KINGS AND THIEVES
It's weird going into a record from someone you actually like but fully expecting it to suck. That is the case with KINGS AND THIEVES, the latest from Queensryche frontman Geoff Tate. Having not been a fan of his last two Queensryche albums as well as remembering how abysmal his last solo album was a decade ago, there was a lot of thought that KINGS AND THIEVES would be a train wreck. Add to that all the drama that's been going on with him being ejected from Queensryche, the legal stuff that has followed, and now his all star band that he's calling Queensryche, and you can imagine that thoughts of anything good coming from this solo album were few and far between.
And surprise, KINGS AND THIEVES is not all that bad at all. Is it classic Queensryche? No, but it's really not intended to be either. There's a lot of exploration on KINGS AND THIEVES, but not the kind that usually spells disaster for an artsy guy like Tate who can so easily be lead toward a vibe instead of a cohesive musical thought because their whim is more important to them than their audience. To the contrary, Tate has crafted a collection of interesting, driving and surprisingly focused songs that don't stretch out too far but still explore new boundaries of his musical spectrum.
To be clear, this is NOT Queensryche, nor is it intended to be. There's songs with a lot of deep groove in them, such as the surprising "In The Dirt". This song finds Tate adding an almost bluesy funk to his sound. The song has a big bass line that keeps it's mid tempo groove rolling, all while Tate snarls about a rebellious woman. While other songs tackle Tate's longstanding political slants, songs like "Take A Bullet" do so without resembling anything musically from his career. In fact, it's safe to say that "Take A Bullet" may just be the most "common" song Tate has ever recorded.
This is not to say it's all good. Tate's obsession with sex has gotten out of control. I think I can say I speak for most of the hardcore fans that absolutely hated the Queensryche cabaret. That said, listening to Tate's explicit descriptions of handcuffing and fucking some chick on "Say U Luv It" are pretty tough to listen to. Simply put, there's just not a lot of people clamouring for mental images of Geoff Tate banging out a bondage chick. That song is a tough listen. It's one of the few though, as most of the stuff like "Dark Money" or "These Glory Days" are pretty solid songs.
PITRIFF RATING - 76/100 - Certainly a surprise that it's listenable, Geoff Tate has captured a cool vibe throughout most of KINGS AND THIEVES. While it's probably one that will be forgotten shortly by most as both versions of Queensryche make their next moves, Tate can still be proud of this one. He's created something interesting and entertaining...far more than a lot of us thought.