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)