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Queensryche – Frequency Unknown [Review]

queensryche-frequency-410

Queensryche – Frequency Unknown
2013, Cleopatra Records/Deadline Music

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”

Band:
Geoff Tate – Lead Vocals
Kelly Gray – Guitar (solo on Track 1)
Robert Sarzo – Guitar (solo on Track 3)
Rudy Sarzo – Bass (Tracks 1, 5, and 9)
Simon Wright – Drums (Tracks 1 and 5)
Randy Gane – Keyboards (Tracks 1, 5–6, and 8–10), Bass (Track 10)

Additional Musicians:
Craig Locicero – Guitar (Tracks 1–10)
Jason Slater – Bass (Tracks 2–4, and 6–8), Keyboards (Tracks 7–8)
Martín Irigoyen – Guitar, Bass, Drums (Tracks 11–14)
Paul Bostaph – Drums (Tracks 6–9)
Evan Bautista – Drums (Tracks 2–4, and 10)
Jason Slater – Theremin (solo on Track 2)
Chris Cannella – Guitar (solo on Track 4)
Ty Tabor – Guitar (solo on Tracks 5 and 8)
K.K. Downing – Guitar (solo on Track 6)
Brad Gillis – Guitar (solo on Track 7)
Dave Meniketti – Guitar (solo on Track 9)
Chris Poland – Guitar (solo on Track 10)

Producer: Jason Slater

Even though I’ve always considered the band to be one of the more bland and boring rock/metal outfits out there, the story of Queensryche has become quite interesting over the last year. I’m certain more people are discussing Queensryche now more than they have in probably 10, 15 or 20 years. I know I am. If you want a good overview of what’s been happening and why there are two groups claiming to be Queensryche, check out this excellent article (which has been spotlighted and given the stamp of approval by the La Torre version of the band).

Well, as the world continues to wait for the Todd La Torre version of Queensryche to release their album, the Geoff Tate line-up has released their own album. Geoff Tate is probably one of the least popular guys in the world of rock & metal right now, so it’s no surprise the bashing started as soon as sound clips were released. But rightfully so. The production was pretty bad on the preview clips that were released. Some of those issues seem to have been corrected now that the album has been released but Cleopatra Records is now offering to send an even more recently remixed copy of the album to anyone to can provide them with proof of purchase of Frequency Unknown. They made this announcement just weeks after the album hit the shelves. It’s a head-scratcher. Why the label didn’t just wait and release a properly remixed album, I don’t know.

And just take a look at the limited involvement of the “band” and the long list of additional musicians. It’s a guitar solo-bonanza! They might as well be called “Geoff Tate’s Queensryche” or maybe “The Geoff Tate Group”, “Geoff Tate & Friends” or “Just Geoff”. There’s really no “band” here at all. The making of this album looks like a revolving door of musicians. Heck, this version of the band has already lost Glen Drover and Bobby Blotzer (they only participated in live shows before splitting)!

Okay, enough nitpicking. It’s the music that matters, right? Well, despite never really having any preference towards anything Queensryche and despite the fact that I agree Tate comes off like an arrogant jerk, this album is actually decent. I know Dedicated to Chaos tried to go some weird rock/pop/dance/whatever route and the band was properly trashed for doing so but Tate doesn’t go that route with the not-so-subtly titled Frequency Unknown (come on, it’s FU with a big fist coming at you on the cover… a message to Tate-haters and former band mates I’m sure). No, Frequency Unknown is a hard rock album with a modern sound. I’m okay with that. I think no matter what, Tate was going to lose. He’s getting bashed for sounding modern but if he tried to make an album with the classic Queensryche sound he would’ve gotten bashed for that as well. The closest he comes to his days of old is with “In the Hands of God” and “The Weight of the World”, I think.

“Cold” is a great modern sounding hard rock song. When it first became available, I wanted to be able to laugh at how bad it was and then continue on with my day, but it’s become one of my favorite songs of the year. I can’t stop playing it. Other songs like “Life Without You” and “Everything” remain highlights for me.

The only thing that truly weighs the album down are the four re-recording of a few Queensryche classics that are tacked on at the end. Tate has pointblank said he re-recorded them for the money because the label wanted these songs for licensing purposes. It’s only Tate and Martin Irigoyen on these songs. The sore spot here is Geoff’s voice. He sounds fine on the FU material, never going out of his weakening range but he just can’t hit the notes on these older songs. The music sounds fine to my casual Queensryche listening ears but I’ve read other reviews of die-hards picking apart Irigoyen’s musicianship. The production definitely lacking on these four songs.

