It’s Groundhog Day.
Or more accurately, its “a project created, overseen and directed by Serafino Perugino President and A&R director of Frontiers Records.”
So are many albums and its tempting to imagine the President in a lab coat (pens in top pocket, obviously) conducting his experiments and creating some kind of musical alchemy.
Sweet Oblivion are one of his more interesting diversions, too. In 2019 he teamed up some of the top session blokes in Italy with Geoff Tate. A couple of years later, he’s done it again. This time with a key difference. The main creativity last time came from Simone Mularoni of DGM, this time the production was instead handled by his fellow Italian metal maestro Aldo Lonobile (Secret Sphere, Timo Tolkki’s Avalon, Archon Angel).
In actuality, it’s a pretty seamless transition, and that’s – by and large – because Lonobile like Mularoni, understands one key fact: that Geoff Tate is superb at singing a certain type of rock song.
The first time I saw Queensryche, he was still in the band. They played Operation Mindcrime in full, with Tate effectively acting the role. It was as much a musical as a gig, and he seemed in his element.
That, as far as I can see, is what he needs. Something slightly overblown, approaching pompous but still ready to fight dirty. That’s “Relentless” and its that way from the opening notes of “Once Again One Sin”. Equal parts Avantasia and Edguy (and yes I am aware that in itself is two sides of the same coin) it is hard rock on an epic scale.
Antonio Agate’s keys are integral to this, and they provide the soundscape to “Strong Pressure” – which has the flavour of “Seventh Son” era Maiden.
Keyboards abound on “Let It Be” (thank goodness this is not a Beatles cover) but so does the desire to fill arenas with sound. This – and the others – soar. “Another Change” is perhaps, leaner, meaner and tougher, but comes in with an 80s feel.
That isn’t to say its dated, though, because they aren’t. They do have the air of a film soundtrack about them, and the bass of Luigi Andreone is huge. That is particularly true on “Wake Up Call”, and if the fabulous “Remember Me” might be the most Queensryche, as it were, then it is superbly done.
A word too for Lonobile, who’s guitar is brilliant. Mularoni is big shoes to fill, but good grief he does it. On a record that has lyrics that often appear to be searching for something, then “Anybody Out There” is perhaps the highlight, but in reality, the whole record is full of quality.
“Aria” sung in Italian, is perhaps all the proof you need that Tate totally immersed himself into Aldo’s songs, and also underlines the fact he loves being a method actor. “I’ll Be The One” is a beautiful ballad (lets just say acoustics are out, but it builds), while “Fly Angel Fly” in many ways brings us back full circle, and even if “Relentless” isn’t a concept album as such, then if ever there was a band that should make one, it should be Sweet Oblivion (Feat Geoff Tate).
Those brackets are interesting. It’s difficult to imagine these songs featuring anyone else, but just like the debut, “Relentless” is a special record, however it came into being.