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Sweet Oblivion feat. Geoff Tate: Relentless

I love Queensryche. Well, I love specific periods of Queensryche, anyways. The EP through Operation: Mindcrime are top tier classics, with Mindcrime being one of my favorite albums of all time. Empire is also very good, and is commercial melodic metal done right. The new stuff with Todd LaTorre on vocals is also very good. As you can see, there's a noticeable gap from Empire to the first LaTorre album, and the bulk of that section of their discography was largely the doing of longtime vocalist Geoff Tate. It's the humble opinion of the author that Tate damn near ruined the band for good during this era, with questionable ideas about live performances (Queensryche Cabaret) and some truly, truly awful albums like American Soldier and Dedicated to Chaos. The rest of the band seemingly had enough of his stranglehold on the direction of the band and gave him the boot, along with his wife who happened to be their manager at the time. They hooked up with LaTorre and the rest is history. This isn't a Queensryche review, but I bring this up to make it clear that I'm no fan of what Tate's been coming up with for the better part of 30 years, and honestly, I approach his newest release with Sweet Oblivion, Relentless with hesitation.

Sweet Oblivion are a project created by the minds at Frontiers Records, something they seem to be doing a lot of these days. The songwriter has changed since the debut album, with Aldo Lonobile handling the duties on Relentless. Lonobile is the guitarist and main man of Secret Sphere, who are a good band (and just released a damn good album, btw), so that's promising. Musically, it's not like Secret Sphere, which is not promising. What we have here is melodic radio metal, not all that dissimilar from the sound that dominated "Empire" so many years ago. The songs are all in the easily digestible 4-5 minute range or so, and are hooky and mid-paced. No barn burners to be had here, but that's par for the course for something like this. Lonobile does contribute some tasty solos and throws in some little proggy tidbits and fills from time to time. He clearly tried to emulate the music that backed up Tate early on in his career, and overall he did a pretty solid job.

Let's get to the elephant in the room, which is Tate's voice. He doesn't sound bad at all, but age has certainly had it's effects on his once untouchable pipes. He doesn't even attempt the air-raid, siren high, register stuff that was all over 'Ryche's early discography, and that's obviously for the best. There's a lot of miles on Geoff's vocal chords at this point, and the dude is getting up there, so considering that, it's a good performance. As long as he stays in his lower to mid register, he's still the Geoff Tate we all (used) to know and love. Especially impressive is his performance on "Aria," a song sung in Italian that is actually the highlight track on the album for me. He rather deftly navigates the Italian lyrics and even rolls his R's like a champ.

In terms of other standout tracks, the two singles "Strong Pressure" and "Another Change" are probably the two best on here. They both have nice catchy hooks and good vocal performances by Tate, as well as nice guitar work and solos. The guitar outro on "Strong Pressure" is quite badass, and probably my favorite moment on the entire album. Chris DeGarmo would be proud.

Relentless is certainly heavier and better than what I've been used to hearing from Tate in years, and that alone is much more than I was expecting out of Sweet Oblivion on this one. Yeah, it's largely a creation of Frontiers' marketing department, but perhaps this is proof that you can maybe squeeze a drop or two of blood out of a stone from time to time. Tate still has a charismatic voice, and with Lonobile's songwriting chops and performance on guitar it manages to elicit something out of me that I haven't been used to for a long time; I'm finding myself kind of enjoying a Geoff Tate release. It's not a return to form by any stretch, but if you are (or were) a fan of Tate it's at least worth a go.

Track List:
1. Once Again One Sin
2. Strong Pressure
3. Let it Be
4. Another Change
5. Wake Up Call
6. Remember Me
7. Anybody Out There
8. Aria
9. I'll Be The One
10. Fly Angel Fly

Added: March 27th 2021
Reviewer: Brandon Miles
Related Link: Band Facebook Page
Hits: 729
Language: english

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