Tate; Geoff: Kings & Thieves
It would be fair to suggest that the last couple of years have been incredibly controversial as far as former and, well current, Queensryche frontman Geoff Tate is concerned. 2011 saw the release of the lambasted Ryche record Dedicated To Chaos, which was (maybe slightly) unfairly ridiculed, maligned and hated by fans and critics alike - in all honesty I can think of few rock/metal albums which received such harsh treatment right across the board. Since then, amidst rumours and allegations of being the perpetrator of physical and mental abuse towards his bandmates, as well as curtailing what songs from their catalogue the band could perform live and all other manner of other accusations, Tate was ousted from the band he had been a part of for over 30 years. Whatever the truth behind the stories, the fallout has been massive and far reaching, with Queensryche continuing with singer Todd La Torre (Crimson Glory) behind the mic, while Tate announced his own version of the band alongside the likes of Rudy Sarzo, Bobby Blotzer and ex-Rychian Kelly Gray. Confused? It looks like we will be......
All the while, it would appear, in the background and with the help of respected prog label InsideOut, Geoff Tate has been preparing his second solo outing Kings & Thieves, with its cover depicting a fleur-de-lis morphing into the Queensryche "tri-ryche" logo. His first venture outside Queensryche, 2002's simply titled Geoff Tate saw the singer hoping to illustrate his less obvious influences, with the results being, shall we say inconsistent. However this time, wisely, Tate has stayed closer to home in terms of style and it would be fair to suggest that much of K&T would sit comfortably and confidently in the latter half of the Ryche's catalogue. Although even that will not excite some long time fans of the band and the man. Kelly Gray handles all guitars and bass on the album, with Randy Gane playing keyboards and Gregg Gilmore manning the drums, making for an album that certainly sparkles as far as the performances are concerned, while the production by Tate and mixing by Gray are simply sublime. Tate as ever gives a peerless demonstration of heartfelt vocals, with his deep, resonating voice still holding an impressive range and convincing attack. Add to that some well though through vocal arrangements and the only thing left to make Kings & Thieves a complete triumph is a collection of captivating songs. Something that is for the large part just about achieved.
At this stage of the review, we'll have to split into two camps. Those who have bought into Queensryche from 1997's Hear In The Now Frontier through to the excellent American Soldier (2009) (let's leave Dedicated To Chaos to one side shall we??) and those who have seen these years as something to be more endured than enjoyed. If you are the former, then step into Kings & Thieves and settle down for a journey across some enigmatic, mid-paced songs with thought provoking lyrics and lofty ambitions. If you are from the latter school of thought, then I doubt I can convince you to engage with this album, as a quick skim through will basically confirm your fears as to its direction. "She Slipped Away" starts things off in upbeat fashion musically, if not lyrically, with sublime harmony vocals jostling with singing guitar motifs and a feeling of dark claustrophobic hope, while the overly repetitive "Take A Bullet" grunts and riffs in a modern, atmospheric manner. Adding samples and effects "Say U Luv It" stretches the Tate palette, without really convincing, while "Change" brings sumptuous strings and a stunning guitar display to the party. Although it is "These Glory Days" with its Blackmore like solo that really allows Gray to shine the brightest.
Stomping with intent "The Way I Roll" bristles sharply, while "Tomorrow" and "Dark Money" continue in a similar vein. And even for long time followers of Tate, there is the biggest problem with Kings & Thieves. It all sounds very similar. Yes, the lyrics dance from themes such as corporate greed, political ambivalence and society's crumblings (although some of the words could sound like more of a comment on his previous band 'When it feels like you've gone mad, With a loss of truth gone bad, You hold on tight with all your might, To the good times that you've had, But everybody tells a different story, In These Glory Days' from "These Glory Days"), but musically things are very single paced and the overall atmosphere is overbearing and intense. None of that is necessarily a bad thing and the bright, punchy production helps immensely. However there's no getting away from the fact that it is possible at times to shut off from the music, as it fails to continually hold your attention.
