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Queensr˙che - Frequency Unknown CD (album) cover

FREQUENCY UNKNOWN

Queensr˙che

Progressive Metal


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Conor Fynes
PROG REVIEWER
2 stars 'Frequency Unknown' - Tateryche (3/10)

There are few things that unite the metal community so much as a healthy hatred for a [&*!#]ty album. Metalheads are still blasting Celtic Frost's "Cold Lake" over beers a quarter-century following its release, as similarly has been the case for Metallica's "St. Anger". More recently- and especially since social media took off- these love-to-hate-'em records seem to become social events; there were jokes and memes aplenty about the infamous "Ilud Divinum Insanus" by Morbid Angel, or "Lulu" by (again) Metallica. Although there's no doubt that these blackmarked records indeed deserve the flak and lambast they've received, I've gotten the impression that such overwhelming and ubiquitous vitriol for an album can lead to a herd effect, where listeners will despise a record before it's even released. I've seen "Frequency Unknown" called everything from 'pop rock trash' to 'the worst album ever made', and though this Geoff Tate-dominated offshoot of the original Queensryche is little- deserving of praise, the album is not nearly as atrocious as some of the more adamant naysayers might have us believe. Unless you're dead set on comparing "Frequency Unknown" to the work of the band's heyday, there's little of an overtly offensive nature to be heard here. It's sterile, shallow and completely harmless, and in a way, that's a fate far worse than the atrocity fans prematurely made it out to be; at least then, I may have felt something from this.

Queensryche- or, as I will refer to this project henceforth in the review, Tateryche- has been the subject of some controversy in the recent months. The stories of threats at knifepoint, business squabbles and total artistic meltdown could easily be adapted as a film or critically-acclaimed television series. I could write paragraphs on the drama alone, but the important thing is that two Queensryches have emerged from the ashes, one being the 'real' Queensryche, the other being longtime vocalist Geoff Tate and a revolving door of musicians to play under him. In this sense, it's sort of like what happened with the two Rhapsody of Fires, although they never let the drama get overtop of the music. Although it's yet to be seen what the real Queensryche will do under these new terms, Tateryche has embraced this drama and anger to the point where it has become the music. The album's initials ("F.U") are as subtle as bolded caps-lock, and the lyrics make no effort to veil Tate's bitterness. The album's six-week production cycle seems rushed only to have an album out before the opposition. Ultimately, it's impossible to regard the album without its dubious context, and though it pains me to say as a lifelong Queensryche fan, there would be no reason to check out this album were it not for the circumstances around it.

There is little surprise in "Frequency Unknown"s musical direction. 2011's "Dedicated to Chaos" was a pretty awful result of Tate's desire to take the band down a more commercially viable and rock-oriented direction. Although it may sound hopeful to call "Frequency Unknown" a step up from that dismal low, there's not a great deal separating this from radio rock detritus. Modern rock radio is indeed a good place to reference when thinking of Queensryche in this latest incarnation. Concise riffs, generic guitar solos and an autistic focus on choruses define the approach to songwriting here. The only thing that really distinguishes this from a hit single is the fact that the songs here are nowhere near memorable or catchy enough to be worth the airwaves. Though there are a couple of fortunately notable exceptions to the rule, "Frequency Unknown" sits in that ugly place where the mainstream goes wrong. It's not even catchy in a bad way like Rebecca Black's "Friday" (remember that one?) or "Gangnam Style". It's simply by-the-numbers rock. Although the backing musicians (particularly bassist Rudy Sarzo) are talented, there's either the sense that they were given no artistic license to express themselves, or no time to express themselves effectively. The guitar solos- while functional- sound sloppy, as if they were the first or second cut of an improvised noodling.

