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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

DIO – Lock Up The Wolves

Dio – Lock Up The Wolves (2008, Reprise Records)
Original Release: 1990, Reprise Records

1.”Wild One” … 4:02
2.”Born on the Sun” … 5:39
3.”Hey Angel” … 4:59
4.”Between Two Hearts” … 6:27
5.”Night Music” … 5:05
6.”Lock Up The Wolves” … 8:30
7.”Evil on Queen Street” … 6:01
8.”Walk on Water” … 3:42
9.”Twisted” … 4:44
10.”Why Are They Watching Me” … 5:00
11.”My Eyes” … 6:34

Band:
Ronnie James Dio – Vocals
Rowan Robertson – Guitar
Teddy Cook – Bass
Simon Wright – Drums
Jens Johansson – Keyboards

Producer: Tony Platt and Ronnie James Dio

This album is from a reissue series called ‘Flashback’, a line of budget priced titles from artists and labels that fall under the giant umbrella of Warner Bros. Barnes & Noble’s website lists the label releasing this edition as Rhino Entertainment but all I see on the CD and in the liner notes is Reprise Records, so I’m still going with that. Doesn’t really matter though, since both Rhino Entertainment and Reprise are owned by Warner Bros.

To be honest, I never intended to buy this album. I’ve always read mixed reviews on it. For an album with mixed reviews, I never saw a price low enough to warrant the investment. Luckily, these Flashback titles are priced to sell at $5.99 so I couldn’t resist when I saw it at Barnes & Noble and figured it nothing else I’d be getting a cool piece of cover art. The insert folds out to reveal Dio posing with some hair band.

For my tastes, Dio albums (while good) can sometimes be a bit too slow. That’s not really the case here. This album was recorded and released when heavy metal was flashy and more often than not it was accessible to the mainstream as well. Therefore, this release find itself straddling the line between Dio’s typical brand of metal and a more “eighties” metal sound. The results are really enjoyable if not really amazing.

“Wild One” is a fast number and the best choice to open the album. “Born on the Sun”, “Lock Up the Wolves” (Does anyone else think of Back to the Future with those clocks ticking?) and “Hey Angel” are typically epic Dio songs.  “My Eyes” is a fun nod to Dio’s past bands and songs. I’m usually a sucker for a song like this from veteran bands.

Definitely worth the $5.99 I paid for it and I think this is an underrated Dio album. I think it probably isn’t favored as much from Dio fans just because it’s a bit more flashy and polished than his albums are usually known to be. There’s some great guitar playing here from Rowan Robertson.

I would have like to have heard more from this line-up that consisted of former AC/DC drummer Simon Wright, wunderkind Rowan Robertson (who went on to do a series of instructional guitar videos and plays in various bands to this day) and Jens Johnasson (who has played in power metal band Stratovarius since 1995). Don’t ask me about Teddy Cook. I don’t know.

Highlights: “Wild One”, “Born on the Sun”, “Hey Angel”, “Night Music”, “Lock Up The Wolves”, “My Eyes”

www.ronniejamesdio.com
www.myspace.com/dioofficial

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