Review Summary: 70 minutes and 54 seconds.
Everyone's favorite record doesn't need an introduction, but I want to talk about it. When Queensrÿche turned into the property of Geoff and Susan Tate, what followed was a series of ill-advised albums like a sequel to the original Operation: Mindcrime
and a military-themed concept album plagued by soporific writing and performances. Dedicated to Chaos
released in 2011 and it's generally regarded as the absolute nadir of "Queensrÿche", blasted with all kinds of bad reactions. However, as a Rÿche worshipper and consequential masochist, I don't think the case is this simple. In fact, here and there it is peppered with surreal moments of musical sparks that reveal its sad backstory while also arguably providing more entertainment than its immediate predecessors.
This album was meant to be some kind of return to form in the most literal sense: make Queensrÿche members actually contribute to it. Judging by original guitarist Michael Wilton's words (source below) the band did get together to write and record demos, until an elephant strolled back into the room: Jeffrey Wayne Tate. "The project was canned and it was back to Geoff Tate calling the shots with outside writers again", said Wilton; initially "the direction was supposed to be more like Empire
", until they reached such a confused point that "no one was sure who was producing the album". Wilton's songs were not used, confirmed by the absolute lack of credits, and generally the emphasis was taken away from his guitarwork.
It is well known that this album is dominated by Tate's awkward lyrics, weakly sung often with his beloved trend of tiredly "talking-singing" over the music... and there's the catch. As I was saying, the music presented is not as simple to dismiss as the frontman's work. Now, this weird bastardization of the band's classic sound(s) through the lens of 90s/00s rock is undoubtedly a tough pill to swallow but, considering the variety that characterized the band's classics, it really shouldn't have been that shocking had it been pulled off with less of Tate's how-do-you-do-fellow-kids or sexy(?) energy and dated pop leanings. I kid you not, "Hot Spot Junkie" condemns the evil World Wide Web by saying:
"The wifi wave, I'm addicted to the wifi wave
Indispensable satellite tool I abuse, I abuse
The world wide web and all the pictures on YouTube, YouTube, there's no escaping it"
And yet, I don't hate listening to that song. The music kind of sounds like an attempt to "modernize" (see: employing tasteless riffs and a rigid beat) the sound of Rage for Order
, and I do mean it: drummer Scott Rockenfield does one of his gallops through the chorus, while the song later breaks into an actual twin guitar solo section in fairly typical Rÿche fashion. That's the tragedy of Dedicated to Chaos
, when the original members play the musicianship is tight and in places the music is genuinely enjoyable. Like the surprising shot of energy during the shockingly fun Tool-meets-Queensrÿche bridge in "The Lie", or the playful middle part of "Higher" in which drums and a funky bass sustain a building tension as the guitars play on top, tension that comes back when the song surprisingly ends with a crescendo. "Retail Therapy" has an ominous heavy start (later recurring in the song) and offers a catchy chorus despite its lyrics and Tate's need to tell us he has "62 apps" but is afraid of tomorrow in a verse. "At the Edge" won't be remembered as a classic, but its lengthy and atmospheric middle part is at least a novelty, likely courtesy of Rockenfield who also programmed the intro for the classic Promised Land
. Right after, "Broken" is fully dedicated to being airy and atmospheric while the follower "Hard Times" keeps the melancholic mood with surprising success thanks to a great bassline that provides an interesting contrast.
I can't blame anybody for hating this album when it features songs like "Wot We Do" (what do you mean you don't
want some Tate R'n'B?) and "Got It Bad", but to be completely honest I don't really hate the idea of spinning a reduced playlist from time to time. It's not like I particularly want to defend the mastermind behind the project, but I just don't deem fair to completely trash what little we got from the other members. I'll leave you with the (anxious, I'm sure) doubt of what to pick between the standard and special edition, for the latter includes four songs sprinkled throughout the tracklist bringing the total to sixteen tracks and almost seventy-one minutes of duration; two of them are the mentioned "Broken" and "Hard Times", while the other two... let's just say one of them is called "LuvnU".
Wilton's words quoted from https://www.blabbermouth.net/news/queensr-che-guitarist-geoff-tate-spat-in-my-face-punched-me-and-called-me-a-pussy/ (how's that for a memorable link?)