Thankfully, a few songs stand out. Although "Cold" is as conventional and by-the-numbers as it gets, it's an enjoyable tune that oddly reminds me somehow of Kamelot, sans their symphonic element. "The Weight of the World" ends the album on a surprisingly progressive element, slowing down the pace and letting a drama and atmosphere, however bland, to build up as the album ends. Without a doubt however, the album's highlight and one truly enjoyable offering is "In the Hands of God", an eerie and exotic track that recalls their underrated album "Promised Land". If you've had the magnanimous fortune to come across a 'special edition' copy of the album, Geoff Tate includes a few re-recorded versions of Queensryche classics. It's really here where you get the impression how objectively inferior Tateryche is, especially when compared to the 1980s golden days. Tate himself has stated that these covers were only recorded for the healthy cash bonus included, and they sound just as impassionate as you would suspect. On these covers and the album as a whole, Tate's voice remains distinctive, but it's clear he retains a fraction of the range he once did. "I Don't Believe In Love" is particularly criminal; he can't hit notes and makes no effort to adapt the arrangement accordingly. Covers- even under the bleak auspices of Tateryche- could have conceivably worked, but only if they had done something fresh with them. Had I been there, I could have made the suggestion to do some down-to-earth unplugged covers. Unfortunately, the re-recorded versions are all the more explicit a reminder that this is no longer Queensryche we're dealing with.

If Queensryche was Lego, then this (whatever this is) is Mega Bloks. As much as it might try to persuade us otherwise, it's an inferior version of a better-known, better-loved thing. "Frequency Unknown" does get some things right, but there are too many weaknesses for it to be enjoyable. A rough, unfinished production mix (that has since been moderately improved), unimaginative musicianship and painfully conventional songwriting keep Tateryche from rising above the silly drama and context. Bitterness can sometimes translate into great art, but at this point, it seems bitterness is the only thing Tate has left. "Frequency Unknown" is not the end-all disasterpiece that some people may have hoped it would be, but there isn't much of a redeeming value here. I do retain a shred of hope that Tateryche might be able to come unto its own and do something interesting, but after seeing how low the Queensryche name has been dragged over the past decade, I wouldn't be surprised future work is stained with equal disappointment and apathy. What I'm most excited for is to see what the other 'ryche will do now. If they manage to come out with anything resembling a solid record, then this schism will have been for the best. As far as Mr. Tate is concerned however, it may be best to focus on memories of better days gone past.

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Send comments to Conor Fynes (BETA) | Report this review (#955697)
Posted Wednesday, May 08, 2013 | Review Permalink
3 stars So, to an album that seems to have been hated as soon as it was announced, even before a note was heard, by the rock and metal community. All that hate I guess was the result of Tate leaving Queensryche on the note that he did. I must admit that Queensryche haven't impressed me much since the release of the Empire album. What do I think of this album? Let's get down to it -

"Cold" - A track that I find interesting and enjoyable. Tate still sounds like Tate vocally and that isn't a bad thing at all. Bodes well for the rest of the album.

"Dare" - A straight ahead rocker that isn't amazing but it isn't bad by any means.

"Give it to You" - slower driving bluesy track. I enjoy this - especially the lead guitar work throughout.

"Slave" - Metal. hard rocking number which isn't anything special however again it isn't bad.

"In the hands of God" - One of the highlights of the album - I really like this track. Harkens back to the Queensryche sound of Empire.

"Running Backwards" - Unfortunately it's nothing special and it doesn't hold my attention for long.

"Life without you" - I like this more emotive track but it's missing something that could have made it special.

"Everything" - Now we're talking. From the opening piano to the driving rock music that follows. Another album highlight.

"Fallen" - The ballad of the album. I enjoy this track well enough.

"The weight of the World" - Softer track to close the new content on the album. I'm a sucker for emotive tracks and this holds a lot of emotion.

"I don't believe in Love" - Re-recording. It's obvious on this that Tate's voice has lost the power that it once had however this is an ok by-the-numbers reworking of the track.

"Empire" - Re-recording. Again by-the-numbers. It does serve to remind how powerful the Queensryche sound once was.

"Jet City Woman" - Re-recording. By-the-numbers.

