The drama surrounding the split between Geoff Tate and the rest of Queensryche has been an absolute embarrassment for everyone involved and a real disappointment for the diehard fans who have stuck with them through two decades of bad albums. Both sides are equally at fault in the break-up. One side fired Tate’s family members and taunted him, and in return, Tate spit on band mates on stage, and allegedly attacked one in a backstage skirmish. As a longtime fan, I was hoping that the anger and emotions that were running rampantly through all of the band members would be fuel and inspiration to write some kick-ass new music. It worried me, however, that each band rushed to get their album done very quickly, so they wouldn’t get overshadowed by the other Queensryche. The question now is which band is Queensryche, and which is the impostor?
Geoff Tate’s version of Queensryche released “Frequency Unknown” back in April, and with new motivation and a fresh all-star line-up, I had high hopes that I was about to hear a really inspired album. What I got instead was a sloppily produced, quickly thrown together mistake of a record. I wanted to love “Frequency Unknown” because I thought the way the old band members and metal fans were talking about Tate would get his creative juices flowing, and this had the potential to be a great redemption opportunity. Instead of rising to the occasion, Tate let all of the negativity turn him into a bitter has-been, and didn’t put any thought into the new songs.
The opening track “Cold” is a halfway decent rocker with a cool riff and guitar solo, but the next five songs including “Dare” and “Running Backwards” are absolutely awful. The one bright spot on “Frequency Unknown” is “Life Without You,” a mid-tempo song with cool guitar and interesting time changes. You might as well hit the ‘stop’ button after that song, though, because everything else is unlistenable garbage. I honestly think that if Tate took his time with this project and made a good record, he could have really stuck it to the naysayers, especially with the musicians he hired to replace the old band. He didn’t have to beat the other guys to the punch to stay relevant. All he needed was some good music.
The new Todd LaTorre-led version of Queensryche just released their self-titled album, and while it’s far from perfect, it’s got some really creative music. It took me a couple of songs to get into this album, partly because I thought it was ridiculous that LaTorre tries really hard to do his impression of Geoff Tate’s vocals from the early days instead of letting us hear the things his impressive voice can do. When “In This Light” came on, I started to become really interested. It’s not the heaviest song on the album, but for me, it’s where the band shows they’ve evolved, and they still have some good music left in them.
“Redemption” and “A World Without” are boring tracks that any run-of-the-mill metal band could come up with, but “Vindication” and “Don’t Look Back” are hard rockers that give me hope that maybe, just maybe, Queensryche isn’t dead. When Todd LaTorre uses his own voice, and quits trying to replicate Tate, he really sounds good on this album. My fear for this version of the Queensryche is that it seems like they care more about pissing off Geoff Tate than just making good music. This record proves that they can still write good songs, but less than half of the tracks on here could stand up with the oldies.
It seems to me that both bands could have taken more time and come up with something better. The shots they take at each other in the media should stop, and they should all just focus on the music and repairing their reputations. Fans of both are fed up with the negativity, and neither version of the band is even close to as good as the classic line-up with Chris DeGarmo, so there should be a great deal of humility from everyone who still uses the name ‘Queensryche.’ I expect better from both on their future attempts, but for now, the LaTorre version seems to be a little more in touch with what the fans want.
Tim Taylor is a writer for Zoiks! Online, and is based in Dallas, TX. Follow him on Twitter at @nutgoat. Email Tim at firstname.lastname@example.org.