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Queensryche (Geoff Tate's): Frequency Unknown

It is a sad thing that at the top of this review there is a need to make a distinction between Queensryche and well, Queensryche, but after the bizarre breakdown between frontman Geoff Tate and his now ex-band mates, that is where we find ourselves. And to think that between 1986 and 1994 this band (well not this band, but you know what I mean) could do no wrong....

Elsewhere on SoT you'll find a few reviews for the Todd La Torre fronted and self titled Queensryche, an album that suggests the other faction have re-found the sound they want to follow, if not quite yet their top form. However Frequency Unknown is Tate's take on the band and in ways it surprises, but truth be told, in most ways it doesn't. FU (now that acronym wasn't an accident was it?) feels like a collection of songs trying to be something, but not quite sure what that something is. In a way it is hard to criticise an artist seemingly using all of his past influences to create his current sound but it is hard to escape the impression that this album feels manufactured to incorporate exactly the Queensryche vibe that Tate has spent recent years avoiding. Snatches of Operation:Mindcrime shimmer into view via stinging guitar stabs, Empire is recounted through bombastic austerity and remoteness and Promised Land is revisited through off-kilter themes and execution. However ladled on top of that is the overbearing outlook that many (most...) Ryche fans have grown increasingly frustrated with over the past few decades.

There's no denying that Tate still has the voice to melt hearts and vocal power to break down walls, however the ever changing cast of contributors behind him on this release certainly doesn't help the likes of "Cold", "Dare", "Running Backwards" and "Fallen" flow as they should. All the stops have been pulled out, with the likes of Kelly Gray (a fellow ex-Rychian), Robert Sarzo (Hurricane), Rudy Sarzo (Quiet Riot/Ozzy/Whitesnake), Simon Wright (AC/DC), Paul Bostaph (Slayer/Testament), Ty Tabor (Kings X), KK Downing (Judas Priest), Brad Gillis (Night Ranger), Dave Meniketti (Y&T) and Chris Poland (Megadeth) flitting in and out of songs without ever really stamping their personalities on the sound of the album. Instead this is a pure and simple case of "mine's bigger than yours" and "pulling out the big guns" bravado, when instead a focused, solid band effort would have had a far bigger impact.

"Cold" opens the album in a more modern Queensryche vein, mid-paced, ponderous and introspective. If you've enjoyed albums like Q2K or Tribe then you'll be in your element here. "Dare" then attempts to bridge the gap between Promised Land and latter day Ryche, while "Give It To You" swaggers confidently on a clean/distorted interplay that hints right back at Rage For Order, while still refusing to be a complete turnaround to the early days. "In The Hands Of God" is second rate Empire fare, "Everything" fuses commercial keyboards to a crackling Zakk Wylde like riff, "The Weight Of The World" sounds like a left over from Operation:Mindcrime II and "Running Backwards" almost feels like Grungeryche, trying to sit in Alice In Chains territory.

There's no denying it is a mixed bag and far from all being bad, even if there's not much that truly captures the imagination for long spells of time. However the well documented and now remixed sound issues on Frequency Unknown are unforgivable, taking any chances this album had of shining and smashing them to smithereens. Only the O:M like "Life Without You" manages to overcome a mix so uneven it would need a steamroller to flatten it into shape, with instruments unintentionally slipping in and out of earshot with bizarre regularity; the songs not even being on the same volume level, giving the air of "work in progress" you'd expect from a bootleg. Yes, there has been a later attempt to fix these issues, but I certainly don't need two copies of this album to contrast and compare.

Then add to all that four re-recorded Queensryche classics, "I Don't Believe In Love", "Empire", "Jet City Woman" and, of course, "Silent Lucidity" that add nothing to the originals, while showing up the lack of true inspiration elsewhere and FU becomes even harder to take.

Somewhere inside Frequency Unknown there's a decent album desperately trying to be heard - although the recent and further water muddying Tate solo album Kings And Thieves is by far superior. However in the clash of the Queensryches there's only one winner so far and they aren't led by Geoff Tate....

Track Listing
1. Cold
2. Dare
3. Give It To You
4. Slave
5. In The Hands Of God
6. Running Backwards
7. Life Without You
8. Everything
9. Fallen
10. In The Weight Of The World
11. I Don't Believe In Love (2013)
12. Empire (2013)
13. Jet City Woman (2013)
14. Silent Lucidity (2013)

Added: August 3rd 2013
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: Geoff Tate Online
Hits: 2163
Language: english

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