Review Summary: Queensryche try their hand at alternative rock and fail miserably.
There was a time when Queensryche was my favorite band of all time. When I stumbled across Empire
as a kid I was blown away. I had never heard vocals so powerful or anything similar to the dual guitar harmonies that the guitar players pulled off so skillfully, and it was amazing to me that even the bass player seemed to play an active roll in the music. I had to have more and slowly worked my way backwards. I remember getting chills half way through my first listen to Operation: Mindcrime
or the eerie feeling that the moody, goth-tinged Rage for Order
elicited in me, and then I moved forward and found Promised Land
which seemed like a great combination of Rage and Mindcrime. In my mind this band could do no wrong and I eagerly waited for the first album of theirs that I would be able to buy on the day it was released; that album turned out to be Hear in the Now Frontier
If the rest of this review was to be as self-indulgent as the first paragraph I would spend its entirety complaining about everything this album isn’t and recount how disappointed I was in the band and especially in Chris Degarmo who’s name is plastered all over the songwriting credits on this album, but I am going to attempt some civility. I will get out of the way that there aren’t any soaring vocals from Geoff Tate or excellent harmonies from the great guitar duo or emotional ballads or metal influence or just about anything else that made the previous albums the high quality outputs they were, but that’s the last you’ll hear about what isn’t present on this album.
In case it wasn’t clear enough in the last paragraph, this album was a departure in style for the band and a change that garnered more negative attention then positive not so much because they altered their style but because they failed miserably with the change. To put this album into a context of time, this was released when alternative was huge and Nirvana was the juggernaut of Mtv and radio. Apparently, the band wanted to get in on that action and made an attempt at their interpretation of alternative rock, which turned out to be terrible. The riffs on this album are very basic and don’t add anything to the music other then to be a vessel for the lyrics of vocalist Geoff Tate. There is absolutely nothing memorable about them and they also lack any kind of energy or the raw edge that gives alternative rock a lot of its power. The melodies are also overly simplified and seem to be focused so much on easy consumption that they often sound almost cheesy, especially with the equally bad vocal melodies over the top of them.
Really, that is one of the major problems with this album; every song seems to follow a blatant formula aimed at creating an easily consumable product and because of that they lack any energy, drive or excitement. It’s almost as if the band attempted to copy what they heard on Mtv without understanding the elements of what they were copying. A song such as “Get a Life” comes the closest to meeting their goal with an edgy riff during some of the verses, but the simple and redundant chorus ruins what could have been a passable song; which brings me to another issue that brought this album down; the vocals and lyrics. I won’t waste an entire paragraph on it, but suffice it to say that Geoff toned his vocals down considerably and the band also simplified the lyrics to the point that most choruses are simply repeated one-liners to the point of redundancy. The total lack of energy and the blatantly obvious attempts at mass appeal are the ultimate undoing of this album. It is possible that if the band had left any of their own influence in tact and combined it with their attempt at mass appeal-oriented alternative that they may have succeeded, but as things stand this album never had a chance.
If this had been some band’s debut album it wouldn’t have even registered on anyone’s radar since there were much better bands playing the same style of music including Pearl Jam
and Alice in Chains
(both of whose influence can be found here). Instead, since this was a band with gold and platinum albums in its past it not only was noticed but also sold relatively well before people realized what a huge turd they had just purchased. This was an album of uninspired, lifeless riffs with words sung by a vocalist who sounded bored by the abundant amount of redundant choruses and simple verses all in attempt to cash in on a movement they had no idea how to do right. As time has overwhelmingly proved, this is neither an album for Queensryche fans nor fans of alternative rock as there isn’t enough for either group to truly enjoy it.