"I don't think I have your full attention", sings Geoff Tate on 'Wot We Do', the fifth track from Queensrÿche's new album, 'Dedicated To Chaos'.
This may be the lyrical understatement of the decade so far.
Queensrÿche are a superb band. Hugely under-rated, and responsible for the all-time classic 'Operation: Mindcrime'. They are also responsible for the serious and sublime 'Empire', a truly magnificent album with a scale and grandeur largely unexpected from a band often pigeonholed by confused music critics as 'Progressive Metal'.
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And, to the constant dismay of their fans, Queensrÿche delight in the experimental: previous 'cutting edge' material includes 1997's 'Hear In The Now Frontier', 2007's 'Take Cover' and the currently controversial 'Dedicated To Chaos'.
"Another Crisis Situation", sings Geoff Tate on 'The Lie', the eleventh track on this bizarre album and presumably a reference to the record company's alarm over CD sales and commercial activity! But wait a minute: I may write a classic Metal column and worship bands like Accept and AC/DC, but you can have too much of a good thing.
Accept's 'Blood Of The Nations' is a slice of pure Metal joy, but it's formulaic and we've heard it all before. And for the rock 'n' roll lovers, AC/DC may be one of the all-time greats but they rarely deviate from their standard template or challenge their audience.
"Where was I, oh yeah", sings Geoff Tate on 'Got It Bad', bringing us back to the present: 'Dedicated To Chaos'.
Well the honest answer is that it's genuinely interesting. The opening track, 'Get Started', is classic Queensrÿche. A subtle, slow-burner with a wicked riff and a disguised Metal groove, it's a winner. For me it would sit well on the 'Empire' album and it's an understated, fresh and modern rock song.
'Hot Spot Junkie' and 'Got It Bad' fall into the experimental category. Strange looping beats, weird sounds and lyrical musing. It's hard to work out what the band was thinking and it's quicker to skip to 'Higher', a groove-driven rocker with a more traditional yearning love theme. It works because it's instantly recognisable as Queensrÿche, yet it's definitely all new! The band is brave enough not to tread the same tired ground and re-hash old structures and melodies and for that they're to be commended.
'Around The World' is a deep-thinking power-ballad with an opening chord that calls to mind Linkin Park's 'A Thousand Suns' album and it's classy with a cheesy Beatles/Lennnon-esque lyric, protesting that "All you need is love". It's the sort of track you can picture on American Idol sung by some toothy eighteen year old surrounded by candles and petals. But it's ok - just different. I like it.
There's more musing on the disappointment of modern life with the biting satire on 'Retail Therapy'. "I gotta have it. I need more. I'll just buy any worthless piece of shit. I'm just filling a hole in my soul", rants Tate. Sadly the final track, 'Big Noize', closes the album with a whimper, rather than a bang as it meanders to a dreary finish.
"Is there anybody listening?", sings Geoff Tate hopefully, on the final track of the 20th anniversary edition of 'Empire'. (I got bored and switched albums). I feel this line sums up Queensrÿche in 2011 perfectly. I'm a huge fan of the band - and I particularly like their output post 'Operation:Mindcrime', especially 1994's introspective 'Promised Land' but I don't find myself wanting to play 'Dedicated To Chaos', whatever my mood.
"Read between the lines, criticise the words they're selling..." continues Tate, on 'Empire'. And that's just what we're doing here. I'm trying to find some meaning, melody or depth to 'Dedicated to Chaos', which I don't think exists.
Despite this, I'd argue the band deserve respect for not following trends or repeating past glories. If you enjoy hearing new sounds and want to take a break from listening to the same bands re-hash their classic-era material, this is worth checking out. It's well produced, richly textured and has moments of interest.
For me personally, it's a turkey, and it's going on the shelf alongside Halford's 'Two' project, Def Leppard's 'X' and Megadeth's 'Risk'.
"No chance for contact. There's no raison d'etre. My only hope is one day I'll forget... The pain of knowing what can never be...", sings Nikki, the protagonist from 'Operation: Mindcrime', on the classic single 'I Don't Believe In Love'.
I suspect there are many fans, myself included, who don't quite believe in Queensrÿche at the moment either.