Review Summary: This isn’t a good Queensryche album, and it’s barely passable under any other name.
The new Queensryche album (featuring Geoff Tate) was doomed from the start. Before a single note had been released to the public, Frequency Unknown
had already failed. First, the album was totally rushed in an effort to get in front of the ‘other’ Queensryche with material and a tour. Geoff Tate has even bragged about how the album only took six weeks to write, produce and mix and has also mentioned that they used a team of writers in order to meet the deadline. This deadline is also the reason they brought in more guest musicians than the entire Korn discography. There’s also the major fact that the sole remaining original member is vocalist Geoff Tate – the man most responsible for the band’s string of disappointing albums since the mid-nineties. Are we beginning to get the point? If not, there was the brief inclusion of ex-Megadeth guitarist Glen Drover that ended with his assessment that, “[t]he musical direction of where Geoff wanted to go wasn’t what I wanted to go forward with. I’m more into the first five Queensryche albums….”
That statement was confusing because Geoff Tate had been promising a heavy and progressive album; in fact he seemed hell-bent on proving that he could still pull it off. He even slapped a big “F.U.” on the album cover – it was supposed to be on like Donkey Kong. It’s not on like Donkey Kong. It’s a train wreck with crazy conductor Tate insisting that the train is still on the tracks. Frequency Unknown
is not heavy or progressive, and it actually sounds less like a Queensryche album than Dedicated to Chaos
. Even that release still had the Queensryche flair and the subtle nuances that let you know that it was still the same band; Frequency Unknown
lacks that same character. For the most part, this is simply faceless modern rock, no different than any other Chevelle or Breaking Benjamin clone.
The band’s first single, ‘Cold’, is a perfect representation of the album as a whole. Neutered riffs without an identity, a stale basic beat and a total lack of energy. Don’t get me wrong, there is definitely a market for this kind of music, and it’s not a terrible song, but it’s not even in the minor leagues of what modern rock artists are doing – and that’s really the problem. Even if this didn’t sound like Queensryche, as long as Geoff was finally putting out something good it would have been acceptable, but he rushed through it and churned out a very shallow collection of songs. Ideas feel undeveloped and basic, and the songs suffer from the repetitive mediocrity of it all. The only shining moments seem to be the occasional guitar solo and the song ‘In the Hands of God’ which definitely takes a page from Promised Land
’s title track. It’s a dark, moody song that Geoff actually puts a bit of passion into, but it’s the sole diamond on this release.
Of course, with all the controversy, the album’s production issues must be addressed. For those that are unaware, the mixes are already being re-done in an effort to quell early backlash over Frequency Unknown
’s sound. The label, in full damage control mode, is trying to justify releasing two different mixes by representing it as a ‘choice’ that fans can make between new and original. First, it must be said, the production isn’t really all that bad. Yes, the drums are kind of flat and the guitars lack any kind of force, but this style of music doesn’t really require a powerful sound. Basically, the album’s sound doesn’t distract from the overall enjoyment of the music.
The other controversial part of the album is the four re-recorded versions of Queensryche classics. The first issue is that this was done as a total money-grab, and it shows. The second issue is that those songs were absolutely butchered by Geoff’s new band and even by the man himself. His band can’t pull off certain parts of the song and Geoff comes off as flat and even misses certain pitches entirely. Anyone that has seen the YouTube videos of Geoff and his band of hired hands butchering classic Queensryche songs while they once again rape their golden goose, Operation: Mindcrime
, shouldn’t be surprised, though.
Despite everything Frequency Unknown
had going against it, I still hoped that it would turn out to be a great album. I truly hoped that all of the drama would be enough to light a fire under Geoff Tate’s ass and make him enter the studio with something to prove. Frequency Unknown
definitely proves a few things, but none of them are positive. It proves that Geoff is willing to rush a subpar product to his fans, and that his separation from the rest of the band was for the best. Re-recording classics for a bigger paycheck only seems to solidify where his heart truly lies; especially when he is arrogant enough to call out his ex-bandmates for playing ‘his’ songs in concert and then records ‘Silent Lucidity’ despite having nothing to do with the creation of the song. This isn’t a good Queensryche album, and it’s barely passable under any other name.