The long and continuing saga of the two Queensryche’s came to a bit of head on Tuesday morning with the release of the second Queensryche album in 2013. Queensryche’s new self titled album, with Todd La Torre on vocals is now available for the world to hear. In April, Geoff Tate released his own Queensryche album, Frequency Unknown. This may be the first time in music history, where two different bands released new music only weeks apart, using the same band moniker.
I have been an avid supporter of Queensryche since the 80’s. I have seen them live more times that I care to recollect. I have held Geoff Tate in the same regard as I have Bruce Dickinson, and Rob Halford. I have a lot of respect for the music on the first few albums of Queensryche’s career.
With that being said, after Queensryche’s 1994 album Promised Land, I thought the band started to go downhill. Their albums were not as consistent or as enjoyable as their earlier works. It took nearly two decades after the release of Promised Land for the band to implode, and the reasons are many. (Check out the HRH podcast on this topic).
So moving forward, we have two different Queensryche’s with new releases this year. I decided to purchase both albums at the same time, and listen to them both together. I wanted to decide on my own which of the two Queensryche’s was worth listening to.
It almost seemed that after Geoff Tate’s former band mates announced they were going release a new album with Todd La Torre at the helm, that Tate quickly rushed out his own Queensryche album. Geoff certainly pulled out all of the stops, with a new album that includes guitar work from KK Downing, Brad Gillis, Chris Poland, Dave Meniketti and many others. I truly believe that Tate’s new CD Frequency Unknown was meant as a big FU to his former band mates, and the fist on the cover would seemingly indicate. Even with all the talent on Frequency Unknown, nothing can save me from thinking that this album is a festering fondue of feces. This is a solo Geoff Tate album at best. The fact that he is trying to pass this off as a Queensryche album is a total disappointment. This album is practically a painful listen from beginning to end, and while it is Tate on vocals, his vocals are the only thing semi-familiar to Queensryche’s sound. Tate’s voice has definitely lost some range since the 90’s, and it is clearly evident on Frequency Unknown. His vocals aren’t bad, but just aren’t up to par with his early works. This is clearly evident on the re-recorded classic Queensryche songs on this album. They do not compare to the originals, and why anyone would choose these over the original bodies of work is beyond me. Some of these sound like they were recorded in a garage. Blech! On the good note, some of the solos on this CD are actually pretty good. Listen to the solos from Brad Gillis and Chris Poland, and I think you might enjoy those, even if the songs are subpar. Overall, Frequency Unknown is a below average release and is not one I will give a lot of replays.
In the other corner, is the new self titled CD from Queensryche with Todd La Torre. This album has been getting a little more hype that Tateryche’s CD, so I was hoping that it would be awesome. It isn’t, but it isn’t a bad start for a band starting over with a new singer. The first thing I noticed on this album is just how uncannily Todd La Torre sounds like Geoff Tate in his prime. His voice is so similar I did a double take on some songs on this album. One of the things that the other members of Queensryche wanted to do was head into a heavier direction with their music. This is something that the band was seemingly moving away from with Geoff Tate on the microphone. This album honestly feels more like a true Queensryche album to me. The guitar sound is there, and the vocals are way above average.
On a bad note, this album is severely lacking in great songs. It isn’t that the songs are bad, but they are missing something, and I can’t put my finger on it. At times they can be a little on the boring side. There are far too many mid-tempo numbers which is disappointing. I truly thought the band would blast off with La Torre on vocals. It is almost like the band is in the fast lane with the car stuck in third gear. They are grinding the gears trying to get the car up to speed. Whey they do get it gear, they shine, but they just don’t do it enough on this album. Geoff Tate may have written the majority of Queensryche’s songs over the years, and it seems that this version of Queensryche could still use some of his song writing talent. (Although, after listening to Frequency Unknown, I may have to retract that statement.)
The songs “Where Dreams Go To Die”, “Redemption”, “Don’t Look Back” and “Fallout” definitely merit several replays. On a good note, La Torre’s vocals do sound amazing, and judging from Michael Wilton’s guitar work, it sounds like he has been give a new lease on life with Tate being out of “this” Queensryche. This album could be the beginning of many great years of Queensryche with La Torre on vocals. I can’t wait to see what comes after this. La Torre can definitely get it done on the classic Queensryche tracks, as shown by the three live bonus tracks included on this CD “Queen of the Reich”, “En Force” and “Prophecy”.
So in conclusion, after listening to the two Queensryche albums I am extremely let down by Geoff Tate’s Queensryche. This is a very sub par album from one of the biggest Metal vocalists of the late 80’s and early 90’s. I feel like Queensryche with Todd La Torre could be better, but it is heading in the right direction. Queensryche may be a band where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. The parts with Todd La Torre on vocals is the clear winner in this round. Two Queensryche’s is clearly two too many.
Geoff Tate, I understand your passion in keeping the Queensryche name, but if you continue to release albums as bad as Frequency Unknown, you won’t have to worry about what you are going to call your band. When you sing “Is There Anybody Listening”, you may hear crickets next time. It is time to move on, and build your solo career.
Queensryche – Frequency Unknown – Rating Out of 10
Queensryche – S/T – Rating: Out of 10