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Just like a lot of 80s bands that entered the 90s, Queensrÿche felt it was no longer the time for their kind of music. Haven’t we been here before? Yes we have. A lot of bands made albums in the 90s that are not well accepted by the fans, like Scorpions’ Eye II Eye, Megadeth’s Risk, Dio’s Angry Machines or Iron Maiden’s Virtual XI. Queensrÿche were not much different, oh well perhaps the main difference is Queensrÿche never fully returned to their old status. With 1994’s Promised Land lacking commercial success, these gentlemen seriously considered making music that was more in the picture at the time.
Hence, Hear In The Now Frontier basically contains Queensrÿche’s interpretation of alternative rock and grunge. They reinvented their entire sound as a band and redeveloped their formula of songwriting. If it wasn’t for Geoff Tate’s trademark wailing vocals, you would never have recognized the band. Gone is the colour palette with which they painted classic, colourful releases like Rage For Order, Operation: Mindcrime and Promised Land. In return, the album contains down-to-earth straightforward songs with a very intimate production. Everything is close to the listener. Straightforward and heavy guitar riffs with relaxing and mostly groovy drum rhythms are the main focus on this record, with the necessary catchy vocal melodies on top. The band focuses a lot more on the feel of the songs, rather than the instrumental performances. We still have the great guitar leads by Chris DeGarmo and Michael Wilton to make this stand out from the other alternative albums and the star on this album really is drummer Scott Rockenfield who once again proves to be an amazing drummer and handles these grooves just as well as he handled the metal material on previous releases. Really, this band makes a change too huge for most fans to grasp. It’s not really a surprise that therefore this album is not quite popular. Nevertheless, once you get the feel of it, you will know it’s outstanding.
The album begins very direct with lead single “Sign of the Times”; a catchy and quick introduction to the new Rÿche with the catchy chorus and straightforward-sounding guitars. Most naysayers of this record will say this song is the one to get, but it’s not more than an introduction as it’s not getting as intense as later songs. “Cuckoo’s Nest” begins quite dry and doesn’t really suit as a second track, but nevertheless has a nice groove. The real thing begins with “Get A Life”. Though lyrically it’s a true failure, the song itself really kicks in with a heavy riff and driving rhythm. This is where the album truly starts. “The Voice Inside” and “Some People Fly” are two tracks that actually sound like Queensrÿche but are still unmistakably on this album; two little highlights though. With “Saved” we hear another song like “Get A Life”, but this time a little less aggressive. “You” is one of my favorites, containing a bit of an industrial rhythm and the best guitar riff. We get some rest on the ballad “Hero”, before we hear a very dry and direct intro to “Miles Away”. The dryness of a lot of songs is actually very much in favour of the intimate ambience. The track contains one of the finest choruses on the record. It's time to kick some true ass again with the heavy and groovy “Reach”, before we get to hear Chris DeGarmo sing on the power ballad “All I Want”. “Hit the Black” and “Anytime Anywhere” are more of those heavy, groovy tracks, which in the end are the best ones on this record. “sp00l” concludes the record in a classic Queensrÿche vibe like we heard on Promised Land. Its lyrics are critical towards modern day society, like we hear a lot from the band.
In the end, Hear In The Now Frontier is far from a bad album. It’s just a little hard to accept this change if you were expecting the progressive metal from the previous albums. Once you are open for Queensrÿche’s ‘obscure’ period, this record would be a good start; it’s easily the one that bears the most resemblance to the classic Rÿche sound at some tracks, possibly due to the presence of guitarist Chris DeGarmo, who called it quits after this record. This album is highly recommended to those that liked what they just read.
Highlights: “The Voice Inside”, “You”, “Hit the Black” and “sp00l”.