Color me surprised. When Queensryche split with Geoff Tate, spawning a couple of bands named Queensryche and a real headache for fans and anyone involved in the band, my money was very much on the Tate-less version. I’ve found most of Queensryche’s post-Empire work to be bland and uninteresting, and I found Tate’s latest solo album pretty much unlistenable. So I’m a little shocked to find that, as both bands release their first singles, there’s a competition.
Since it came out first, I’ll start with “Redemption.” When I first heard it last week, I was impressed, and it’s got me looking forward to the June release of this version’s record. It sounds more like the Queensryche that I love than anything I’ve heard from them in a long time. There’s definitely a 1980s vibe to this track. Todd La Torre sounds enough like Tate that it’s not jarring to the listener. Tate in his prime was certainly a better vocalist. There was a character to his vocal that La Torre doesn’t have, and admittedly there are times when La Torre sounds like a guy trying to sound like Tate. That said, his vocals are solid and impressive.
I absolutely love the bridge going into the chorus. It’s catchy as hell, and it might be the best piece of music that I’ve heard from Queensryche since Empire. It should be the chorus. But then they go for this big, soaring chorus that’s not nearly as interesting as the pre-chorus.
It’s not Mindcrime, but I really like it. I’d give it a B-minus.
Now, on to the Tate version and “Cold,” the first single off Frequency Unknown, an album title with a message for his former bandmates, due out later this month. I laughed a little at the title and thought if it was, indeed, an FU, it might be worth listening to.
There’s no doubt that Tate has surrounded himself with an outstanding band with guys like bassist Rudy Sarzo and drummer Simon Wright. Are these guys to build a project on? I don’t know. They’re excellent musicians, but both are, in a way, career-long hired guns. Wright had solid stints with Dio and AC/DC, and Sarzo, after the dissolution of Quiet Riot, has bounced from band to band. The results, though, are pretty stunning. At least to me.
Tate, as he has in recent years, opts for the more modern rock sound. But I have to admit that opening riff from Craig Locicero does have something of a Queensryche feel to it, maybe an Empire-like sound. The verse is pretty damned catchy. Much like the song from his former bandmates, the chorus is a little bland, but when the verse rolls back around I’m grooving along again. It’s far and away better than anything from that solo album. Former (current? Who the hell knows?) Queensryche guitarist Kelly Gray pushes it over the edge with his guest solo, and I’m finding the song running over again in my head when it’s over.
My grade? A solid B.
So, round one, much to my astonishment, I give to Tate, but by the very narrowest of margins.
Folks, hang on, we might have a contest here. Who would have thought?