Genre: traditional heavy metal
Queensrÿche were once one of the world's premier progressive metal bands, releasing sophisticated yet accessible classics like "Operation: Mindcrime", "Empire" and "The Promised Land" among others, but after "Hear in the Now Frontier", which took a more grunge-oriented turn things went downhill with only a couple of interesting releases amidst a mass of, compared to the classics, boring albums. As we all know, the post-"Frontiers" era has been turbulent and ended with Queensrÿche being slit into two: one consisting of the founding members plus Todd LaTorre and Parker Lundgren, and one with Geoff Tate and essentially a bunch of hired hands.
With both versions of Queensrÿche aiming to release an album in 2013, there was a bit of a race going on to release first, I think - a race which Tate won with the release of "Frequency Unknown" way before the other Queensrÿche released their album. But is the release of "Frequency Unknown" really a victory? Is it enough to just release an album before the other Queensrÿche?
Well, no. The album will of course also have to be musically interesting? And, to be frank, "Frequency Unknown" does not strike me as interesting. It features music which is more in the vein of post-"Frontier" Queensrÿche - that is, more alternative metal with grunge and groove elements, and very few, if any, progressive elements. There are some heavy moments to be sure as in 'Slave', 'Running Backwards' and 'Dare'. While there are some good moments on the album, such as many of the guitar solos provided by guest musicians like Lita Ford, K.K. Downing and Chris Poland, "Frequency Unknown" simply is not interesting musically. I am biased, I know, but the Queensrÿche that appeals to me is the Queensrÿche that made albums like "The Warning", "Rage for Order", "Operation: Mindcrime" and "Empire". And "Frequency Unknown" is nowhere near the level of brilliance that characterize those albums. So "Frequency Unknown" barely qualifies as a Queensrÿche album to me.
"Frequency Unknown" has been criticized for being badly produced, and I have to join the ranks of the critics here. It sounds tinny and imbalanced - like the production was really rushed, so the album could be released as quickly as possible. The guitars are fuzzy and the drums sound thin, as do Tate's vocals. Only the lead guitars sound pretty good. The tinny production detracts immensely from the listening experience, and it really shines through in the re-recordings of the classics 'I Don't Believe in Love', 'Empire', 'Jet City Woman', and 'Silent Lucidity'. The four tracks should probably never have been re-recorded as they reveal all the weaknesses of "Frequency Unknown".
An okay alternative metal album, to be sure, "Frequency Unknown" is, in my opinion, nonetheless not worthy of being marketed as a Queensrÿche album. It simply lacks all things that I consider Queensrÿche qualities. If the intention with this album was to beat the other Queensrÿche, then "Frequency Unknown" has also lost that race, because it has just made me look even more forward to the release of the other Queensrÿche's (or, dare I say, the real Queensrÿche's) album.