Back in 2019 some dude at Frontiers got it in his head that it was time for ex – Queensrÿche singer Geoff Tate to go back to his roots and record an album we fans had wanted him to do for ages now. Said and done, DGM guitarist Simone Mularoni was given a call and would he be interested in writing a Queensrÿche sounding album for Tate to sing if he agreed to? Of course he was and so he did. Tate accepted the offer and the project was on its way. And what we were given a little later on was just that, an album of Queensrÿche related Hard Rock with a whole bunch of killer songs and a Tate in fine form. Also, the album was a success and even though Tate wasn’t sure there would be a sequel, it wasn’t all that hard to figure out that eventually there would be one. And that time is now.
This time, however, there changes have been made. Things turned a bit sour between Tate and Mularoni when the latter accused Tate for trying to ruin the stuff he was given by removing guitar solos, changing the vocal-melodies into some more modern arrangements and even adding hip-hop elements to the mix before giving in and returning the files sounding as was planned. So for the new album one Aldo Lonobile of Secret Sphere fame was brought in. His most recent work was Archon Angel where he tried to create a Savatage sounding record for singer Zachary Stevens, something in my book didn’t cut it all the way and the latest Timo Tolkki’s Avalon album which was ok but not more. With that in mind I wasn’t sure that Sweet Oblivion would be able to match the quality of the debut and the fact that I’m not a huge fan of Secret Sphere didn’t help the expectations to rise.
Opening track ”Once Again One Sin” tells me no worries were called for at all. After a big intro, the song goes off into a Hard Rock belter which brings early 90’s Queensrÿche together with some symphonic elements and progressive arrangements. It’s an upbeat number yet slightly dark with very direct melodies and hooks. The chorus is strong and catchy and sounds like Queensrÿche and Avantasia had a baby together. I dig this. Latest single ”Strong Pressure” is a heavy and straight-forward plain hard-rocker grabbed right from Queensrÿche’s headquarters. It’s not as prog-laden as Tate’s old day-job and leans more on strong melodies and a meaty drive with an atmospheric keyboard arrangement. The chorus might not be hit-laden but echoes forever in my skull after just one spin. Great.
Heavy with a prog-metal groove, ”Let It Be” comes across as a blending of the sounds of Operation: Mindcrime and Empire with house full of chunky guitars, an upbeat rhythm and striking vocal-melodies all over. The song holds some melancholic but still uplifting arrangements and the chorus is right on target, making the song stick right off the bat. Very good. Leading single ”Another Change” could at times been an outtake from the Empire sessions melody and structure wise. Heavy and crunchy guitars, catchy riffing and a stand-out rhythm only increases that feeling making the symphonic undertones bring up the dynamics. With a slight nod towards AOR – without going pop-cheesy at all – within the chorus, the song grows even more memorable. This is awesome.
On a more dramatic note, ”Wake Up Call” comes on more laid-back and introvert with a dark and somewhat mysterious sound. The pre-chorus takes the pace up and bridges the gap between the held-back verses and the bouncier and fat-riffed, ”Empire” meets ”Breaking The Silence” type chorus. There is some touches of symphonic Metal here and there as well which fits well with classic Queensrÿche vocal melodies. A great number. ”Remember Me” is more on the straight-forward Hard Rock vein with chunky rhythms. Again, the verses holds back the tempo albeit with a chunky beat and the chorus is hooky and catchy with melodies that explains how Queensrÿche would have sounded had they been a Melodic Rock band. It’s a good tune but maybe not as strong as the previous ones.
As an outtake from Empire, the prog-metal laden ”Anybody Out There” is probably the most Queensrÿche sounding song on the entire album. It’s a mid-paced number that mixes the prog-metal up with some strong melodic Hard Rock melodies, punchy rhythms that steadies the beat and the chorus is massively catchy, the way that the Rÿche used to do things in the golden days. I love this song, my favorite on the album. As an experiment, ”Aria” is sung in Italian and while I respect the effort, I’m not sure it works. Musically it’s really good – upbeat and chunky with edgy riffing, a good meaty drive and memorable melodies. I don’t know Italian at all so I can’t say if Tate gets away with the language but to me, Queensrÿche in Italian sounds wrong. That said, I might get used to it after some more spins.
Taking a bit of a power ballad route, ”I’ll Be The One” reaches for some kind of ”Silent Lucidity” mode with a calming atmosphere yet quite straight-forward. The synth-strings and acoustic guitars are there as is the floating soundscape with the dreamy vibes. That said, it still doesn’t really sound like a Queensrÿche ballad, it sounds like it really wants to be one but never reaches the goal. It’s a decent song, though. The album finishes with ”Fly Angel Fly”, an upbeat number with beefy riffs and a rhythm that brings on some Scott Rockenfield type drum-patterns. That Lonobile has glanced at Queensrÿche’s late 80’s/early 90’s here is obvious. Big on hooks and memorable vocal-melodies, the song is yet another winner on this record.
If the debut album was a carbon-paper Queensrÿche pastiche – and I mean that in a good way – this album takes that even further. Simone Mularoni might have some big shoes to fill but I must say that Lonobile has managed to fill them. I know many call projects like this both calculated and forced and maybe they’re correct but since Tate doesn’t write or record music like this anymore, Sweet Oblivion is to me heaven sent – especially since both records contains so many damn good tunes. My hope is that Tate feels the same and decides that this is what he does best and starts his own band in this direction. A Queensrÿche reunion wouldn’t hurt either. But until then, Sweet Oblivion is a great substitute for us Queensrÿche hungry fans.