As far as I was aware, vocalist extraordinaire Geoff Tate said goodbye to his Queensrÿche pals – amidst much acrimony – because they wanted to go back to the traditional metal sound on which their fortune had been founded, whilst he wanted to parade about in leather shorts, saxophone swinging around his knackers whilst he did sinister talk singing about I dread to think what…

The pals, of course, found a Tate-like vocal presence in Todd La Torre and went about banging heads furiously to much acclaim; Geoff scratched around for a while with his doubtless-ironically monikered Operation: Mindcrime outfit before being convinced by label Frontiers Music that the success of the rump Queensrÿche at the cash register – where all success must ultimately be measured – meant that maybe the classic ‘rÿche sound of the mid to late eighties was what the fans really wanted to hear. And so Sweet Oblivion was born, with Tate shoehorned into a partnership with Italian songwriter/guitarist Simone Mularone, the target of which was to see the man back in his natural environment once more.

It didn’t quite work – Mularone accused Tate of recording his vocals ‘on a tour bus’,  and the collaboration dissolved in a now-familiar air of mud-slinging rancour. But Frontiers are tenacious when chasing your consumer Euro, so back they came with another suggestion – Aldo Lonobile, and the promise that Tate would be more directly involved in the songwriting process.

What the songwriting process actually lacks – for both parties in this story – is the touch of class provided by former QR guitarist Chris DeGarmo, but as that particular steel horse has bolted we’re left to make the best of a bad situation, and in that respect at least Lonobile has hit paydirt.

Anybody Out There, Let It Be and Another Change could all have been written when Tate was at his peak (by which I mean from the first EP to …Mindcrime), with the former in particular hitting all the right notes, from the tone of Lonobile’s guitar to Tate’s superbly overwrought, drama-filled delivery. Tate’s Italian delivery on the also-excellent Aria is also a surprise highlight, with Lonobile deploying some fine guitar work, backed by a top notch percussive accompaniment from Michele Sanna.

At the end of the day, everybody deserves the chance to admit they were wrong, and it’s undeniable that this is the best Tate has sounded (with the exception, perhaps, of his contributions to Avantasia) since leaving Queensrÿche; if he’s genuinely happy back performing ‘proper’ heavy metal – especially of the superior calibre found here – then more power to him. And if that leads to a reunion of sorts, well…

Relentless is out now.