with the songs, existing in their own right but they flow into each other. Ogre Battle is a heavy number which starts with a heavy rock out, played backwards and opening with that sort of vocal buildup you expect from the Flash Gordon music creators. It’s a tale and it’s once again teetering on the edge of metal with its heavy and power bass and guitar parts. It’s fun but then proceeds into the work of art that is The Fairy Feller’s Master-Stroke, easily my favourite track of the album. Amazing sound, chord sequences and harmonies. I just love the sound and urge people check this one, it’s vocally and musically brilliant, especially that epic mid section at around 1 min 45 secs.
Nevermore takes the ending of the previous track and turns it into a slower ballad, it’s a filler track of sorts but with a lovely melody but then it’s gone and we’re into The March of the Black Queen. This one has that epic feel, and why not, this kind of style is so representative of Queen, a little nonsensical but mostly musically rich and with great tunes – another one you should check out!
The album begins to close with Funny How Love Is, which should probably be seen as a pre-finale, it’s just building all the sound we’ve heard to the natural conclusion, the one that everyone remembers and probably the only lasting track for many from Queen II, and that’s Seven Seas of Rhye. It’s a great sound, Queen meets The Who and it’s just that definitive close for the album. It’s fun, memorable and just that one that would feature in every concert for years to come.
So it’s an interesting one; reviewing a group before they’ve achieved everything they were going to. It’s like Michael Jackson’s Off The Wall. Queen aren’t quite there yet but they have created a sound that many said they should stick to. This is a peg in the Queen history, even if it is a little blurred on what Queen would become.
Is this album for you?
It’s void of well known numbers bar the last track so it’s more for those that want to listen to a bit of early Queen or rather their back catalogue. I think it’s worth it but I do like Queen. If you can, check out The Fairy Feller’s Master-Stroke and The March of the Black Queen.
- Writing: 8/10
- Performance: 9.5/10
- Style: 8/10