Queensryche’s sixth studio album is widely regarded as the first true misstep of their career. While having a few initial signs of success, it ultimately faded from sight due to their label folding combined with the Seattle group’s futile response to a movement that had already passed. To add insult to injury, guitarist/bandleader Chris DeGarmo left the band shortly after its release despite (or perhaps because of) his overwhelming influence on its development.
For the first time since the days of the EP, Hear In The Now Frontier sees the band emulating the styles of others as opposed to incorporating a wide variety of influences under a signature sound. Despite coming out a couple years after grunge was beginning to decline, Soundgarden and Stone Temple Pilots are the album’s leading aspirations though one can also finds reference to U2, Pearl Jam, and what Metallica was doing around the time. In short, it’s a very basic record that puts a bunch of jams out there without any signs of a bigger picture.
And while there aren’t any prog or ambient touches left, the band hierarchy isn’t too far off from the Promised Land dynamic. The guitars are still the prime focus and while there aren’t any strong riffs or solos on display, they do their job and are backed by a decent rhythm section. And like the EP before it, Tate’s vocals are what keep the music from sounding too generic. However, he has stuck with a mid-range approach that rarely ventures into extreme pitches.
When it comes down to it, the success of Hear In The Now Frontier heavily depends on how the songs themselves are written and presented. Unfortunately, having fourteen songs on a single disc does lead to a mixed bag as several of them end up running together. Fortunately, the running times are short and the songs themselves are pleasant to listen to, but it’s definitely not as consistent as everything that came before it.
In addition, there are still some pretty brilliant songs on here. “Hit The Black” may be the easiest song to get into for established fans thanks to its Mindcrime-esque guitar lines though “Saved” stands out for its explosive Soundgarden-isms and “You” reminds me of KISS with its simple but catchy hook. In addition, “Get A Life” brings in a little heaviness, “Miles Away” and “All I Want” bring in a little pop, and “Sign Of The Times” makes for a decent opener.
Much like Bruce Dickinson’s Skunkworks, Queensryche’s sixth full-length album is an experiment that is pretty enjoyable but ultimately came too late. Its reputation is deserved when you consider its plain presentation and the band’s over the top past, but it is worth looking into for grunge fans and makes for an entertaining character study. And the fact that it’s in every used CD store ever does mean that you won’t have to pay too much for a copy…
“Sign of The Times”
“Get A Life”
“Hit The Black”