I'll be honest, Queensryche may have been considered a joke for the longest time now due to declining album quality, but I've found something to enjoy from all their albums except Dedicated to Chaos. Sure, Promised Land may have been the last prog album they did while adopting more of a hard rock/alternative sound, but I still found positive qualities in even the most controversial albums such as Q2K, Mindcrime II, and American Soldier. But the last really good album Queensryche with Geoff Tate recorded was 2004's Tribe while, still holding a hard rock sound, retained some of the lyrical and musically quality of Queensryche of old. But with the internal combustion that occurred last year with Tate's firing, there are now two Queensryches due to a pending legal battle. Rockenfield, Wilton, Jackson, and Lundgren are now fronted by Todd La Torre and Geoff Tate has the Sarzo brothers, Randy Gane, Simon Wright, and long-time commrade Kelly Gray. With only a few weeks and a last-minute mix due to fan complaints, Geoff beat his old bandmates to the punch with a new album. And it's surprisingly pretty good.
For years fans have blamed Tate for the direction the band has gone, with a move away from heavy metal towards a hard rock/alternative and occasionally AOR sound. And they have a point. Tate has never been a true metal fan and his first two solo albums are clear proof of that. But perhaps with Frequency Unknown he wanted to please and win back the support from hardcore fans. For starters, the guitars are very crunchy and chugging. In fact, Frequency Unknown features over 10 different guitarists which includes guest solos from the likes of K.K. Downing, formerly of Judas Priest, and Dave Meniketti of Y&T. The craziest thing about this is that the official lineup with Tate have very limited appearances on the entire album, suggesting that is album was literally rushed right out the door. And while the instrumentation isn't mind-blowing or revolutionary, the sound is still very heavy and solid. And while Geoff's voice has never been the same since Operation Mindcrime and has continued to age over the past decade, he still proves he can get the job done with a very consistent performance.
The album starts of with the single Cold, a mid-paced heavy rocker that carries a hint of melodic with an infectious chorus and light piano in the background. Dare follows in the same vein and ultimately gives the album a good start. Give It to You alternates acoustic guitar with electric in the verse and chorus creating a pretty cool dynamic and hearkens back to the more positive aspects of Kings & Thieves. Slave is the first song that is somewhat lacking, as it has an extremely heavy and strong feel but has somewhat silly and simplistic lyrics. Running Backwards is another particularly heavy song and while not as strong as others lyrically as well, is still catchier than Slave. Songs such as Hands of God and Fallen actually bring back some prog metal back in the mix with epic and heavy melodies with emotional lyrics. Tate tries to recreate the past further with the ballads Life Without You, which reminds one of The Killing Words from Rage for Order, and Everything sounds like it could have come from Empire (and dare I say, has elements of I Don't Believe in Love? Gasp!) The last official track is The Weight of the World, another prog metal-like song. Starting soft and melancholic with acoustic guitars, it picks up in heaviness while keeping the slow and sad melody, closing out with an unsettling (in a good way) guitar solo from Chris Poland. The four bonus tracks on the album are all re-recorded 'Ryche singles I Don't Believe in Love, Empire, Jet City Woman, and Silent Lucidity. This another lacking point of the album, as songs like I Don't Believe in Love are clearly missing the magic and "It" factor that the rest of the band brought. But Silent Lucidity and Jet City Woman are somewhat more faithful renderings of the original. Still, a bit of a gamble for Tate to try to pull off.
Despite the last-minute remix and revolving door of guest musicians, this is a pretty solid album. There are some fans who are never going to get past the fact that this is a "Queensryche" album but that might be the problem. If anything, consider this another Geoff Tate solo album that's actually heavy. In fact, this basically Geoff Tate's equivalent to Axl Rose and Chinese Democracy. Hardcore fans can't get past the fact that it still carries the band name with only the original lead singer and a revolving door of musicians. And while it took Axl 15 years, it only took Geoff a few weeks.