The once forward thinking metal act has finally run out of ideas
There’s no question that Washington based outfit Queensrÿche were considered one of the most thought proving progressive metal acts in their early days. But after losing guitarist Chris DeGarmo following the release of 1997’s rather disappointing Hear in the Now Frontier, the lack of creative spark within the band has only become more and more apparent with every new release.
Having weathered the vocal majority of old school fans’ disapproval of 2009’s rather mixed effort American Soldier, the four piece act (who comprise of vocalist Geoff Tate, guitarist Michael Wilton, bassist Eddie Jackson and drummer Scott Rockenfield) are back with their twelfth studio album Dedicated to Chaos.
Much in the same vein as their former releases, Dedicated to Chaos was hyped up by the band as an updated take on their classic Rage For Order album (1986), but with a streamlined song writing structure that was evident on their Empire album from 1990. Although having heard similar things in the past, the idea sounded intriguing, and when coupled with the cover artwork and talk of experimenting more this time around than ever before, I was definitely interested in what the band would deliver. But for all of the talk leading up to the album’s release from within the band, Dedicated to Chaos is just another middling effort from Queensrÿche.
The band get off to a solid enough start with Get Started with its hard rock styled sound, upfront guitar sound, the song's catchy chorus and Tate’s own performance, who sounds stronger than he has done in some time. Unfortunately, while the song is O.K., it does have its pitfalls. Lyrically, Tate seems content to stick to a rather bland cliché, and the absence of anything remotely daring within the song’s construction (including the notable non-appearance of a guitar solo) means that while it’s a good song, it’s hardly a Queensrÿche classic.
Although a little heavier, Hot Spot Junkie just sounds too disjointed and out of key to be really enjoyable (Tate sounds likes he’s desperately trying to fit a square chorus into a rounded song structure), and the brief solo sounds like a rehash of the classic Queensrÿche sound in an attempt to convince fans that it is cutting edge.
The Middle Eastern influence on Got it Bad is an interesting touch, but is overshadowed by the abysmal lyrics Tate provides for the song, while the slower cabaret vibe of Wot We Do and the funky/jazz elements within Higher are more along the lines of songs that would fit better on a Tate solo effort than on a Queensrÿche album.
Despite veering more towards the mainstream side of rock, and lyrically naive and overly-optimistic (I’m thinking U2), Around the World has its moments, but it’s the modern rock approach of tracks like I Take You and Retail Therapy that really give the album its blandness around its second half.
While the album has many flaws, it would be unfair to write it off as a complete failure. The darker and colder feel of Drive is well done, with the assortment of whispers and voices heard throughout the song adding to the tracks cinematic vibe. And then there’s the driving/heavier delivered The Lie and the moody Promised Land (1994) like Big Noize, which proves that when put to the challenge, Tate can still have something to say.
Like nearly all of Queensrÿche’s releases since 1994, Dedicated to Chaos is an album that has a mix of both the good and the bad, which also makes the album a frustrating listen for any fan.
I understand what the band was trying to do with Dedicated to Chaos, but sadly they just haven’t pulled it off, either musically or lyrically. Yes, some of the songs have some elements of the past included (Tate’s use of vocal effects and saxophone recall some of the sounds used throughout Promised Land), but their effects are lessened by the fact that as song writers, Queensrÿche these days struggle to stand out from the shadow their classic past work casts over them.
If you’ve enjoyed the direction the band have been taking since the departure of DeGarmo (excluding 2006’s ill-fated sequel Operation: Mindcrime II and 2007’s poor covers album Take Cover), then you’ll no doubt enjoy a few tunes on Dedicated to Chaos. Diehard fans that have been slowly losing faith over the last few years with the band’s lack of vision and progression will only view this album as the straw that finally broke the camel’s back.
(Loud & Proud Records/Roadrunner Records/Warner Music Australia)