Rating: 9.5 of 10
In the last few years, I was somewhat disappointed at the musical direction that former Queensryche singer Geoff Tate had taken with his band Operation: Mindcrime. For that matter, I had felt that the music created at the end of his tenure with Queensryche had really become something that I had little interest in. From a personal standout, I felt that like many things in life, what you do early in your life doesn’t always resonate later on. We all evolve and change. Possibly artistically we become more of who we actually are later in life. It appears that Tate’s project Operation: Mindcrime is possibly finished which gives Tate the ability to move onward and try new things. It would appear with the emergence of Todd La Torre as the vocalist in Queensryche, the band is quite happy with the accolades they have received with La Torre at the helm, so that leaves the question of what will Tate’s next step be musically?
So this brings forth Tate’s latest project, Sweet Oblivion. Now it appears, that within this project the songwriting has been left to guitarist Simone Mularoni of prog metal masters DGM. This allows Tate to do what he possibly does best and that’s to provide a purely amazing vocal performance. As I put this album on for the first time, I quickly think back to a time when Tate was in the band and Queensryche was a high intensity heavy hard rock band. This was before the days of Queensryche albums like Promised Land or Hear In The Now Frontier. What was put to tape back in the late 80’s was some of the most inspired and in some cases, inventive music of the era. As I make that statement I think back to 1986 when the band pushed the envelope slightly with their Rage For Order album. Of course albums like Operation: Mindcrime and Empire were recorded at the pinnacle of the bands career and are two albums that I hold in very high regard.
So in terms of that classic Queensryche sound, where does Sweet Oblivion fit into all of this? Can the comparison even be made? Why yes it most definitely can. From the opening track “True Colors” there is an intensity within that really bodes well to Tate’s vocal approach. Automatically you’re thinking, “Yeah, this is it. This is the Geoff Tate we all know and love!” As I focus, I hear a vocal delivery that had kind of gone by the wayside in the last few years. The track “Sweet Oblivion” has a complex build-up that then comes in softly as Tate applies a smooth vocal. Dynamically, this allows Tate to challenge the listener. It’s his voice that has always been the power of those early Queensryche albums. He is a master at using his instrument to create that power. “Behind Your Eyes” builds with an aggressive, distorted guitar line. Within a few bars Tate is singing over-top of that line. Stylistically, Queensryche fans will be impressed. “Hide Away” is a little more diverse with the instrumentation building into the verse. Although the songs were written by Mularoni, Tate’s ear for melody and vocal delivery are present. His influence is very prevalent. “My Last Story”, “A Recess From My Fate” and “Transition” fit perfectly into what Sweet Oblivion is trying to convey musically. It is so hard not to make all the early Queensryche comparisons. With that said, I must also make mention of the guitar playing of Mularoni. It is so precise and articulated perfectly. It is used where it needs to be and takes nothing away from Tate’s vocal performance. As the album gets close to the last three compositions, “Disconnect”, “The Deceiver” and “Seek The Light” add more depth. Vocally, Tate has always been so good at taking the listener on an emotional roller coaster. He knows which part of his voice is so useful at the right time. That’s what makes the great vocalists so special.
I can’t help but wonder where this could all be going. This is a great start, but I think given more time and vision this could truly become a band that gives Tate’s legacy even more stability. I am very excited for the future of Sweet Oblivion. When you think about Tate’s past, this could very well be The Warning or Rage For Order. Is there another Operation: Mindcrime type album on the horizon? I really think with Sweet Oblivion, the possibilities are endless. The future is very bright for this band if given the right chance to grow and expand.
Review by Tyson Briden