REVIEW: SWEET OBLIVION – “Sweet Oblivion”
Dawn 'Mama Love' Brown
Considered one of the greatest voices in the rock/metal genre, Geoff Tate has a phenomenal history in the music industry. Starting out in 1980, Tate fronted the hugely successful band Queensryche for over three decades until his split with the band in 2012. His solo work stands as a testament to his prolific singing/songwriting and he continues to work on solo projects. His other ongoing exploit, Operation: Mindcrime, released its most recent effort, the third album in a trilogy, The New Reality, in 2017.
Geoff’s most recent musical project is Sweet Oblivion which will be releasing their first full-length album on June 14, 2019. Sweet Oblivion pairs Geoff with a team of accomplished Italian musicians put together by Simone Mularoni, the mastermind behind prog metal stand-outs DGM. Consisting of Tate on vocals, Mularoni on guitar and bass, Emanuele Casali on keys and Paolo Caridi on drums, Sweet Oblivion was created to formulate a musical landscape harkening back to the unique sound that was the basis for Tate’s early work with Queensryche, along with some other subtle musical influences thrown into the mix. The album has a modest 10 tracks which are not as long as many new releases coming from most nu-metal or metalcore bands these days. Not that this would be considered nu-metal or metalcore, mind you. There’s so much ambiguity between subgenres now that it is sometimes hard to nail the correct subgenre with a band like Sweet Oblivion.
With that said, hopes were high in regards to the album itself which starts off strong with the opening track, “True Colors”, an energetic offering with a great riff intro and fairly memorable chorus highlighting Tate’s immediately recognizable vocals. If one had to pick an era of early Tate work for comparison, the production on ‘Rage for Order’ would fit best. Then we move into the second track on the record, the self-titled “Sweet Oblivion”. It pains me to say this but it sounds far too similar to “I Don’t Believe in Love”, one of the hits of the iconic Queensryche album, ‘Operation Mindcrime’. I tried so hard to hear this as its own, stand-alone song. However, the basic similarities between the two songs are hard to ignore. This is not the only song on the album with this issue.
Moving on, “Behind Your Eyes” has another in a series of riff-heavy intros and another great sing-along chorus which utilizes Tate’s vocals in multi which gives it a rich undertone that works so well with his vocal style. “Hide Away” piqued my interest at first with its distinct drum opening and some unusual musical elements that set it apart. However, as the song progresses, it seems to have many of the same characteristics as many of the songs on this outing. Multiple voice tracks in the chorus and similar guitarwork make many of the songs on this album seem vaguely alike in both sound and structure. There’s also a brooding breakdown featuring Tate speaking along with the music which kind of drowns out what he’s saying. “Disconnect” is what could be considered the closest to a ballad on the record with a slower pace much like the ballad that has become one of Tate and Queensryche’s most commercially popular songs (name of song withheld for obvious reasons).
Rounding out the record are “My Last Story”, “A Recess from My Fate”, “Transition”, “The Deceiver” and “Seek the Light” which all fall into the realm of making good music while trying to relight the fire from a previous iteration. All are good songs in their own right but all are so subtly similar that they generally fail to produce the unique sound that was a mainstay in Tate’s earlier work. Each of the musicians that participated in this effort is great talents. Mularoni is a guitar powerhouse, weaving intricate solos and driving rhythms and Caridi’s drums are masterful. Tate’s vocals are still strong and clear even if he can’t hit those extremely high notes he used to. However, the magic that once drove Tate and his team to produce songs like “The Lady Wore Black” or “Child of Fire” is woefully missing and hopefully it will find its way back home.
Sweet Oblivion is yet another chapter in the Book of Geoff Tate. It’s the next step in a rock/metal fairy tale spun by Tate and his band of players. For Tate fans, it is a must-have in an amazing repertoire of music that rivals any great master of the art. Just don’t go into this thinking you’re getting redux of the chemistry of early Queensryche. It’s just not there. Maybe their next will be the key.