If you've followed along with the whole Queensryche saga over the last few months and you are a fan, you are almost embarrassed to claim that fandom in public at this point. For a band that was once so proud of the fact that they were above the fray of their contemporaries, it's just flat out embarrassing to see the sad division of a band that was once so creatively excellent. Now, we have two Queensryches out there. The first one, made up of the "rest of the guys" and new vocalist Todd LaTorre, have proclaimed a return to the classic sound of the first five releases. They have been somewhat classier than Geoff Tate during the whole split, but at the same time haven't been shy to point fingers and make their private legal battle with Tate immensely public. Whatever, I guess...everyone's got to get the word out about their project. As for vocalist Geoff Tate...well, he's kind of gone insane the last few months publicly. Over the last few months, we've heard everything from why it was alright to spit in the face of his former drummer, rants from the stage where he told fans of the band that they suck, and yes, even stereotyping talk about the man's dick size. Certainly, the legacy has taken a lot of tarnish during this time.
But none of that really matters in the biggest picture for fans. As a Queensryche fan, all I care about are the tunes. To date, the release of FREQUENCY UNKNOWN has been a total trainwreck. The fan backlash to the samples was so bad that they had to do an immediate remix - one their label seemingly couldn't afford as production of physical product was underway, but where they tried to save face by offering two versions of the disc. The lineup of this "new" Queensryche has changed several times already, so any thoughts of cohesiveness are gone long before anyone even hears FREQUENCY UNKNOWN. In short, it's been a disaster.
As said before though, it's about the tunes and the tunes only. Like everything else, FREQUENCY UNKNOWN is difficult to give an actual assessment. I know what the name is on the cover as well as the logo, but this release feels nothing at all like what Queensryche has in the past. Even when compared to such disasters as DEDICATED TO CHAOS, the entire vibe is different. That's not to say it's awful though, but it's not really good either. In the rush to get FREQUENCY UNKNOWN out ahead of the other guys, it seems that there was literally no vetting process on many of these songs. Songs like "In The Hands Of God" would never have made it past the vetting process on any previous Queensryche album, even though this sounds about as close to the classic (maybe PROMISED LAND or Q2K era) as anything on the disc. I'm not sure if Tate was trying to prove some kind of point that he can still record heavy material, but there are some heavier moments on the disc. Songs like "Slave" are heavier than anything he's done in his recorded past. Unfortunately, that doesn't translate to good. While heavy, the song is lacking of creativity. There are times when the heaviness works, such as on "Running Backwards", but those moments are far too few.
As for Tate, he's not sounding very good vocally these days. I get it that you can't keep up being a high ranging member of metal's elite forever, but he's really falling fast into the realm of Brian Johnson where his voice just sounds a bit phlegmy or warbly (something like that - not sure what the exact definition I'm looking for is). Literally every time he goes for higher notes, he comes off strained to the point where it's noticeable. To be blunt, this is by far Geoff Tate's worst vocal performance on any Queensryche album.
You can't let a review of this release go without talking about the production of it. While it's better than expected, it's very uneven to say the least. There are moments where the incohesiveness of universal mixing and mastering come screaming through. The transition from "Cold" to "Dare" almost sounds like you are changing between two separate CDs recorded at different points in their career. Most of the disc was produced by Jason Slater, whose history is to create production that makes me wish I was deaf (AMERICAN SOLDIER, DEDICATED TO CHAOS, LETTING GO by Earshot, etc.). What he's captured is a flat sound with no dynamics to speak of, cardboard drum sound, and some of the worst vocal echoing to accentuate Tate's average vocals than should be tolerated from a guy earning a check of any kind to produce records.
Finally, there's the four re-recorded "classics". Now, I'm savvy enough to understand that re-recording their four biggest songs under the moniker of "Queensryche" guarantees Tate licensing going forward even if he loses his lawsuit over control of the band's name. That said though, pushing these poor renditions on the fans is akin to a porn star being slapped in the face with a hard cock before a brutal throat fuck scene commences. It's just uncomfortable to see, hear or experience...no matter how much of a fan you are. Hardcore fans are going to hate, hate, hate the re-recording of "Empire", which just feels insulting to the spirit of the original song. It's completely hollow on guitar, and Tate's big voice is now little more than a mish-mosh of inability to hit notes combined with bad reverb and obvious autotuning. "Silent Lucidity" suffers from Tate's diminished vocals as well.
PITRIFF RATING - 39/100 - I wanted to like this. Queensryche is one of my favorite bands of all time. While I've hated all the public bullshit that's come with this, I held out hope that their battle would compel Geoff Tate to really dig deep and come up with something great. Instead, FREQUENCY UNKNOWN delivers a rushed, sonically inept collection of songs that don't deserve the Queensryche name or logo on it's cover. No amount of guests were able to save it. This is just depressing.