Far from being the car crash that circumstances (and Dedicated To Chaos) suggested that this album might be, Kings & Thieves will satisfy many, yet possibly frustrate even more. That doesn't stop it from being an album delivered from the heart and assembled in fine style. Those expecting Queensryche's glory days (no pun intended) will be disappointed and misguided, those with a more open mind towards what Geoff Tate has served up in recent years will be rewarded, although not quite as richly as hoped for.
1. She Slipped Away
2. Take A Bullet
3. In The Dirt
4. Say U Luv It
5. The Way I Roll
8. Dark Money
9. These Glory Days
Added: October 29th 2012
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: Geoff Tate Online
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|Tate; Geoff: Kings & Thieves
Posted by Mark Johnon, SoT Staff Writer on 2012-10-28 23:08:47
Ok, so I am a Queensr˙che fan. But I am a fan of their 90s efforts. Tate had one of the best vocals of that era. No question of that, as record sales rightly prove.
But lately Queensr˙che's albums have left me and other fans wanting more. So when I saw this new Geoff Tate solo album available as a demo, I thought, "Give it a try"! Sure…why not.
Well, when you look at classics like "Silent Lucidity", the "Comfortably Numb" of that age, you imagine the songwriter and lead vocalist will do a better job outside the parameters of a band setting…right? But then again, songwriting credit for "Silent Lucidity" and "Anybody Listening?" go to Chris DeGarmo.
Well, "She Slipped Away" rolled by like something off the last military – themed album I was so hoping to receive and now never play. But "Take a Bullet" brought me back to the 90s and "Empire". The reason I keep coming back for this band and its lead singer. That album has so many great memories of good times. But the space between then and now keeps getting wider.
I was never a "Operation Mindcrime" fan, but "Promised Land" and "Hear in the Now Frontier" still resonated well. "Tribe" was good, but it would be the jumping off point for me.
So "In the Dirt" has a good solid feel to it, but lacks lyrical depth.
Where is the influence of "Silent Lucidity" I kept saying to myself as I listened? Must be tough. You make a great song and that is the only one anyone wants to hear anymore, or everyone compares every song to that one. But "Empire", "Anybody Listening?", "Jet City Woman", and "Best I Can" were some of the best songs of that era of Seattle metal. Surely Tate can get back to that kind of songwriting?
"Say U Luv It" is good, powerful, and he even brings in some very cool synths to support. The guitars are awesome.
"The Way I Roll" finally brings back some of the swag and power I remember. The guitar is excellent. Keys perfect. Sax. Yah…that's better, but we're halfway through the album already. But so far this track is the best.
"Tomorrow" is more of a good thing. Strong guitars and solid drums. Good vocals. "It should have been enough", but unfortunately Geoff it is not. Not when I've heard the previously referenced songs before. I know he can do more. The symphonic "Kashmir" strings will not save this one, though they do help. And this is the epic track at over 6 minutes.
"Evil" is a Zeppelinesque/Black Country Communion – like song. But we have been down that road already.
"Dark Money" opens with some promising chords and Geoff screaming into the sky like he used to back in the 90s. Maybe this is the lift – off? It is getting late in the album. What happened to the synthesizer or keys? Remember "Empire"? No one laughed at keyboards after "Any Body Listening?". Come on bring 'em back. Give us more than straight ahead rock.
"These Glory Days" sounds like another BCC song. Solid, powerful, but lacking the depth of lyrical development I remember from the 90s.
"Change", yes definitely…that is what this album desperately needed. Finally sweeping strings, keys, and orchestration. Just what the doctor ordered. But is it too late to save the album for the fans? The piano is worth the wait. Go back to this music and you'll get back to the top of the charts again. Easily the best song on the album. If only…the rest of the album had reached these heights.
"Waiting" is another fantastic track. More of what I was expecting from the whole album. Now I know every song can't be like the last. But this is what I remember from "Empire".
Yes, waiting. That is what I and many fans have been doing. I am not sure this will be enough for all of them.
Ok…now I gotta go pull out "Empire" again…and remember the good times.
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