??Producer: Jason Slater
??Deadline Music/Cleopatra Records
??Release Date: April 23
Since Queensrÿche fired Geoff Tate last June and the band’s internal conflicts came to light, the singer has publicly declared himself the mastermind behind the group’s output since guitarist Chris DeGarmo left in 1997. Tate has forged on — amid a pending lawsuit — by assembling a second Queensrÿche and inviting such guests as guitarists Brad Gillis and K.K. Downing to contribute to a new album. His day of musical reckoning has arrived with “Frequency Unknown,” a title no-so-coincidentally abbreviated as F.U.
Tate punctuates the semi-hard rock record’s theme by lyrically throwing the bird (“Slave,” “Dare”) and justifying his stance with the gripping “In the Hands of God.” Material like the latter track, the ruminating “Fallen” and nearly epic “Weight of the World” deserve praise for their melodies and journey-like pace, but nothing on “Frequency Unknown” sounds like the finely crafted rock he designed with his former bandmates. Whatever duress those post-DeGarmo albums were created under, they still (2011’s “Dedicated to Chaos” notwithstanding) sounded like Queensrÿche, thanks to intriguing atmospherics, compelling dual-guitar interplay, sophisticated tone and arresting hooks. None of those elements are heard on this “Frequency.”
An 11th-hour remix provoked by fan complaints of the album’s prerelease samples show its audio quality has improved. But nothing could have saved the hits Tate re-recorded from Queensrÿche’s commercial peak: “Empire,” “Silent Lucidity,” “Jet City Woman” and “I Don’t Believe in Love.” Here, those engineering masterpieces are sonic embarrassments, and Tate hurts his own singing legacy by submitting vocal tracks full of cracked notes and congestion. Despite his resolve to flip off the haters, the only person he screws with “F.U.” is himself.