"Silent Lucidity" - Beautiful track irrelevantly of who does it.

For goodness sake people, this album has an average rating thus far of 1,72 here and that is a blatant lie. This is not one of the Metallica mess ups. Certainly this isn't the sound of Tate and Queensryche at their most powerful however it isn't a bad album by any means. I do think that the metal and rock community has been very unfair to Tate in their reception of this album. Forget about the politics involved relating to Tate and the original band and listen to the music. Had this been released directly after Empire by the original band it would never have the rating suggested here on PA. It is not prog by any stretch of the imagination however it isn't a purile release at all. Tate has lost some of his vocal power but not embarrasingly so. I personally go for 3 and a half stars rated down to 3 as this is a prog site and this isn't prog music.

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Send comments to sukmytoe (BETA) | Report this review (#986684)
Posted Thursday, June 27, 2013 | Review Permalink
UMUR
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
2 stars "Frequency Unknown" is the debut full-length studio album by US hard rock/heavy metal act Queensr'che Starring Geoff Tate the Original Voice. The album was released through Deadline Music in April 2013.

After Lead vocalist Geoff Tate was fired from Queensr'che he opted to create his own version of the band with a new backing band including seasoned musicians like former Queensr'che colleague Kelly Gray (guitars), Rudy Sarzo (Blue 'yster Cult, Ozzy Osbourne, Quiet Riot, Whitesnake) on bass and drummer Simon Wright (AC/DC, Dio). In addition to those guys, the album features quite a few guest appearances by artists like K. K. Downing (Judas Priest), Chris Poland (Megadeth) and Lita Ford (Lita Ford). The band started recording "Frequency Unknown" in January 2013. The recording sessions ended in early March 2013.

The recording and the release of the album have been surrounded by quite a bit of controversy. First of all Geoff Tate's booting from Queensr'che was anything but amicable and as a result both parties now lay claim to the Queensr'che name. A legal twist that at this moment is still not resolved. Secondly the release date of the album was announced mere hours after the other version of Queensr'che announced the release date of their album. A move that from the outside seems a bit calculated and as a rather pathetic attempt to "beat the others to it". The decision to release "Frequency Unknown" sooner than it was probably scheduled backfired on Tate and Deadline Music though as the early pressings of the album featured a much criticized mix, that resulted in the label having to offer to send dissatisfied customers a replacement CD containing the remixes upon showing their purchase receipt. Thirdly and lastly "Frequency Unknown" features, in addition to the 10 original tracks on the album, 4 re-recorded tracks from "Empire (1990)" and "Operation: Mindcrime (1988)" as bonus material. That's not as such an issue. The issue is the motivation behind recording and including the bonus tracks as Tate has openly admitted that Deadline Music offered him a lot of money to do the re-recordings and that the money was the motivation behind recording the 4 tracks. They even asked him to record them as true as possible to the originals and he obeyed. Now that's what I call a corrupted motivation for creating art...

...the actual music on the album is not surprisingly a rather formulaic and polished hard rock/heavy metal style with Geoff Tate's distinct, strong and warm vocals in front. There are little if any surprises in store for the listener, if you've tuned your expectations to the music on the album sounding like a pale version of some of the more accessible and least heavy material released by Queensr'che post-"Promised Land (1994)". There are a riff here and a guitar solo there, that do their part in trying to save what is overall a rather lacklustre affair completely lacking energy and bite, but that's just not enough. How so many seasoned and prolific musicians can write and play music this tame and almost completely forgettable is just sad. The unpleasant and flat sounding original mix with no dynamics worth mentioning is another show stopper and overall there's very little positive to say about "Frequency Unknown". If this is the way Geoff Tate is going to carry the Queensr'che torch in the future, I hope he loses the right to the band name, because the music on "Frequency Unknown" is sub par to anything produced by the band in the past. A 2 star (40%) rating is warranted.

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Send comments to UMUR (BETA) | Report this review (#1019185)
Posted Thursday, August 15, 2013 | Review Permalink

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