QUEENSRYCHE – Hear in the Now Frontier (1997, 2003 EMI remaster)
I remember when this album came out in the spring of ’97. There was anticipation and a certain amount of fear: How could Queensryche possibly top Promised Land? The band, as always chose to do something different. In this case they dropped the production, sound effects, and themes, and created a stripped down album of individual unrelated songs. That’s the nice way of putting it. Critics of the album say “Queensryche went grunge,” or “Queensryche went alternative.”
Whatever you call it, this is not a great album. There are some truly great songs, but they are in the minority, swimming through a sea of padding. Guitarist Chris DeGarmo wrote the music for almost every song here, and about half of the lyrics. He even got his first lead vocal (“All I Want”). Even though Hear in the Now Frontier (God I hate that title) isn’t a great album, Queensryche has missed DeGarmo’s presence. This was his last album with the band.
As I said, there are some great songs. They include:
- “Get A Life” – Not very Ryche, but it’s a heavy rocker based on the riff and Geoff Tate’s shredding vocal melody.
- “All I Want” – A piano-based ballad with a nice rhythm, very different from anything Queensryche have done before or since.
- “Hit The Black” – Grungy, distorted lead vocals drive this heavy riff-oriented groove rocker. I like it.
- “Anytime/Anywhere” – Another heavy rocker that would have fit right in on the Q2k album.
- “sp00l” – The only song that I might describe as progressive, and the one that sounds the most like Queensryche. Powerful vocal and melody. Sonically interesting, and centered on the bass guitar much like “Della Brown” or “Promised Land”.
But that’s pretty much it for me. The other 9 tracks I would describe as dry, flat, not memorable, melodically poor and homogenous. It is clear that the vision for this record was to make something that sounded stripped down, and even with odd flourishes such as violin and piano, it’s just too boring. Even the cover art (by Hugh Syme again) stinks.
There are four bonus tracks, all of which are decent. Three songs come from the “Sign Of The Times” CD single; “Chasing Blue Skies” is a studio track, and had it been on the album, it would have been one of the best songs. Why it was left for a B-side, I don’t know. Maybe because they didn’t want another ballad on the record, which was already bogged down by slow numbers? Anyway it’s great, and sounds like something from Promised Land. Then there are three MTV Unplugged tracks, all fantastic. “Silent Lucidity” and “The Killing Words” were released as B-sides, but “I Will Remember” was completely unreleased in audio format until now. These songs are all considered rarities, as the singles have been out of print for over a decade. They are at least worth having, even if you don’t like the album.
- Queensrÿche – Queensrÿche (2013 Japanese edition with bonus tracks)
- Geoff Tate’s Queensryche – “Cold” (2013 single)
- Queensryche – Q2k (Expanded edition)
- Video game review: Queensryche’s Promised Land (1996)
- Queensryche / Type O Negative – Toronto Ontario, July 27, 1995, Molson Amphitheatre
- Geoff Tate – Geoff Tate (2002)
- Exclusive interview with Eddie Jackson (2001)
- Queensryche – Empire (20th Anniversary Edition)
To be honest, I think this album is kinda underrated. I really don’t think there are any bad songs on here, although there are quite a bunch that doesn’t go anywhere at all. Still, there are quite a few brilliant tunes on here. Spool is a killer and to me sounds exactly like Queensrÿche should and that also goes for Cuckoo’s Nest. I also love Sign Of The Times, Miles Away, The Voice Inside and Some People Fly.
The unplugged tracks has been heard before and they’re all great, but chasing Blue Skies is new to me, I need to see if I can find it somewhere. All in all, I’d probably give this album 7/10. But after this, everything fell to pieces.
I wonder what Neue Regel thinks of this. I’m sure he’d point out that Geoff Tate single handed wrote all of our favorite tracks and the rest of the freeloaders didn’t even play on them…
Hah! Yes that’s what he’d most likely say. Even the songs that just say “DeGarmo” in the credits.
I wish I liked it more. I really do. This is an album that really divides people. It’s funny — everybody thinks SOME Queensryche albums suck, but we don’t have a consensus on which ones!
I’m with Jon on this one. I think it’s an underrated album although flawed. There aren’t any songs I don’t like although I agree it can get a bit samey. Maybe just pruning a couple of songs would have helped that. It’s certainly better than many of the albums that followed. The production was excellent, great bass tones especially.
Did they ever really tour this one? I found Promised Land went way up in my estimation after seeing the tour and maybe that would have worked for this although I’m not sure they really bothered touring it… had DeGarmo left before they could take it on the road?
They did tour but I don’t think it was a long tour. I don’t know if they ever played any of these songs live, after that tour?
I believe that they could have trimmed 4 songs from the album, and rearranged it a bit, and it would be a lot better.
They played some on Live Evolution but apart from that I don’t know. It definitely could have been trimmed that’s for sure.
Ahh yes. Not too many, but Hit the Black is on there.
For the record I wouldn’t complain at all if Queensryche played Hit the Black live again, but I don’t think they are interested in revisiting this period.
No I thought it was great on that live album.
Definitely. Actually even though Kelly Gray plays on it, I love that live album.
I could do with hearing it again. Gray put me off it really. Didn’t enjoy his tenure with the band much.
I really can’t wait for you guys to come back tomorrow.
What’s a ‘tight non-ambient environment’? We need to be told, hell I could unknowingly be living in one right now!
That’s exactly why I posted that quote up top — I thought it was pompous and vague, and kinda dumb!
Haha tht was my first thought too. Not only is he Stabby, he’s got the gift of bullshit baffles brains.
I hate Kelly Gray. Just needed to say that.
He definitely had a negative impact on Queensryche in general.
Hw did this guy keep getting jobs, if he’s that bad?
He was trendy. 5 million albums sold producing Candlebox and suddenly everybody wanted to try.
Never heard any of this, nothing to add. I’m just showing up to say ‘Hi Stabby! How’s yer life now, eh?’ Haha. Oh I’m kidding. I appreciate your incisive Lebrain look at this. I’ll probably never hear it, but if I ever do, I’ll let you know!
I could always just make you a real good Queensryche CD if you felt so inclined. Although you’ve never indicated that you’re so inclined!
I like any one song of this album on its own, but in combination its an absolute chore.
My favourite song from that whole era is the bonus track “Chasing Blue Sky” …they should’ve put it on the album.
I absolutely love the bit where Geoff sings “Can you please let me know how we have spun out of control” its one of my favourite moments in the band’s whole career, but shame its in a songs like this instead of in the middle of something like “Roads To Madness”
Chasing Blue Sky is one of the tracks that should have been on the album. For sure. I talked to Eddie Jackson back in 2001 when the Greatest Hits was coming out and he mentioned Chasing Blue Sky as a song that he was glad was coming out. (It was also on Greatest Hits)