The world has changed a lot in the decade since Geoff Tate’s self-titled solo debut in 2002, and nowhere is that more evident than on Kings & Thieves. Only the second solo album of a legendary career that spans four decades, the album is a journey into the mind of one of rock’s most dynamic vocalists – and like every good journey, there is plenty to make us take notice along the way.
“I wanted to rock,” says the Queensryche frontman quite pointedly about his debut album for InsideOut Music. “My first solo album was more introspective, and the goal was to show my influences that weren’t as obvious on Operation: Mindcrime. Having done that, I didn’t feel l needed to do it again – my goal with this record was to make a solid rock album. I wanted it to be an album that I could play live that would be both satisfying and fun, because, as a singer, you need to create a show that has a lot of dynamics to it and takes people on a ride. I’m always thinking about the show, and there need to be peaks and valleys, not just a steady line.”
Those peaks and valleys are plentiful on Kings & Thieves, “Take A Bullet” unfurling like a rifle shot of retribution, “In The Dirt” embracing the blues with a sexy swagger that rocks as hard as it rolls, and “Evil” escalating with a haunting urgency that pleas with us all to save our souls as Tate’s trademark lyrical twists transport us through the 11-tracks. Starting with the opening narrative of “She Slipped Away” – part two of a trilogy that started with the Queensryche track “Drive” – the album mutates from interpersonal and sexually brazen, to political and socially conscious. From hard and heavy to sexy and sultry, it’s everything fans have come to expect from the frontman, delivered with a heightened sense of purpose.
“Like it always is, the inspiration is life,” says Tate. “You write about what interests you, what affects you, and incidents that come up that you have to deal with… It’s how we put that in a new, interesting package that’s the trick.” While there are moments that leave us exploring new depths and ideas - from the storied turn in the opening track, to the burning passion of “Say U Luv It” – there is also a lot of Tate’s familiar insight throughout Kings & Thieves.
With America in the midst of one of the most expensive presidential elections in the country’s history, “Dark Money” hits particularly hard, and also gave the album its name (“Kings & Thieves” was the track’s working title). “I think, generally, people in the United States – and all over the world – are getting upset with how big the class difference is between the rich and the rest of us.
It’s such a drastic difference – people are counting their pennies and losing their homes, while others are multi-millionaires and giving their money to political action groups. I’m not really a political person, but I am interested in social commentary and what happens to people because of politics, and ‘Dark Money’ is about how things that are important to everyday people, politicians look to as little more than pawns in a chess game.”
There’s a light piercing through the dark, and it manifests itself in the infectious rocker “These Glory Days.” “It’s got a gospel feel to it, and a chord progression that inspires hope.
I think the time we live in now is fascinating, to watch things unfold and see how information technology has advanced so quickly, opinions form, and those opinions create change – it doesn’t take as long for an idea to gestate, and that’s fantastic. That’s making us, as a race of people, move in a direction a lot different than our parents and grandparents. It’s a fascinating time, and these are glorious days that we have the ability and power to shape.”
“Praise the God of all, drink the wine, and let the world be the world…” sings Tate in “These Glory Days,” lifting the line from an age-old French proverb and sharing a sentiment that binds the album. There is a lot to the world that we can’t change, and there is a lot that we can – the magic is in finding our place, interpreting our role, and letting the world be the world… with music as the soundtrack.
“I wanted the record to have a groove to it, a feeling that it connects with you physically, rather than just connecting with your logic or analytical thinking. I wanted it to be a record that you feel and makes you want to move. I wanted to do something with my name on it, something that is a reflection of just me. The beauty of a solo album is that there aren’t any expectations,” sums Geoff Tate of Kings & Thieves. “A solo album can be its own thing and doesn’t have to live up to some success you had 30 years ago, and that can be free and liberating.”