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CD Review: Queensryche / Frequency Unknown

Queensryche2Frequency Unknown
Reviewed by: Roger Scales

I want to address the ongoing debate/issue concerning the fact that there are two versions of the same band that exist currently in the world of Queensryche.  This is not unchartered waters nor will it be something that goes away anytime soon.  Unfortunately for the fans,  Rock n’ Roll is a business and in the old days when Joe Perry and Brad Whitford left Aerosmith (for example) there became The Joe Perry Project.  No problem.  New name, new identity, no harm done.  Today with the branding being so identifiable within the rock community there are now legal battles to see who rightfully owns and gets to use the name –  both for recording purposes and touring.  RATT, L.A. Guns, Great White, Grand Funk Railroad, Black Sabbath – the list goes on of popular bands that shift band members and fight over ownership of the logo and identity.  I have always looked at it as more music, more shows, more reasons to get excited about hearing a new or slightly different take on a band or sound that I found pleasing.  Have I liked all of the different versions of the bands?  NO.  Corabi replaces Vince Neil and they put an album called Motley Crue..did I like It? Yes.  Did it bomb?  Yes.  Who cares? Whether Geoff Tate’s  version of Queensryche ultimately gets ownership of the name or the camp featuring Todd LaTorre  wins out..I win as the fan because I can enjoy both for what they each offer. 

Frequency Unknown is a new chapter in the Geoff Tate era of Queensryche.  He has already released two solo albums so in a sense if it makes it easier to take look upon this as solo record #3..  For the sake of this review I’m going to do a track by track take on the tunes but not comment (by name) each musician within each song.  There are a ton of guest musicians on this one including K.K. Downing, Chris Poland, Ty Tabor, Brad Gillis, Dave Meniketti, Nina Noir, Paul Bostaph, Rudy Sarzo, Simon Wright, Kelly Gray and Robert Sarzo.  The album was co-written, produced and mixed by Jason Slater who had also worked on Operation:  Mindcrime II, American Soldier and Dedicated to Chaos.

“Cold” opens the record and has some cool lyrics and harmonies but the guitar is too slow for me.  It speeds up on the bridge but then goes right back to what was offered already.  Sounds like Tate was looking for a dark moody piece but I would have pushed up the tempo and the overall track would have been stronger.

“Dare” is just a confusing track from the opening verses with no catchy lyrics or cool riffs.  The direction of the track shifts so often I found myself having to start the song over again a few times and was still unable to follow the flow, resulting in nothing memorable.

“Give It To You” tries to embrace the old style of Queensrcyhe with some interesting guitar riffs both electric and acoustic but then the harmonies are not old school and are too chatty.  I kept thinking that the song will sort of straighten itself out at some point but really never does, again it’s all over the place looking for a direction and doesn’t find it.

 “Slave” picks up the tempo but the guitar sound sounds muddy.  I like the drumming on this one some great fills but no passion from Tate on the vocals. Lyrically nothing I can hum to or remember.

“In The Hands Of God” sounds like something off Rage For Order in the veign of “Gonna Get Close To You”.  Very cool connection to that song in the melody and movement of this one, I liked it.  Cool harmonies and well written and what I consider the best track on the album.

“Running Backwards” has some really cool harmonies and lyrically is a fun tune.  I think a great riff would have saved this song but it falls just flat.  The repeated use of these types of guitar sounds comes up again.  Not what Ryche fans would expect, enjoy or desire.

“Life Without You” lyrically is superb.  This should have been done as an acoustic track.  I’m disappointed that a song as strong as this one gets recorded as a mid temp rocker when it’s not.  I still enjoyed what I could get from it in terms of a spark of the old Tate at times with a few standout vocals and harmonies.  This has potential if down unplugged and slower.

“Everything” actually has SOME crunchy guitar work and riffs!  Good tempo and some passion in the vocals throughout.  The track has that anthem sort of feel that Rych fans would expect from Tate.  If I were picking a set list from this record to play live I would include this one for sure.  I Enjoyed it.

“Fallen” starts off okay but then slows down and the tempo and pace never catch up to each other.  Not a bad song but nothing memorable in it in terms of a slick riff or memorable lyric.  A strong vocal from Geoff but lacks passion.

“The Weight of The World” shows Tate at his best and why he is one of my favorite singers of all time.  A moody track, full of smooth harmonies and very similar to mid 90’s Promised Land era Ryche.  This would be another track I would add to the set has huge potential as a show stopper. 

The last four tracks are re-recorded Ryche classics “I Don’t Believe In Love”, ‘Empire”, “Jet City Woman” and “Silent Lucidity”.   They were added as extras by Cleopatra Records but were recorded with the intent of sounding like the originals which they do.  Nothing truly different from the original versions.

For long time Ryche fans it’s worth a listen but not all of the tracks will move you.  In fact you might like it even less on a whole than I did but please listen to all of it before you judge any of it.  The problem with fans general reaction to this record is that because it’s Geoff without Scott, Mike and Eddie that it cannot possibly hold it’s own to this band’s rich history.  Maybe that’s true but take F.U. for what it’s trying to accomplish.  Reaching out to an old school fanbase while trying to identify itself as an entity all its own.  Did they do it?  Sort of.  I think Geoff needs to take a long hard look in the mirror and see if Chris Degarmo would be willing to come out of semi-retirement and do a Tate/Degarmo type project.  Don’t call it Queensryche and deliver something memorable and merited all on its own.   Unless of course Chris falls in line with the other camp…then my idea will never come to fruition.
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. The Weight Of The World
11. I Don’t Believe In Love
12. Empire
13. Jet City Woman
14. Silent Lucidity

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