I thought I'd do the easy one first.
I first heard of Queensryche through a semi-demo/single when I was in college called "The Lady Wore Black". It would be a few years before they released Operation:Mindcrime, a concept album based around a kind of political-thriller-with-a-love-story kind of thing. Usually lumped with such bands as Motley Crue and White Lion, Queensryche actually had some good writing chops, and a singer who could sing, not just either bellow or screech. A few years back, they toured with Dream Theater. The last cut on O:M is probably my favorite song of theirs - I just like the arrangement. "Eyes of a Stranger".