Overall, Frequency Unknown had the recipe for a true disaster but Tate and his army of musicians pulled through and delivered a solid modern hard rock album. Just don’t expect much from the re-recordings.

Highlights: “Cold”, “Give It to You”, “In the Hands of God”, “Life Without You”, “Everything”, “The Weight of the World”

http://www.queensryche.com/
http://www.facebook.com/Queensryche

Buy the album at Amazon.com

Night Ranger – Somewhere In California

Night Ranger – Somewhere In California (2011, Frontiers Records)

1. “Growin’ Up In California”
2. “Lay It On Me”
3. “Bye Bye Baby (Not Tonight)”
4. “Follow Your Heart”
5. “Time Of Our Lives”
6. “No Time To Lose Ya”
7. “Live For Today”
8. “It’s Not Over”
9. “End Of The Day”
10. “Rock N’ Roll Tonite”
11. “Say It With Love”

Band:
Jack Blades – Lead Vocals, Bass, Backing Vocals
Brad Gillis – Guitar, Backing Vocals
Joel Hoekstra – Guitar, Backing Vocals
Kelly Keagy – Drums, Percussion, Lead Vocals, Backing Vocals
Eric Levy – Keyboards, Piano, Backing Vocals

Producer: Night Ranger

Since in the last year or two I’ve heard a startling number of melodic rock albums that I’ve actually ended up enjoying, I decided to give the new Night Ranger a chance despite never really being a fan of the band other than a few songs (and I HATE “Sister Christian”). Deep at the core of Night Ranger I’ve always felt there was a really good HARD rock band there. When the band isn’t writing slick commercial melodic rock numbers, they can really go balls to the wall and they do this a number of times throughout Somewhere In California.

Pointing out the album’s highlights:

  • “Growin’ Up in California” is a high-energy opener that name checks a few California locales and instantly brings to mind a song like “(You Can Still) Rock In America” as it somehow finds a perfect balance between the melodic rock & actual rock ‘n’ roll, keyboards & guitars.
  • “Lay It On Me” is a great heavy number that precisely shows that the band can get down and dirty when they want to. Guitars!
  • “Time Of Our Lives” follows in the great tradition of Night Ranger writing excellent ballads (“Sister Christian” is the exception to this excellence!) and is well-sung by Kelly Keagy.
  • “No Time To Lose Ya” is extremely catchy and features a great chorus, one of the album’s best and most inspired tracks.
  • “End Of The Day” is another excellent guitar-driven song, a bit dark sounding other than the chorus and yet somehow reminds me of Rick Springfield.
  • “Rock N’ Roll Tonite” features a great chorus and is yet another guitar-centric number, classic Night Ranger hard rock. Tailor-made for a live setting and would’ve been a great way to close this album.
  • “Say It With Love” is the album’s actual closer though and is absolutely infectious melodic rocker and ends the album on a high note.

Though Hole In The Sun was a step towards a more modern sound that proved to be controversial/disappointing for some longtime Night Ranger fans, Somewhere In California has the band delivering what you would expect a Night Ranger album to sound like. In other words, this is “classic” Night Ranger. Having only casual knowledge of the band, if you would have told me this album was one of their releases from the 1980s for the most part I would have believed you.

It sounds like Night Ranger: hooks, melodies, harmonies, great vocals from Jack Blades, great backing vocals, Gillis continues to prove himself as an unsung guitar demi-god (Joel Hoekstra is no slouch either!) and the keyboards are expertly woven into the tracks and don’t become overbearing. Somewhere In California is a really enjoyable album and should be a big hit in the melodic rock world and, most importantly, with Night Ranger fans. It was certainly a big hit with me since I consider 7 of the 11 tracks to be “highlights”!

Highlights: “Growin’ Up in California”, “Lay It On Me”, “Time Of Our Lives”, “No Time To Lose Ya”, “End Of The Day”, “Rock N’ Roll Tonite”, “Say It With Love”

http://www.NightRanger.com
http://www.facebook.com/nightranger

Buy ‘Somewhere in California’ at Amazon.com!

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