Geoff Tate – Kings & Thieves (review)

Geoff Tate – Kings & Thieves (InsideOut Music) review

Tate shows that he can do Queensryche all by himself

2012 was a rather tumultuous year for Geoff Tate.  Earlier in the year, the rest of the members of Queensryche jumped ship to form another group, Rising West, essentially a Queensryche cover band, playing only music from the band’s first five studio albums.  Undaunted, Tate has assembled a new version of Queensryche, which he plans to unveil in 2013.  In the meantime comes his second solo album, Kings & Thieves – ironically, the most Queensryche-sounding album he’s done in years.

It’s a common problem: a band that’s been together for years tires of the “formula” – whatever combination of music elements that became their signature sound.  As a result, they take to experimenting, but often with less-than-stellar results.  That’s what makes Kings & Thieves such a surprise – Tate returns to the melodic riffs, intricate background vocals, and fiery guitar solos that made albums like Operation: Mindcrime and Empire huge successes in the early Nineties.

With one of the ugliest political campaigns finally over, Tate unleashes the appropriate “Dark Money.”

Tate addresses the recent controversy in “The Way I Roll” – “there’s a lot being said / a lot being talked about / but this is real / this is me” he talks at the start of the song, which features a tasty sax solo (by Tate himself).  He also seems to exercise demons in the dark “Evil,” which begins with a riff similar to “Last Time in Paris.”  He spits out the words “see no evil / speak no evil / hear no evil / remember to save your soul.”  He also admits his own imperfections in the string-laden ballad, “Change,” where he confesses “I don’t want to change the world / I just wanna change me.”

Despite a lot of dark themes on the album, there is a bright spot on “These Glory Days,” which addresses our penchant for looking back longingly, when the present is probably a lot better than we realize.

Probably the only real departure is the sado masochistic “Say U Love It,” complete with talking and moaning in the background.  It certainly would work in a strip club, but Tate used to be above this kind of stuff.  The album closes with the ominous stalker song, “Waiting,’ whose riff reminds of “Anybody Listening” off Empire.

The record was produced by longtime collaborator Kelly Gray, who adds some incredible guitar solos, especially on “In the Dirt.”  Gray is also tabbed as a member of the revamped Queensryche.

If anything, Kings & Thieves shows that Tate can recreate the classic Queensryche sound without the help of any of his former bandmates.  It sticks pretty close to what Tate has always done – a good mix of rockers and ballads.  This strong solo release adds more anticipation for a new album from Queensryche later in the year.  –Tony Peters