The name on the front of this album says Queensrÿche. It does not say Geoff Tate's Queensrÿche or any other variation. Just Queensrÿche. There is now a battle in court for the right to retain this name and on November 18, 2013 a decision will be made as to who gets to continue using it - Geoff Tate or the rest of his former bandmates. Upon listening to Frequency Unknown, one thing becomes abundantly clear. Despite the name on the front, this album does not sound like Queensrÿche. It sounds like Geoff Tate and an assortment of competent musicians playing not very interesting heavy music. As such, in a world of legal concerns over brands, the integrity of a brand and the potential damage to a brand, Frequency Unknown should serve as exhibit A for a ruling against Geoff Tate to continue ever using the name of Queensrÿche again.
Don't get me wrong, I get it. When the hammer came down on Tate, leading to his dismissal from the band and the judge at the time ruled both camps could retain the name for now, it then became a race to the studio to see who could get their product out first. Most people, under the circumstances would probably have done the same thing. Beat 'em to the punch, get your new band out there and knock everyone on their collective ass. Who among us wouldn't have done the same thing?
Tate won that battle of release dates, but it would seem not without a substantial cost. Frequency Unknown feels rushed from start to finish. One can't help but wonder, if Tate didn't just run to his notes, hand them off to the numerous guest-writers (like Chris Cox, Lukas Rossi or producer Jason Slater) with a deadline of two weeks for completion. Granted, it's tough to start from scratch with a brand-new group and Tate seemingly spared no expense in hiring an all-star lineup including Robert and Rudy Sarzo, Simon Wright and Paul Bostaph. This is in addition to a different guest guitarist on virtually every track, like K.K. Downing, Brad Gillis and ex-Megadeth guitarist Chris Poland. Tate has made every effort to stack the deck in his favor with one major flaw in his master plan - having decent songs.
While there's no real highlights to speak of, there's a few spots that show promise in tracks such as "Fallen", "Running Backwards" and "In The Hands Of God". As a fan, listening to these songs is an almost infuriating experience as your mind swims with the notion of how good these songs could have been if more time and care had been taken to help bring them to their full potential. It should also be noted that the album includes reworked version of four classic Queensrÿche songs. "I Don't Believe In Love", "Silent Lucidity", "Empire", and "Jet City Woman". This move reeks of label intervention, but everyone involved is at fault. If, in fact, Tate was contractually obligated to provide these new versions, he should have done everything in his power to do great versions. It should have been his duty as an artist. These are his songs, after all. What was recorded, however, were versions so insultingly half-assed, the listener is left with no choice but to hope the songs are just one big "Fuck You" to the label, for making him do it in the first place.
Then there's the production. A few week's before the album's release date, a statement was released by Deadline Music stating that the mixes for the album were not very good, and were to be redone, but only after the album was released. Thus putting the same album on shelves with 2 different mixes - one admittedly not very good. Now, I don't claim to have any substantial business sense, or any marketing accumen of any kind, but i would really like someone to tell me what possible sense this makes, aside from lending more validity to the theory of "I don't care if it's not ready - just get this album out before that other goddamn Queensrÿche does". For this review I was sent the original mix of the album and can confirm that the production is in fact, horrible. While I was not present in the studio and cannot verify this theory, it would appear that Tate had recorded his vocals with his head in a bucket.
Queensrÿche is a band that has been around for 30 years. In that 30 years, the band has built a strong, firm, dedicated fan base that quite honestly, deserves better than Frequency Unknown. One can only hope that Tate continues on with his own band with their own name and focuses on what's really important - the music.