Monday, 19 September 2011

Queensrÿche - Dedicated to Chaos (2011)

1. Get Started
2. Hot Spot Junkie
3. Got it Bad
4. Around the World
5. Higher
6. Retail Therapy
7. At the Edge
8. Broken [*]
9. Hard Times [*]
10. Drive
11. I Believe [*]
12. Luvnu [*]
13. Wot We Do
14. I Take You
15. The Lie
16. Big Noize

Very ‘Now’ Indeed – 9/10

Merciless have the ‘fans’ and critics been as they relentlessly denigrated this album and the band’s current status, citing reasons as ‘weak, boring songs’ or ‘commercial sellout’ for the album’s lack of quality, or even the ‘lack of metal’. How could Queensrÿche, which should be a metal band, make fine albums if it’s not metal? And then there are people claiming the lack of metal is not why they failed on this album. Want to hear my side of the story? These ‘fans’ and critics don’t have large fantasy or the capability to empathize with a band or that band’s full-length, when it doesn’t quite match their expectations. Allow me to explain to the very detail.

How many times have (or haven’t, takes less time to count) we read how weak and useless opener “Get Started” is and especially as the opening track for this infamous record. Reasons as ‘mellow riff’ or ‘no balls’ were used to point out that the song is quite numb. Well, the song indeed doesn’t kick your balls off and it doesn’t go right in your face. Even more, it’s not metal. The Rÿche have made albums before that evaded the metal genre, but never have they sounded so tame, especially not on an opening track. What is wrong here? And have you heard that single? “Wot We Do” is its name. I have read tons and tons of people hating that song for the very R’NB influence that flows throughout. How on earth could the creators of masterpiece Operation: Mindcrime (only the first part) have decided to throw in a brass section and to leave out the distorted guitars? I have also seen multiple criticisms about lyrics to the song “Retail Therapy”, which deal with apps on a phone. It is said this item is not worthy to put in a song as lyrics and it might be proof that Queensrÿche is trying to connect to the younger audience, thus selling out commercially. That statement would be supported heavily by the popular song titles (“Hot Spot Junkie”) and especially the wrongly (read: popularly) spelled ones like “Big Noize”, “Luvnu” and the previously mentioned “Wot We Do”. And if that wasn’t enough, we would be to believe that the album wouldn’t get exciting at any point and that, an essential piece of criticism, the guitar sound is weak and forced to the background or even replaced (by a brass section for example). Michael Wilton even stated in an interview that he didn’t really like the album, but was reprimanded by the rest of the band and was forced to state on the band’s site that he enjoyed the album a lot.

Phew… if that all were to be believed, one was to think Queensrÿche lost their mind; made one hell of a sucky album; were no longer a cohesive unit as a band; and were trying to connect to younger audiences and to make hit singles. It probably takes a very strong and open mind for a Queensrÿche-fan to be able to like this record. I guess I probably am. Let me explain to the very detail why Queensrÿche chose this direction and let me explain as equally detailed why I like it so much.

Queensrÿche is a band with the will to experiment. They almost never do the same thing twice and the one time they did try to with Operation: Mindcrime 2, they failed shamefully. No, this band is better off treading new grounds and finding new ways to play music for themselves. If they left the metal scene it’s because they have nothing more to say in the metal language and learn to speak new languages. The experiment of 2011 is the present. The now. You walk around town in a random street. Look around you, what do you see? A car driving past you; the wind blowing; the occasional passer-by, possibly with headphones plugged in; mothers that just dropped off their kid at school, determined to quickly pick up some groceries and then head off for an appointment with a good friend, a dentist or a pedicure. Either way, you’ll get my point: life is hectic nowadays. It moves fast and there’s little time to just do nothing. With internet, everything is possible and within reach. There’s no excuse not to have done something these days because it is all possible. Everyone is reachable at all times, as everyone carries their mobile phones with them day and night. The band took this very theme as the main theme for the album and you must understand it is a very important aspect of Dedicated to Chaos. Today’s life is fast and we find ways to speed things up: faster internet; multi-tasking; special abbreviations and orthography for text messages and chat sites and what not. To capture the spirit of the themes, song titles in these so called ‘popular languages’ were used. The title “Luvnu” for example fits perfectly within this concept.

‘Rock music is no longer the music of the times,’ said Geoff Tate in an interview. He is right. In order to stick more to the concept the band decided to structure their songs around the rhythm of the now. Drummer Rockenfield and bassist Jackson have developed a rhythm section as solid as ever, but now built around the alternative world of today. Guitarist Wilton might not be as much in the spotlight as he was back in the metal days, but he plays a role reminiscent of any guitar player in a alternative/pop band and even though his playing is more subtle here, it adds so much to the music and he has a beautifully tight guitar sound. Vocalist Tate is in an ever-inspiring shape as he leads us through this new-found landscape with his warm, recognizable and above all outstanding vocals. If there’s any singer who I’d never get tired of it’s Geoff Tate. He’s really got the groove. The multicultural, ever-changing society of today results in the huge diversity of the songs themselves. We have laid-back grooves on “Got it Bad”; a Coldplay-ish pop song in “Around the World”; alternative rock on “Hot Spot Junkie”; classic Queensrÿche on “At the Edge”; a funky track with “Drive”; the hip-hop/R’NB influenced single “Wot We Do”; and an atmospheric, hypnotizing and very intense album closer “Big Noize”. It requires a tolerant taste, but if you can let go of your stylistic principles you should find yourselves enjoying the album, even though “Wot We Do” sounds sinful at first.

Yes, it’s chaos. Life is chaos. Queensrÿche dedicate this album to chaos. But it’s albums like these that make this band to one of my all-time favorites. Experimental to the full and totally dedicated to the concept. The most important part of the album for the listener is to understand the concept before criticizing lyrical content. As a suitable close to the review, let me cite a few of the lyrics, which are by the way outstanding, that can be interpreted to be about the album.

“We can’t get what we’re looking for unless we break some rules.” – Get Started
“All these changes, all these re-arranging starts with me if I want more” – Around the World
“Time to look at what’s behind closed doors” – At the Edge
“When you’re backseat driving keep your hands off the wheel” – Drive
“It’s much more fun when everyone surrenders” – Wot We Do
“Time to change the view” – Get Started

Strongest tracks: “Hot Spot Junkie”, “At the Edge”, “Drive” and “Wot We Do”.

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