Artist: Sweet Oblivion (Geoff Tate)
Album Title: Relentless
Label: Frontiers Music
Date of Release: 9 April 2021
I’m not generally a fan of artificially created musical projects. Some of them work well, but often, they can sound forced, contrived, and lacking any kind of heart or passion. Sweet Oblivion, featuring Geoff Tate is one of these projects and on paper, there are plenty of reasons to think that this could be a complete car crash of an idea. First off, there are the usual thoughts around Mr Tate himself and whether he is the same singer that he used to be in his Queensrÿche heyday. Then, there’s the fact that this project is the brainchild of Serafino Perugino President and A&R director of Frontiers Records. And when I say ‘brainchild’, I really mean it as he created the project, oversees it, and directs it. The very thought makes me go cold if I’m honest.
However, the first, self-titled album garnered some praise, with the production and songwriting handled by DGM’s Simone Mularone and I will admit to seeing a few comments online about people looking forward to this new album. And as I’ve said many times over the last 12-15 months, I’m very open to listening to as much music as I possibly can, whatever the genre or style to broaden my horizons and challenge long-held preconceived ideas.
For this album, Mularone is no longer involved. Instead, the primary responsibility for the songwriting has fallen to guitarist Aldo Lonobile, he of Secret Sphere fame, as well as Timo Tolkki’s Avalon and Archon Angel. Tate and Lonobile are then joined by bassist Luigi Andreone, keyboardist Antonio Agate, and drummer Michele Sanna. And, after some careful listening where I didn’t just turn my nose up in disgust, I will concede that ‘Relentless’ provides a certain amount of enjoyment. Is it up to the standard, as billed, of early Queensrÿche? Despite not being the biggest Queensrÿche fan in the world and with no axe to grind whatsoever, my answer remains a definite ‘no’. But there are some good songs nestled within the ten served up on this record, enough for it to not be the disaster that it could have been.
The best two tracks on the album in my opinion are found at positions three and four, entitled ‘Let It Be’ and ‘Another Change’ respectively. The former has a really nice crunchy riff within the intro that means it is also one of the heaviest tracks too. It benefits from some good bass and key-led atmospherics in the verses, and an explosive, hooky pre-chorus that displays some of Tate’s best singing on this release. There’s also a cool lead guitar solo to underline the metallic aspect of Sweet Oblivion should there be any doubt. The latter has more of an 80s hard rock/AOR swagger to it, as well as a touch of Secret Sphere power for good measure, as Lonobile’s mark can be heard loud and proud. The chorus may be thought of as a little cheesy and ‘pop like’ by some. To me though, it’s actually rather irresistible.
The problem is that the rest of the album is just a little patchy, and fundamentally lacks a great deal of that undeniable wow factor. Apparently, Tate himself was more involved with the project and even asked Lonobile to write him a song that he could sing entirely in Italian. It is a laudable idea, but the result, ‘Aria’ is not the greatest song unfortunately. Tate’s accent and delivery shows that he threw himself in to the idea one hundred percent, but the song itself is lacking unfortunately.
‘Wake Up Call’ is a decent song, with plenty of darker imagery and atmosphere. The bass and drums work in tandem alongside the swathes of keys, and I am reminded of early Queensrÿche here, as it grows with repeated listens. I just don’t like some of Tate’s vocal delivery at points, primarily when he sings the lyrics ‘completely blind’. Meanwhile, the opener ‘Once Again One Sin’ is again a decent track with plenty of energy and attacking intent. It features some rather grand symphonics towards the end too, but it takes too long to get going thanks to a 90 second intro that doesn’t add a great deal if I’m being honest.
Overall, the descriptors that I use when I’m thinking about ‘Relentless’ are ‘decent’, ‘not bad’, and ‘it’s ok’. In today’s competitive world, there’s precious little room for music that’s just ok. And given the clientele involved, fans are forgiven for wanting something better than ‘decent’. I don’t think any of this record is bad or substandard in the traditional sense that the music is poor. It isn’t. It is played professionally, and the production makes it sound nicely polished. I also think Tate sings pretty well too. But it doesn’t knock my socks off and I’m unlikely to play it much more in the future. As such, ‘Relentless’ is probably one for die-hard Tate fans only.
The Score of Much Metal: 70%
You can also check out my other reviews from previous years right here: