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Operation: Mindcrime II should not exist, at least not as an album released under the Queensryche name. The fact that it is a sequel to the greatest prog metal album of all time was puzzling enough when it was first released in 2006, but a few more details that have come to light since the band’s 2012 schism make it even more frustrating. Despite being another attempt to pander to disgruntled fans after the failed DeGarmo reunion, Operation: Mindcrime II is the first collaboration that Geoff Tate and producer/writer Jason Slater released under the Queensryche name and features a slew of session musicians instead of actual band members. From what I’ve gathered, longtime guitarist Michael Wilton and drummer Scott Rockenfield aren’t even on this damn thing!
What makes this revelation painfully ironic is that the second Mindcrime is the first album that actually sounds like Queensryche in a decade and might just be their most metal-oriented release since the first one. Granted the focus on slower tempos means that “I’m American” and “Signs Say Go” are the closest things that we really get to old school “The Needle Lies” style speed metal, but whoever is playing guitar got their tone to closely match the original shine and they even squeezed in a few actual metal riffs on songs like “One Foot In Hell.” They even upped the ante by reprising a few musical motifs, working in some orchestral elements, and having a few special guest vocalists on select tracks.
But in doing this, they seemed to forget that the original Mindcrime succeeded due to incredibly catchy songs and writing that put each member on equal standing in terms of showing off their skills. The songwriting on its sequel is rife with sluggish executions, meandering structures, and faceless instrumentals that merely set the stage for the vocal performances with very few chances to shine.
Queensryche’s first three releases showed us that this dynamic isn’t necessarily a bad thing but that idea is immediately thrown out the window when the listener realizes that the vocals on here sound like shit. All signs of deterioration that have popped up in the wake of Promised Land finally culminate to this single performance as Tate delivers his awkwardly constructed lines in a grating sneer, botches drawn out wails, abandons his lower range for dull spoken word, and generally makes one wonder how much sooner we would’ve noticed this if he hadn’t been coasting by on grunge for the last decade. Fortunately, all is not lost as Pamela Moore gives it her all as the ghost/hallucination/whatever of Sister Mary and metal master Ronnie James Dio upstages his former apprentice as Dr. X on the otherwise anticlimactic “The Chase.”
Speaking of which, it goes without saying that the story is as directionless as it is implausible. While a story featuring the loveable Nikki escaping prison and seeking revenge for Mary’s death would be a neat character study, the story we got falls flat as the brainwashed junkie is somehow paroled and goes off to die whimpering after an anticlimactic victory. It doesn’t help that going into his thought process is much more forced than it was in the original Mindcrime and that it immediately forgets about the social commentary that made its ancestor so inspiring. Seriously, this was released in the middle of the War on Terror; how did they pass up the chance to talk about that?
But with all this bitching to consider, the album’s first half actually manages to be pretty decent. In addition to “The Hands” being a legitimately good song and “Hostage” making for a decent bluesy number, other tracks like “One Foot In Hell” and “Signs Say Go” make for entertaining rockers once you get past Tate’s warbling. I also gotta give props to “Murderer?” for its excellent opening and wonder how things would’ve worked if it had been the closer instead of the twenty minutes that follow it. It wouldn’t have exactly been “Eyes Of A Stranger,” but it would’ve ended things on an intense, ambiguous note as opposed to a dull one.
In the end, Operation: Mindcrime II is one of those albums that I should hate on pure principle but isn’t totally devoid of value. It attempts to justify its existence by means of a decent start, passionate guest performances, and neat callbacks but ultimately falters due to the band’s disassociations as well as a declining creator’s misunderstanding of his own creation. Perhaps it could’ve worked if it had been released at a more favorable time or if the band members actually gave a damn, but this looks to be another case of what could’ve been. At least Ian Anderson had the good sense to release Thick As A Brick II under his own name…
“One Foot In Hell”
“Signs Say Go”
Originally published at http://psychicshorts.blogspot.com
I love several songs on this album though I recognize that this album is a mess, all things considered.
I put up with a minor sense of disappointment when "Promised Land" came out, but I put up with it long enough to let that album grow on me; I still like it to this day. "Hear Now in the New Frontier" was clearly a disappointment, but it was salvaged by one song: "sp00L". "Q2K" was a farce but I found myself liking the groove of a few songs (only two). "Tribe" ? I gave it several chances given DeGarmo was on it, and for a while I thought the self-titled track was genius until I heard the original version by Massive Attack (Inertia Creeps).
So when I heard that a "Mindcrime 2" was in the works; I thought "sacrilege", and "bound for failure". I bought it with no expectations given the decade of disappointments that preceded.
And, suprisingly, I liked it, like, I liked many songs on it. I listened to it quite often, and then saw the concert, then stopped listening to it for a year, but picked it up again, and again another year later, etc. So, what's good about it? I would have to shamelessly admit that it is calculated nostalgia. I hate to say that it works on me, but I have to be honest.
The beginning tracks announce very straightforwardly, without any depth or thought, that "this is a concept album like the previous Mindcrime so it has people talking on it". "Freiheit Ouverture" is the first German song title since "Neue Regel". Then we hear that Nikki is out of jail. OK, fine, I got it.
"I'm American" has some of the "Revolution Calling" tone to it. I know this was on purpose; I know it was fabricated in the studio by guys who are not in the band, but I like it for the same reason I like "Revolution Calling". The drums really suck however. I remember hearing this song in a live incarnartion, as a preview, and it didn't feature the lead guitar for some reason and I hated it. Strangely enough the drums are not worse than on the preview version. I also like the middle fast part after Geoff's bit "Another television war ?". Another case of calculated nostalgia is their reuse of the "Believe in Love" chords sequence in "The Hands", another song I like.
Lyrically and structurally, the album is a mixed bag and does not hold water at all. A song like "Speed of Light" muses on how things have changed since Mindcrime came out ehhr.. since Nikki went to jail, and how difficult it is to adapt to everything now. Yes, that's supposed to be Nikki talking but for some reason I see Geoff musing on his career having gone downhill since the same point in time. The transition to the bit where Sister Mary sings comes out of nowhere. How do we go from "I stand here fascinated" to "Don't worry, I'll kill the bastard" ? Poor design.
The faster-paced songs really work for me. "Signs Say Go" and "Re-arrange You" run into one another very well. Again, one can see that when Geoff sees or hears something he likes, he uses shamelessly in his music in the year to come. This sometimes gives fun or good results. In this case, the lines "Let the world change you - and you can change the world" are from the promo poster for "Motorcycle Diaries", a film on the life of Che Guevera, which Nikki probably saw after getting out of jail.
Leading on to the "The Chase", a Broadway-number which I really really like despite having just called it Broadway-like. Dio was still alive when I bought this of course, so it wasn't just out of respect for his memory that I liked this song. I just like it, the lyrics, the interplay, the harmonies.. Hadn't heard Dio and Geoff singing on the same track since "Stars (We're)". The personification of Dr.X by Dio is a great idea. Only unfortunate that Geoff almost ruined this song for me by staging it as a motorcycle chase with hands-free walkie-talkies or cellphones where Nikki and Dr. X are confronting one another, and Dr. X has an accident at the end, during the show!!! Really? I guess that's again an inspiration from the "Motorcycle Diaries"?
I also find that the "dialogs" between Nikki and either Sister Mary or himself during songs like "Murderer" and "An Intentional Confrontation" are pretty well done in terms of vocals. But the album by then is just one flow of songs in which I don't really care enough to know where "Circles" end and the next song begins, etc. until "Fear City Slide", which really stands out. The real Mindcrime didn't suffer from such disorganization, though it had a few songs that sounded similar to one another and put side by side.
I really believe that "Fear City Slide" is a great Queensrÿche track all epochs combined and it is not built on gimmicks like other songs which I mentioned so far. Lyrically, though, there was a moment during the show which I thought was unintentionally appropriate and funny; when Geoff sings "Got my finger on the trigger and no one cares"; yeah, that pretty much described it by then, when the crowd had been suffering through this sleazy Broadway rendition, complete with fake money, plastic guns, and a singer-actor (Geoff) who knows three moves: 1-wrapping his arms around himself "straight jacket-styl" while dropping his knees to the floor, 2-mimicking shooting heroin in his veins and 3-mimicking putting a gun to his head.
There are some choir chants on this album, but they don't manage to bring any of the atmosphere or ambiance that the choir chants during "Suite Sister Mary" did on Mindcrime. They actually don't really sound like choir chants because it seems that at the change of each note, all singers change their tone as opposed to just the main singers. It's basically as if a song had three lead guitars performing the same melody with a tierce or quint difference as opposed to a lead guitar with a rhythm guitar and bass in the background playing what they should play (rhythmic chords and basic melody lines).
Of the two ballads, I can't stand "All the Promises", and I still have nightmares of the "dance" which Geoff and Pamela performed during it at the show. But I have a soft spot for "If I could Change it All".
All in all, my favorite post-"Promised Land" album, and yet it's not really a Queensrÿche album (*sigh*).
Mindcrime II is the Hyde to the original's Jekyll. The Goliath to the original's David. Meatier and modern, but inferior in every plausible department. The songwriting sucks, the musicianship is nowhere near as impressive, and unlike its consistent and cohesive forerunner, the album feels more like an attempt to offer the more 'eclectic' Queensrÿche experience via 'open minded' and 'worldly' composition rather than a unified architecture. They might have gotten Pamela Moore to reprise her role as Mary for this, and the late Ronny James Dio to take over Dr. X, but neither can help compensate for the lack of Chris DeGarmo, and even mindless of the recent drama between Tate and the other members, through which it has been revealed that the band was not evenly invested in its creation (for this or the albums surrounding it). Worst of all, Operation: Mindcrime II reeks of some banal attempt for the band to execute a 180 back to the style that originally put them on the metal map...only this is, for the most part, manifest through the title alone.
Last weeks theoretical minutes from the meeting of a band that next to no one had cared about in a long time: Our star is long past rising, folks. In fact it's sinking faster than a ten ton turd in a swimming pool. How do we turn this around? Well, what's our best album? Empire, dude! *the band laughs, the management smirks* Well, then, Operation: Mindcrime, the rest of the members agreed in unison. Yeah, yeah, I dig it, claims the singer, stroking his chin while giving his best Sartre impersonation. I'm not really into that metal music bag anymore, but the kids seem to want it. I've a few ideas. We can make it even more 'street' than the original, and use real orchestration than just keyboards. We've got enough in the budget. But it can't sound like Tribe, say the rest. We need more metal elements again, like the old days. Yes, yes, the BRAND will rise again. We'll get some TV spots, and merchandise rolling pronto...lighters, headbands, and maybe even Dr. X tees. But, Geoff, you know we don't have Chris in the band now, right? Ah, shit, well let's just scrape it together, man. Pull it together. This is the Jesus Christ of undertakings. We are saved. Saved!
All supposition aside, though, it was really inevitable. I wouldn't have been surprised to discover that the band had thoughts of a Mindcrime II since shortly after the original. I'm sure they received countless fan requests for that very thing down through the years, the only question is why it didn't happen earlier? Very simply, because this band was more concerned with tapping into the commercial success of the original's followup, Empire, and took this imperative far beyond the reasonable, leaving us with a string of ineffectual refuse like Hear in the Now Frontier and Q2K. To their credit, the Queensrÿche of the 21st century does their utmost to make this a heavier effort than the 4-5 leading up to it. That's about as far as the album's successes take it: songs like "Re-arrange You", "I'm American" manage to evince more aggression than anything I can recall of Tribe or Q2K. The incorporation of the symphony also feels natural with the loud, abrasive production of the album, not unlike Judas Priest's weakly Nostradamus. Queensrÿche went big for this, pulling out all the stops, and attempting to conjure the grandeur they'd lacked for almost two decades.
Unfortunately, no one reminded the band that this effort would be entirely misspent without the great songs that defined the first Mindcrime, and what we've got is a fraction of mediocre rhythms buried in a hulking heap of underdeveloped feces. The riffs suck throughout, juvenile note progressions you'd hear from any rehearsal room anywhere in America where some axeslinger is just fucking around (not even planning to use them). The muddied guitar tone here lacks gravity and power beyond the visceral, and the band keep a lot of their alt rock and grunge influences patterns in play, a handful of tracks like "A Junkie's Blues" reminding me once more of something left on the cutting floor by the Stone Temple Pilots. Really, Mindcrime II seems to have no precise idea of what it wants to be. Some songs want to be rock, some metal, some rock opera ballads cashing in on the "Silent Lucidity" idea but falling well shy of that song's consistent catchiness. For example, the finale/duet "All the Promises", with Tate and Moore playing off one another in their respective characters, is laughable tripe; "If I Could Change It All" trying its hand at the spacious 80s Pink Floyd aesthetic (which Queensrÿche had used on the prior albums) and conjuring boring drama.
The whole album lacks the poignancy and domineering melody of the original, and instead feels like a group of festive old farts leaping around to a selection of raucous distorted rock riffs. Tate can still scream, he proves this in a few of the pieces like "Re-arrange You", or his duet with Dio in "The Chase", which is sadly supported by some of the most mediocre guitars on the record, but in general he seems like he's putting too much effect on his tracks to make up for a slightly diminished power to his delivery ("Signs Say Go", for example). That seamless clarity and pitch from Rage for Order and Mindcrime has unraveled, and beyond that, the melodies in his lines have little impact. There isn't a single chorus on Mindcrime II that I can say captured me whatsoever, never mind with the surge of urgency and emotion in a "Speak" or "Eyes of a Stranger". A lot of backup shouts are used in tracks like "Murderer?" to make up for the lack of a hook, but they just sound silly rather than the menace exuding from a lot of the tough guy gang core.
A few of the leads and melodies show a modicum of skill and harmony ("I'm American", "The Hands"), but they don't really jive with the rest of their surrounding tracks, and stand out like sore thumbs. Supposedly some of the guitars were re-tracked at the last minute by one of the assistant engineers on the records, so it's unclear exactly who is playing what throughout, and Stone and Wilton were clearly under utilized. I've also read that Scott Rockenfield was absent here. Regardless, whatever person is drumming here is hitting with the about the same strength under such a mire of creativity, but I actually didn't enjoy how loud he was compared to the guitars on much of the album. Jackson has some freedom here, and he does his best to ground the punch of the guitars and the dominance of the vocals, but really, there's no room for him to vastly improve on such a cruddy selection of note progressions.
Lyrically, though the first Mindcrime wasn't exactly poetry in motion, this still seems a step down, a tired series of cliches that one can experience in just about any rock or pop song. Again, a listener can displace most of the individual tracks from the concept and appreciate them for any personal relevance, but there were no clever phrases here that caught my attention. The story itself takes place nearly almost two decades after the first (equivocal with the gap between album releases), and it deals with the primary perspective character Nikki getting his revenge on Dr. X and struggling through a downward spiral that leads to conversation's with Mary's ghost and all this other typical nonsense. It never needed a sequel, the story as it plays out is all too predictable, and it might have been better just to leave the original alone, with a more ambiguous ending. Even if the sequel was fucking Faust-level Goethe quality, though, the music is middling garbage that did not deserve a release under this banner.
Operation: Mindcrime II is terrible, and even if I could muster no expectations towards it due to the band's record of mediocrity post-1994, it still arrived as a great disappointment. Because, really, that's that. This part of the saga is canonized, and it's never going away, like the memory of putting on vomit-soaked socks one hungover morning. It will stink forever and it will sting forever.
Operation: Mindcrime II, the “long-awaited” sequel to their 1988 masterpiece. Being a band that just no longer has the quality they used to have; this task is very risky, and possibly very unwise. Albums like Hear in the Now Frontier and Q2k, and even Tribe (although I really like that one) were not quite received with loud cheers, and using an old title to gain more attention from already declined fans is certainly not a bad thing. What is bad is that it’s needed for them to do such a thing. Furthermore, those “regained” fans probably regretted being “regained” after listening to this sequel. Tate and the boys should have known that taking such a title would quadruple the expectations.
Although Queensrÿche has done quite a good job at recreating the proper Mindcrime ambience, they quality of the songs, especially after track 10 “The Chase”, is not nearly as good as on the first Operation: Mindcrime. Songs like “The Hands” and “Re-arrange You” really make you think the band is back to making quality music, but unfortunately abominations like “I’m American” and “Murderer?” make you think otherwise. The story does continue, but is a little predictable, and very annoying after the death of Dr X. Basically, from track 11 to 17 you get to hear how the main character is struggling with himself over and over again until he decides to commit suicide. Those tracks sound really depressing, which from a certain point of view is very good, because the music is representing the tone of the lyrics very well, but on the other hand it is not at all nice to listen to.
Having said that, I can say the first half of the album is pretty enjoyable, though far from great. After hearing the nice intro tune “Freiheit Ouvertüre” you get to hear the opening song “I’m American”. First of all, the lyrics are disgusting, even though I think he means them sarcastically. Furthermore, it is not a very bad song, but Queensrÿche hasn’t created fast songs since 1988, and that’s very audible here. It sounds very forced. It also has a terrible theme after the 2nd chorus, and a terrible guitarsolo. The solo's on this album are all terrible, by the way.
Then there come three nice songs with memorable choruses, with “The Hands” as a highlight. “Speed of Light” tends to belong to that “nice-list” as well, if only it didn’t have that terrible “inner confrontation” at the end. Then we have another forced up-tempo song that drags along in the shape of “Signs Say Go”.
Highlight of the album would really be “The Chase”, the duet between Geoff Tate and Ronnie James Dio. No other song can compete with these melodies and these vocal qualities. Although Pamela Moore’s singing from “If I Could Change It All” comes close.
After the first half comes the second, depressing half, with only “If I Could Change It All” and “A Junkie’s Blues” worth to be mentioned. The rest is forgettable, but very experimental. If you like experimental, you might like it, but I’ll pass. What I do not like about this second half is the so called “inner confrontations” from the main character that feature in almost every song here. Furthermore, sometimes the vocal melodies remind me of a musical, or an Ayreon rock opera. But it definitely does not fit Queensrÿche.
To make a long story short, this attempt at a sequel to Operation: Mindcrime is not a complete failure, nor is it their new triumph. Most of its content is forgettable, and the part that is not is not very memorable either. This is not the comeback many fans have waited for. No, that title I would like to give to 2009’s American Soldier, although there are many who would disagree with me on that point. The songs I recommend: “Hostage”, “The Hands”, “Re-Arrange You”, “The Chase” and “If I Could Change It All”.
Furthermore, I do not recommend this album to anyone but to completists. Don’t let the title misguide you.
After the first examination of the album I was kind of devastated. I thought it was a joke or something, as I could not find any song that would strike me down with thrilling sounds. A lot of time has passed and... well, not much changed since then (perhaps except for the fact that I came to admire 2 or 3 songs). Basically, Mindcrime II sucks.
The album is exceptionally boring. It is comprised of excessive number of short tracks glued together with transitions that are almost all the same. Vast majority of tracks sound very much alike and there is little variety in melody. In terms of vocals, Tate's voice got distinctly deteriorated since "The Warning" and he frequently sounds as if he was on a hangover.
From the very beginning we are exposed to a string of flatness which starts from a boring intro comprised of "Freiheit Ouvertüre" and "Convict". "I'm American" is fast and catchy but it is shamelessly simple and pallid. "One Foot in Hell" is somewhat better but nevertheless it lacks character. It is followed by one of the best tracks on the album, namely "Hostage". Then there is terrible "The Hands", followed by equally awful "Speed of Light" and catchy, but still flat in the long run, "Signs Say Go". "Re-arrange You" is in the similar mood as "The Hands" and "Speed of Light" but at least it has got quite a decent refrain. Its ending and the beginning of "The Chase" combine into one of the best transitions on the album. Actually both tracks could be one and probably no one would notice. "The Chase" is short but brilliant, particularly due to the guest appearance of Ronnie James Dio as Dr X. Well, up till the very end we are exposed to a barrage of nothing-specials interrupted ocassionally by decent "Murderer" and very melodic, which is rare in the case of OMII, "Junkie's Blues". The concluding track "All The Promises" is exceptionally out of place due to the sleepy mood it displays and the overwhelming averageness it abounds with.
Listen at your own peril.
This review hurts me to write, hurts me a lot. It hurts because it's like writing an obituary for a band I loved, and it hurts because this album is so very, very painful to have to sit through. When I heard about this one my spider-sense went apeshit. I mean when a band says they are doing a sequel to not only their most lauded work but one of the most storied albums in metal history, you know one of two things is going to happen: A – you will witness a triumphant return to greatness by a band who had lost their way but have now found it again, or the more likely option B - you will watch as a bunch of limp-dicked old men rape the carcass of their past glories to make a few bucks. If you have been paying even slight attention to Queensryche's parabolic slide into radio-rock irrelevancy, you can already guess which one this is.
Now I have been a 'Ryche fan for so long I almost can't remember a time before I was. "Mindcrime", "The Warning", "Rage For Order" – this was the soundtrack to my coming of age, man. And I did not abandon the band when they crossed over into new sounds. I loved "Empire" and even most of "Promised Land", so I am not one of those purists who hate everything post-"Warning". I loved this band and was willing to follow them wherever they went, so long as they wrote good music. But as "Hear And The Now Frontier" and everything since can attest, this band is no longer capable of that. (Okay, I even liked some of the stuff on "Q2K" – I'll admit it.) But this is just the limit. Not only have Queensryche betrayed metal by recording a 'sequel' to "Mindcrime" that is not a metal album – which I could have forgiven – but they have, with much fanfare, produced a really crappy album.
My point is, I am not going to roast this because it isn't a metal album – I never expected it to be a metal album – I'm just going to point out how bad this is by any standard. First off, this is the worst production job Queensryche have ever had – flat, poorly mixed, and dead. I guess Jim Barton was busy, either that or he knew better than to touch this stinker. The drums sound flat, the guitar sound is pretty much nonexistent, and the bulk of the music is carried by synths. The way the sound is put together, it's pretty obvious that the vocals are intended as the focal point of the music, but the problem is that Geoff Tate (this hurts to say) is no longer up to the task of carrying a song. Either his smoking caught up with him, or he just doesn't give a rat's ass anymore, because he sounds awful. His upper range is long gone, but I could have told you that fifteen years ago when I saw them on the "Empire" tour and heard him laboring over the high notes on the old material. Beyond that simple fact is the even more fundamental one that his tone has gone to hell along with his sense of a good melody. The same guy who produced nonstop singable hooks from 1982 to 1992 goes through this whole album without producing a melody line you want to sing along with. The powerhouse voice that wailed out "Eyes Of A Stranger" and the wrenching ballad "Someone Else?" now sounds enervated and emotionless.
The rest of the band is no better. Eddie Jackson's bass work is all but inaudible in the slushy mix. The guitars on this album are a disgrace, with no riffs to speak of and only a few decent leads. The 'riffs' are all bar-chord bullshit with no dynamic or melody, just rhythm chunking. You don't really notice the drums at first, but then about halfway through the album you remember that this is Scott fucking Rockenfield, why do the drums sound like shit!?!? I mean he does nothing but keep time on this disc – no fills, no rolls, just rat-tat-tat.
Most of all this album fails in comparison to its supposed predecessor, as this is not only not a metal album, but so much inferior to "Mindcrime" as to not even be worth the comparison. Hell, the first five minutes of that album has more drive, energy, and songwriting appeal than this entire disc. I'm not really going to go through song by song on this album, as really, honestly, they are all crap of one degree or another. People calling this a 'worthy follow-up to the original', or 'as good as the first one' are lying to you, and to themselves I suppose. I'd talk about the continuation of the story, but to be honest I don't care enough, and it doesn't bear discussion anyway. Right now, writing this review, I have wasted more time on this intolerable album than it deserves. A sad coda to a great band who once had no equals, or as my wife wrote on the disc after hearing it: "So WTF I can't fuck the what in it. AVOID." She also crossed out "Queensryche", and I think we should all do the same. Just cross this fucker out. Didn't happen, never saw it, never speak of it again.
Originally written for www.metalcrypt.com
Sequels are marred by the expectations created by their predecessors, and it is truly a rarity when one manages to surpass the story that it seeks to continue, particularly when the original incarnation was considered one of the most groundbreaking works in its genre. The pressures to be both faithful to the already established storyline yet try to culture it to the more modern tendencies of the day cause one to walk a fine line, and it is easy to sacrifice one for the sake of the other, resulting in either a carbon copy of the original or something that has nothing in common with it.
“Operation Mindcrime 2” has come about in the midst of a renaissance in the metal genre, and one would wonder why an album like this didn’t come about 2 or 3 years before instead of the lackluster “Tribe”. It is first and foremost an attempt to recapture one of the earlier approaches the band had adopted, as can be observed in the increased keyboard presence, stepped up vocal display, and more metal oriented riff collection. In essence, the only thing that truly holds this album back is some production flaws, as the drums still have some of the deadness that has been present since “Promised Land”.
The swapping of chief storyline duties and overall musical direction from Chris DeGarmo, who left the band and seemingly took most of the Grunge sounds that he originally imported into the group with him, to that of Geoff Tate seems to have worked well for them. The guitar sound has seen some drastic improvements, although they still lack the solid vintage crunch that they had carried throughout the 80s. Likewise the bass has maintained its new sense of activity since the 90s, while the drums have stepped back from the abyss that they entered with the advent of “Empire”.
Highlight songs are more prevalent than they had been before; owing to some attempts at continue the Progressive evolution of the band. “Freiheit Ouverture” has one of the oddest sounding keyboard ambiences driving it that I’ve heard in a while, setting the stage for the release of a killer back into society. “Speed of Light” sounds a bit like a Led Zepplin song, although it lives up to its name and ends rather quickly. “Re-arrange you” has a lot of keyboards to it, although the overall flow of it and the guitars tend towards later Fates Warning works such as “Perfect Symmetry” and “Parallels”.
Other music on here sticks out quite well yet reaches back further to Queensryche’s roots in the 80s. “I’m American” merges some aspects of the original Mindcrime with the speed and aggression of the original 1983 EP. The intro to “The Hands” sounds a lot like the middle section of the title track to “Empire”, while the rest of it is similar to the original Mindcrime. “Signs say go” and “Hostage” have some dark guitar work at play, but mostly function as hook oriented songs fit for fanfare status on a concept album.
But with all of the powerful works aiding to push the story along, the true strength turns out to be the musical sections containing the climax and the denouement of the story. “The Chase” is a duet between two vocal colossuses, as only Ronnie Dio would be fit to have a singing duel with Tate, and the results are a brilliant yet mostly vocally driven number. The music behind is fairly repetitive, but the solo section at the end of the vocal interchange is quite entertaining. “All the Promises” culminates the philosophical resolution of this dark tale with a somber duet with Pamela Moore, it’s a ballad, but it is quite moving musically and lyrically.
Now some whom pay equal attention to the storyline as the music might ask, why did this sequel have to happen, the original told the story sufficiently? To this I respond, the story was not complete at the end of Part 1, and it was philosophically confused. It did not see justice visited upon the true villain of the tale, but instead portrayed a world of utter doom and despair. I’m proud to say that Geoff Tate has proven me wrong with this release, I thought as a lyricist he was cut from a line of literary naturalists, but this has a strong measure of Romanticism to it. I had little sympathy for Nikki, though quite a strong amount for Mary, because the former was the personification of the anti-hero, something which is the fictional equivalent of every moral coward that should and ought to be denounced in today’s world.
Nikki’s death is a slow decay that had already began since Mary’s death, as she had essentially been his saving grace, while Dr. X was the demon that he had always turned to for the refueling of his illusions. When he stood up to his demon and destroyed him, his life and purpose was lost without the source of his initial revelation. In essence it is the modernist incarnation of the same Romantic telling of Romeo and Juliet, it is tragic, but it also teaches a lesson in what really matters. Vengeance may be justified, but it is not something that one can live for, only one’s own sense of self can give one cause to live. Mary’s constant words about Nikki continually acting in self-hatred by pumping poison into his veins is a testament of his own self-hatred, which in turn condemned them both from the very beginning. No one was there to tell either of them that there was something out there better for them, and until someone has the courage to tell the Nikkis and the Marys of the world that the ones whom claim to be their saviors are using them, that they are as entitled to the happiness that they are told is impossible, we will continue to lose them to the cult of despair and death.
To my fellow core-Queensryche fans, this is not quite the masterpiece that we had hoped for, but it is a huge step in the right direction. It will satisfy your desire for closure to an Orwellian masterpiece, but it doesn’t quite capture the initial magic. If you liked the 80s approach of Queensryche, you will like this, and it is worth the money. The Queen has not yet recaptured her former throne, but she is in the grand hall and it is in her line of sight.
No, I am not saying that because in Operation: Mindcrime, he killed many political and religious leaders. I am saying it because I had a perfect vision of the first album and now, every time I listen to such a perfect album, I feel a bit of anger because the sequel is crap.
I don’t even think this album fits into the metal genre, with the exception of Fear City Slide, The Chase, and I’m American. It sounds more like a cross between Alt Rock and Prog Hard Rock.
All of the songs, except for the ones previously mentioned, are not very good at all. They lack creativity, and all sound the same. Geoff Tate no longer has his multi-octave range, and always sings at the Alternative Rock sounding voice, which I think is very annoying. The guitars solos are not decent at all, and the drums aren’t as complex as they were in OMC. And overall, the once perfect story line of the OMC is completely ruined, with Nikki being let out of jail, and hunting down Dr. X, and the sad part is that you can’t even figure out what’s going on in the story line from One Foot In Hell through Re-Arrange You.
“Hey guys, let’s have Nikki just get out of jail, kill Dr. X, get re-addicted to drugs, and have him kill himself to be with his nun girlfriend, who has been dead for eighteen years.” I bet that’s what happened in the studio, and that’s pretty much all you get out of the story, right there. And what you do get out of the story is not very good at all.
I personally would have made a sequel about ten years ago when they had just come out of their prime. I wouldn’t have made it have such a crappy story line either, in my opinion, they should’ve had a story where Nikki gets life imprisonment, but escapes from jail, or even Alcatraz, that’d be even better. Then once you have two sweet concept albums, you can have a crappy third one.
So if you’re a die-hard fan of Operation: Mindcrime, and you want to listen to it the same way you did back in 1988, with a perfect “nothing can ruin this story” vision in your mind, don’t buy this album, for you will be very disappointed.
I approached this album with extreme caution after having been a Q fan since the original Mindcrime videos were all over MTV. I watched the band essentially disappear into the alternative rock scene and churn out 3 1/2 horrible albums since Promised Land (it being only half decent). I scoffed at the idea that Q was going to try to recapture their glory with mediocre songwriting covered with a popular title...and just what prog metal needs...another band doing a sequel!!!
Well, immediately, I put all these negative thoughts to rest.. This album captured my attention immediately and kept me interested even 5-6 tracks later, which is a rarity.. "I'm American" is certainly no "Revolution Calling," but it has the energy of a great opener. I never felt a real loss of momentum. There are no more slower tempo sections than there are on the original Mindcrime. The songs average close to 4:00 and often feel without resolution, but this keeps the story moving right along. The vocal arrangements are interesting, and although there is no "Eyes of a Stranger" on this album, Tate turns out a solid performance even without the shrill tenor notes that other reviewers seem to be harping on.
All-in-all, Queensryche seems to have remembered that they helped to pioneer progressive metal and wisely decided to return to that format rather than the pseudo-alternative-grunge-radio rock they've put out in the past 10 years. The original Mindcrime will always be a better album than this because no sequel is ever really as innocent as the original concept. However, this album is not stale on ideas and doesn't borrow riffs/arrangements from the original yet stays true to the approach of the original. The disapopinting part is the absence of Chris DeGarmo. Wilton does an excellent job with the writing, but the interplay between him and DeGarmo is missing here. The guest vocals on "The Chase" by Dio are excellent as always, and even sound better than Tate, which makes me wonder why he was asked.
As for my opinion on the naysayer reviews I've read, it is very likely that you have become a bit jaded if you're not able to enjoy this and feel the energy. We're not 14 anymore, and as adults have to learn to feel the magic that we felt when we were kids. Sometimes that's a tall order to lfill, but Q let us know with this release that they realized they were about to fall off the map and came back strong. Unfortunately, there is no real stand out track on this album like Eyes of a Stranger or Revolution Calling.
Strongest Tracks: The Hands, The Chase
New album? Queensryche? Not much to care about since they turned grunge pop with metallic tendencies after Empire, right? Well, not when it’s called Operation Mindcrime 2. Now this is a rather daring move by Queensryche, especially when they made boring, radio-oriented pop totally ignoring their once proud legion of metal fans now dwindled to the size of say raw kvlt black metal bands. Okay that’s an exaggeration but you know what I mean. They didn't win favor with the mainstream either as they were regarded "Nirvana" wannabes. Every album they released, their standards kept decreasing and decreasing. It took them years to realize that the grunge sound they were playing starting with "Promised Land" was totally outdated.
Quite recently, a trend has developed in modern rock wherein a band goes back to its roots (proved by "Disturbed" stating that they were apparently inspired to resurrect rock by adding solos on their album and "Slipknot" stating "Slayer" as an influence for their latest) without really going back at all as "Disturbed" had only 2 solos on their album (one was decent though while the other wah-ing garbage) and "Slipknot" just sucked a bit less, which meant they only sucked 0.01 less than their usual billion figure. Similarly, this album is only “Operation Mindcrime 2” by name when all it’s just the 40% improved version of the new Queensryche doing their take on the original “Mindcrime”. You’ll find like 7 metal riffs here…for 17 songs.
The music here is uninspired drivel. The soloing surprisingly is halfway there to “Mindcrime”, and the absolute highlight of the album. The first thing you’ll notice though is Tate’s voice, totally uninspired and at times overdramatic, his voice is the most painful thing to hear in this album. Tate doesn’t exactly have the best voice in metal by any means, but his tone, delivery and the emotion he put into his vocals was amazing. He lost all the high-pitched parts to his vocals with his recent work though, but then again he was still decent. Here though, it is apparent that he was totally uninterested in whatever the rest of the band was doing and his performance is completely out of key with the guitars most of the time. Notice, the song “I’m American” for instance, decent riff and it moves along decently untile it reaches that totally gay chorus – omg, Uncle Sam covers his ears, it really IS that bad! The song is decent but far too repetitive for its own good, and to think its just 2:40 minutes long! The whole album isn’t even up to this level with the exception of “The Hands” which is by all means the albums best song, although it sort of meanders and gets old too. Yet, it actually has some riffs and Geoff doesn’t sound like he’s choking on his vomit. Oh, and the soloing is bice too.
The rest? “Freheit Overture” is an excellent intro to the album, very atmospheric but in the end, it is an intro and if the song is as uninspired and average as “I’m American”, the effect gets neutered. “Convict” though raises a doubt; can a guy who has MURDERED so many people be left free that way? Well, I’ll tackle that later. I must say that the vocal performance on “The Chase” is absolutely marvelous – it bears the sign of Dio, how he was convinced to play on this boring wreck of an album is totally beyond me. There’s nothing going on in the background of the song though, and that’s why it loses out. Then “A Murderer?” starts out really nice, excellent atmosphere but then when we get to the actual song, it’s the usual bore, but then again the soloing totally rules. “Circles” is an ambient instrumental, a break from the monotone style of the album but nonetheless it sucks. “If I Could Change It All”, “All The Promises” and “Speed of Light” features the vocals of Pamela “The hag who’s too old to rock, too young to die” Moore. Seriously, her voice is incredibly irritating. “All The Promises” and “Speed of Light” are horrid ballads, the latter is a rip off of “Silent Lucidity” (what else?) and the former is a totally unmoving ballad. Ugh. “If I Could Change It All” is where Pamela actually sounds halfway to decent and the ending operatic vocals are good and I don’t enjoy opera. Maybe it’s because this album sucks so much.
“Hostage” is another boring and forgettable ballad with irritating drumming. “Signs Say Go” and “Rearrange you” are two identical and equally boring songs. “An International Confrontation” actually starts off very nice, but then the song nosedives and Geoff and Pamela only ruin it more. Damn, that intro was epic, get you shouldn’t get your expectations high with small bursts of the old “Queensryche” flame. “A Junkies Blues” is half instrumental and totally milks that riff stolen from a nu-metal band, I can’t remember which, but I’m sure I’ll think of it sometime and the second half of the song is actually quite decent, nice atmosphere but altogether forgettable, especially the way Tate sings it.
The total abortion on the album though I’ve saved for the last, and yes, you’ve guessed it, it’s “One Foot in Hell”. Amazingly boring, I even thought the album was done when this song was over, it’s that damn bad! The nu-metal intro riff to the song just has to be one of the worst riffs ever, the balladic segments are totally off and Tate sucks much more than anywhere else on the album. I wouldn’t listen to that song again even if my LIFE depended on it. Listeners beware.
Regarding the concept, its extremely hard to decipher where the heck the album is going. The lyrics are nothing as good as on the original “Mindcrime” (as is the music) although it does feature some witty lines like “Tried hard to scratch the surface of life, got bloody broken fingernails now”. And yeah, as I mentioned before, a guy who’s murdered several people just cannot be left to go free like that, even if he was left free, he’d be on parole which “Queensryche” don’t indicate. A definite plot hole and one that destroys this entire reality-based concept and throws it into a pool of fiction.
I’m American – 7/10
One Foot in Hell – 0/10
Hostage – 2/10
The Hands – 7/10
Speed of Light – 2/10
Signs Say Go – 4/10
Rearrange You – 3/10
The Chase – 5/10
A Murderer – 5/10
Circles – 2/10
If I Could Change It All – 4/10
An International Confrontation – 4/10
A Junkies Blues – 1/10
Fear City Slide – 3/10
All The Promises – 1/10
Total – 50/170 = 29%
In conclusion, this is a boring as hell album and a tired effort from a band whose years of glory have long since passed. Not recommended unless you’re a die-hard “Queensryche” fan or you like to torture yourself. I only give this a 29, because of the nice soloing and above mentioned decent parts. “Queensryche” are certainly not intending to retain their original sound and now ‘Ryche fans just have to accept that, otherwise we’ll get the new Queensryche doing “Operation Mindcrime 3” and you certainly don’t want THAT do you? Signs say Queensryche go, and I’m inclined to agree.
In 1988 Queensryche released Operation: Mindcrime. In my opinion, the greatest metal concept album ever and one of the great metal albums ever released! It also happens to be my favourite album of all time. It’s undoubtedly their magnum opus, and they have never managed to quite capture its brilliance in any release since.
In fact recent efforts such as “Tribe” and “Q2K” have not gone down well, at all. So when they chose now, after weak releases and without the legendary Chris DeGarmo on the axe to follow up Mindcrime with a sequel, expectancy was less than high. I also had fairly low expectancy. I mean some say they’ve not released as good album since Promised Land, and Mindcrime was their last great work. There was no way they were going to pull this off was there?
Well, they’ve managed to pull off the best album they’ve in a decase. But personally, I think this has got to be the best album since the original Mindcrime. While it doesn’t match the original it’s still fair to say… QUEENSRYCHE ARE BACK!!! The Queen of the Rhyche is ruling once more, and I’m glad!
Well as far as the story. Well Nikki has been released 18 years after his original incarceration. He finds himself in a world not so dissimilar as far as governmental leadership especially to the one he left in ’88. He goes out to seek the truth, looking for answers about his past life. I’d say more but I wont spoil it for all of you.
The atmosphere is built up perfectly in “Fahrenheit Overture” and then in the bizarre 8second track “convict” which consists of him being let go. But then comes the stomping anthem “I’m American” and it starts us off in style. It’s short, heavy and gets you going. It’s catchy as anything, I’m a Brit and proud of it and it managed to get me singing “I’m American! I’m American!”
“One Foot in Hell” is quite bluesy and is slower than it’s predecessor, but it’s a good track. Though the chorus is a bit weak, the verse is very slick. “Hostage” is another very strong track and the chorus is very memorable. “The Hands” is again another good track, it’s not super fast or stomping like “I’m American” but it’s slick, memorable and catchy. They both show off that Geoff Tate is still the best, in my opinion.
“Speed of light” is one of the weakest tracks on the album. It’s just mundane and seems not to have a real structure. However, the super fast and super slick “Signs Say Go” follows. One of the strongest tracks on the whole albums. It’s insanely catchy, lighting quick and Geoff Tate’s vocals are superb. “Re-arrange You” is slower but no less catchy and is another high quality song.
“The Chase” is the highlight of the album. Here we have a vocal duet between two of metal’s greatest vocalists Geoff Tate and Ronnie Dio. The two work brilliantly well together and Dio’s epic, wise and purely amazing voice is perfect for DR X. It’s difficult to choose who to sing along to. “Murder?” is a great track though not my favourite. It achieves what it set’s out to do but the verses are perhaps not to my taste, but Tate’s vocals once again drip with emotion.
Both “Circles” and “If I could Change it all” are just again mundane. Even though Pamela Moore’s vocals are once again superb. They are displayed on a much greater track in the form of the sizzling “An intentional confrontation.” The duel vocals work perfectly well, Moore and Tate just go together. “Junkie’s Blues” is a beautiful song and a real tension builder. It prepares for “Fear City Slide” which has another of these BIG catchy chorus’ that get me singing along. Another great bit of vocals by Tate.
“All the Promises” was the big disappointment to me. I thought they needed to end an a really good track. Considering last time they had “Eye’s of a stranger” to close, this is a big disappointment. Despite the impressive vocal work.
All in all with a few notable exceptions this is an album full of great songs. It’s not quite the masterpiece its predecessor was, but it’s still a great album. It’s quite a masterpiece in it’s own right, despite the weaker tracks. All in all, I’d say it was the album of the year so far.
Tribe Part II... Geoff Tate's revenge?
The cover has you staring down the barrel of a gun. Page 1 of the booklet starts with bold letters proclaiming 'REVENGE!' and ending with Geoff Tate instructing us to 'listen'. Well, I have, and now I understand. This is Geoff Tate's revenge, on his fans for affording him to live comfortably, for waiting with baited breath for a sequel to Operation: Mindcrime that contained something slightly resembling inspired songwriting. Mr. Tate, you've hurt my soul. I hope you're happy for that last $2.00 I have eagerly handed you.
I am challenged on one front, that being that I am not even sure where to start about describing this album. It's not that it continues to be a departure of style for the Rÿche. It's not that the guys have obviously grown older and changed. It's that nothing on here is anything beyond average, the speed never changes from cruise control, the songs never finish what they start, and there is less than 10% of material on this 17 tracker that even almost kind of slightly resembles the seriousness, the drama, and the passion of Operation: Mindcrime.
The album is so disconnected, uninvolved, and uninteresting, I can barely even do a song by song for reference. I can try to shoot a few out of my hat, but it won't be pretty.
'Freiheit Overture'...the obligatory classically influenced overture.. but the masters, Queensrÿche is no longer, and now the A students, such as Luca Turilli, have something to teach. With all the attention to politics and world events, one would think the band has heard a wind or two of the fresh blood of classically influenced hard music artists, but I guess not. Moving on..
Let's see.. 'I'm American', huh? It's sounding like it more with each album the band makes, because this set of lyrics seems like perhaps it was left over from the latest System of a Down or Six Feet Under album. And it's not that it's full of bad ideas. It's that the Geoff Tate of yesteryear would have managed to execute such an effective idea with full class and an intelligent sense of danger, and without having to impale his arm on a whole smoked ham and clobber you in the skull with it to pull it off. Speaking of smoking, as Donald Trump puts it, it sucks, and you shouldn't do it. With all the TV Mr. Tate watches, keeping up on current events and the latest media foul, it can only be hoped he catches a glimpse of this commercial, because his vocal cords beg it from deep down. AhhhHHHHH!!! Nice rough touch.. but Blackie Lawless or Peavy Wagner this is not.. this is Geoff Tate, plus boxes of Marlboros and dry wine. Maybe that was so upsetting to the band, they almost created an authentic hardcore breakdown (!) in the middle of this poor abortion. Nothing to see here..
'One Foot In Hell'..could have as easily been 'Both Ears In Hell', this is easily one of the worst songs in Queensrÿche history. It plods along with a disturbingly mellow vocal performance, and is a failed sophomore to the first real song of the album, even compared to that song. But wait... The everpresent secret weapon of guitaristry and songwriting of the Rÿche, Michael Wilton, is escaping the anonymous songwriting long enough to squeeze out a great harmonized half-solo.....before being force fed back into the jaws of groove (hey, after all, it's not the 80's anymore and you're just not complete without some decent Pantera march happening now and then) and eaten alive. Game over.
'Hostage'.. wait, this is a new song? It just kind of sounds like they kept playing the last song, took out some of the non-riffs, and threw in some crash cymbal whoring. Oh well, there is a half cool lyric in here, '..all my reasons are damned before they're heard'. But just when you think Geoff is reaching some kind of lyrical peak again, there remains a haughty lack of this kind of spark within this album. And you want to be surprised, but you realize this has been happening for a few Rÿche albums now and it becomes all the more sad. While once a solid stanza of thoughtful, authentic liberalism, Mr. Tate is now content to reside within the safe boundaries of Square One and be yet another artist to lob melon-sized, upturned question marks at the listener, rather than making the effort to present to the generally lost metal audience some fresh and kinetic ideas that may one day pave some road to knowledge or truth.
'The Hands'.. some more mindless rehashing of Hear In The Now Frontier b-sides..except, you won't find a convicted vocal performance here that even rivals the likes of 'Chasing Blue Sky', something that was surely recorded while mellowed out on some red wine. While Tate had his mellow moment then, at least he still seemed to have something to say and he meant it. Maybe in this present day, he is simply too comfortable, too still, too simple. The man just doesn't sound interested anymore, when at one point his theatrics practically defined the lyrical atmosphere of the band, which is also somewhat compromised when it comes to politics and Tate's inspirations. Maybe the calamities of Bush don't seem quite as urgent as the politicians and cold wars of the 1980's, maybe Geoff is just weak from the fight. But you just shouldn't step into the ring until you are ready, and Queensrÿche simply does not sound ready to accomplish Operation Mindcrime II.
From the last song, things just shuffle along merrily, cautiously, and incoherent story-wise, providing zero stimulation to one's head, no thinking, no banging, no nodding along, no memory space for memorable songwriting, just a crashing sound as aforementioned head hits the desk, comatose, wishing good old Nikki had maybe just gone ahead and put himself out of his misery 18 years ago and taken you with him. 'Speed of Light'.. 'I'll kill the bastard', he muses of Dr. X. But 'We'll burn the White House down', this is galaxies away from. The awkwardness is so thick you would think the CD player may start frothing.
Over the next few songs, the likes of guest singers Ronnie James Dio and Pamela Moore come and go.. and manage to completely and totally eclipse Mr. Tate's lack of firey vocal melody, gripping emotive delivery, and so forth. But they can't really change what's not there, and the descent of mediocre songwriting continues, now peppered with what I assume is new guitarist Mike Stone's solos, who isn't making the best impression playing completely random half-shred licks whenever he sees fit. But you can't blame the guy for not trying. When the strained effort to be innovative and progressive that comprises 'Murderer?' comes along, your best hope would be a bad solo, but instead you get poorly done choppy vocals that the band of 'NM 156' and 'Chemical Youth', both similar pieces, would have never employed by any method, and out-of-place sounding tribal/disco drumming that only serves to embarrass the powerhouse that is Scott Rockenfield.
The one piece on this disaster compilate that pulls the heartstrings, albeit, much like a microbe tugs on a spider web, is 'If I Could Change It All', which is a nice mellow duet involving another Pamela Moore/Tate matchup. But at the end, it's still a mellow duet involving Pamela Moore blowing away Mr. Tate at vocals, and we've already heard 2 or 3 others like that, except with some alterna-metal chords tossed in for good measure. At the very least, however, this song has some redeeming emotion and memorability about it, which is medal quality in comparison to the four closing songs, that melt together in a sad orgy of hard rock mediocrity. Being as Moore is apparently playing Nikki's conscience, it would have been triumph to convince the guy to just stop running around in circles with his head cut off, singing entirely forgettable melodies, because that's a terrible way to deal with one's past.
This album really comes across as little more than Tribe II in disguise of the majestic name of 'Mindcrime', with some castrated lead work, and filled with random philisophical tidbits from an even more confused sounding Nikki. But Tribe was better than this. For whatever reason, it was decided that Chris DeGarmo's last performance with the band would **not** be on something daring to bear the name of Operation: Mindcrime, but instead, a somewhat forgettable ode to peaceful humanism and creaky social-spiritual metaphor.
Maybe the storyline (loosely termed) of this album, and maybe the direction this band has opted to fall to, was all just a dream within a dream. That's cliche, and even Geoff Tate of 1999-on would avoid such a twist, but it's better than reality, which is that Queensrÿche is a far cry from being a dangerous or even relevant band anymore, and it's not right.
In a recent issue of "Entertainment Magazine" there was an article about the 50 worst movie sequels ever made. Usually, movie sequels are never as good as the original. With music, though; this is not always the case. Many artists have created sequels to their initial efforts, quite successfully. Usually, they do this in a short amount of time while the original concept is still fresh and inspirational. So why now after 18 years has the aged chemical youth chosen to seduce us with a sequel to the outstanding 'Operation Mindcrime'?
According to Geoff Tate, he has always endeavored to make a sequel when the perfect time presented itself. Presently, he is desparately attempting to shop his 'Mindcrime' screenplay to prospective movie associates or theatrical venues. His political perspectives have remained consistent over the years, even if his musical direction has changed drastically over the last decade. Geoff has always kept an active file on the Nikki character, which he has updated every time he felt inspired by designs of social convention. The band always plays classic tracks from the 'Mindcrime' era, so the music has always been close to their hearts. Unfortunately, with the departure of Chris DeGarmo , the empire crumbled into a broken promised land leaving many Queensryche enthusiasts bereft of their passion here in the now frontier.
18 years have passed since they unveiled their conceptual masterpiece, and the tribe is back ready to rage for order. They diligently toured last summer doing 'Operation mindcrime' in it's entirety while playing 2 new songs to prepare the fans for the continuing saga. Now, with less than a week before the new CD arrives in stores, (release date: April 4th), I am presented with the honor and privelege or reviewing their lastest and highly anticipated 'Mindcrime 2'.
I will not waste your time with clandestine plot points or detailed storylines. If you are reading this review, chances are you are very familiar with the original concept. Most of you will either purchase the CD or enjoy listening to the music for free at the band's website. I will simply mention that the original cast is back in true form finishing what they started. Pamela Moore returns as Sister Mary or rather Nikki's memories of her She essentially becomes his conscience and driving will. Ronnie James Dio portrays Dr. X in an excellent duet with Mr. Tate. According to Geoff, he has always hoped to work with Dio ever since the glory days when he sang on the 'Hear N' Aid" Stars project 20 years ago. Personally, I never pictured Dio as Dr. X., since the mastermind behind operation mindcrime is such a mendacious man; yet Dio's performance is flawless. Months ago there were rumours of Rob Halford playing the role. I have no doubt that Rob would have sealed the deal and truly become the sinister Dr. X; however, given his high vocal range, he may not have harmonized as well with Geoff's.
As far as the story goes, it's rather apparent that Nikki was incarcerated when Bush was in office, and he is released when another Bush is president. I don't want to focus on the political polemics, though; my intent is to critique the music. Most of my readers want to know if Queensryche are again breaking the silence to build a bridge to their past and take hold of the flame, or if they have lost their path on the roads to madness.
My review thus comes with a warning. "Caveat Emptor"! This may not be the Mindcrime we all were anxiously awaiting. The saga continues in all its grandeur. The production has a true 80's feel to it. Geoff purposely chose Jason Slater to serve as their engineer since he is so skilled with assisting the band in a live situation. Geoff utilized a four-forty writing style to create an authentic 80's vibe in the melodies. The recording is voiced in half-steps using the same exact equipment used to create the original 'Mindcrime". New guitarist Mike Stone is a true metal devotee for the classic Queensryche sound. After he was hired to play on the CD, he actually moved into Geoff's home for 4 months, with fervor and heartfelt alacrity to write an appropriate sequel. This is evidenced by some of the most professional soloing since DeGarmo's exodus. Some of the tracks on 'MC2' are real burners.
The first real track after a rather bombastic opening, "I'm American" may be one of the fastest songs Queensryche have ever penned. The drumming sounds like Slayer and the solos just shred. Some other standout tracks include: "One foot in hell", "Hostage", "the Chase" (with Dio) , and "Murderer?". Sadly, the other songs don't quite have the classic sound. They remind me of the last few complacent releases. There are some musical allusions to the first 'Mindcrime' with echoes of "Eyes of a stranger", 'Revolution calling' and "Speak" in the riffs; but the songs are just not as coherent. There are too many inchoate orchestrations which don't unite the storyline as cogently as the often quoted "Why'd you do it? We Know You Did It!" or "I Remember Now". In the original brilliant story, these dialogues and voice-overs served to proliferate the story, infusing it with an interactive and compelling vibe. This time, it's a real challenge to follow the storyline; especially, without a lyric book to enhance the experience.
I'm pleased that Pamela Moore has returned as Sister Mary. This time her voice is more prominent and even more operatic Unfortunately, 18 years have passed, and her killing words just does not sound as vulnerable or victimized as the original Mary. Perhaps, this is because, she is speaking to Nikki in his mind or through flashbacks. I just don't feel as sympathetic for her character or for Nikki's dilemma as I did in the original.
Ultimately, the decision is yours, whether or not to purchase 'OM2'. All I have is a promo copy, yet I still plan on buying this CD. 'Operation Mindcrime' is my favorite concept album of all time, so I must have the sequel, even if it's not as stellar as it's predecessor. This is by far the best Queensryche CD since 'Promised land'. I do believe in love and this will make an excellent birthday present for the lady in black - my wife.
Nearly every bit as progressive, melodically accessible, lyric and nuanced as the original _Mindcrime_, and unquestionably the best record this band has delivered in over a decade, Queensryche has finally broken off the musical restlessness that started long ago with _Promised Land_, and flat-out delivered a blow right to the solar plexus of the metal world. This is an impressive record, the kind I would have never suspected this band to have in them - sonically reminiscent to the original but with a slicker, well-updated, more modern radio rock edge to it. This is not to say aggro, or "Nu" detuned, rather something that is prog-metal at its heart and yet confidently evolved beyond it....imagine _Hear in the Now Frontier_ with the fat drum (especially snare) sound for the original _Mindcrime_. Although I would have really enjoyed to hear DeGarmo contribute to this album, especially considering the quality of the songs here, Wilton and new axeman Mike Stone kick up such a fearsome Marty Friedman-esque noise on tracks like "The Hands" and "A Murderer?" its just not worth quibbling over what could (should?) have been. This album flat out ROCKS, just like the original, and if you are any kind of fan of this band you will have a hard time not banging your head to help the music scatter your thoughts.
The story, which takes place 18 years after Nikki was tried and imprisoned, mostly captures Nikki's state of mind and his encompassing desire for revenge against his former employers, who left him to rot. It also gives a sense of connectedness as both we and Queensryche are also exactly 18 years older since the original 1988 release of _Mindcrime_. Nikki is now a free man and has to face a world that is in many respects as evil and twisted as the impulses that landed him in jail. Many of the same players are here, including a good amount of original Mary vocalist Pamela Moore, and there are rain-soaked, eerie interludes, or religio-musical iconography (such as the choral outro to "If I Could Change It All" ) that hearken back to the conceptual sprawl of "Suite Sister Mary" and "Electric Requiem" from the original. Occasional snippets of voices and musical themes prominent in the original _Mindcrime_ (such as "Anarchy-X").
As conceptually dark and atmospheric as this album is, it is mixed rather brightly, giving it a very contemporary feel similar to recent prog albums of bands like Dream Theater or Green Carnation. Perhaps even more surprising is that there are at least four or five high-quality singles here. The accessibility of Queensryche is something I think gets the band more reviled by the more extreme metal and prog fans, but I think a careful survey of their history reveals it to be one of their most charming conceits (to the tune of 4 million copies of _Empire_ served, thank you very much). Though the band went with the hyperkinetic "I'm American" for the first single, and that's an agreeable enough choice, its the superbly melodic "Hostage" that reminds the most of the original _Mindcrime_. The trickster, very Euro neo-prog arrangements (think Pain of Salvation meets Iron Maiden) and knockout chorus in "Re-Arrange You" are not to be denied. The boldest single shot I heard on my initial scans is the pulsing "Fear City Slide" which has the warm confidence and accessibility of anything off _Empire_ coupled with an unbelievable head-nodding groove. An edit of that track would get some decent airplay.
But there are even more delightful pleasures to be had in the deep cuts, such as the exciting duet with none other than the mighty Ronnie James Dio (here playing an epic Dr. X) on "The Chase," a noble and excellent meeting of two of metal's most treasured sets of pipes. No, they dont "Dungeons and Dragons" it up, in fact its a well-executed, crafty tune that highlights the two vocalists impressively, and is a great bonus to this album. The song island starting with the haunting "If I Could Change It All" through the blues-grunge-stomp of "An International Confrontation" into the deep dark jungle-prog groove of "A Junkie's Blues" - while touching not just on themes from the first _Mindcrime_ but eccentric touches of gospel and doo-wop of all things. This is probably one of the most adventurous moments of the album, as Nikki begins yet another slide into the seamy underworld of society's nightmares and confronts the ghosts of his past. Here the album drifts into some of the darker, more exploratory recesses of _Promised Land_ and wholly satisfies, concluding with the dreamy, mournful Floydian melancholy and delicate acoustic work of "All the Promises" whose tragic, lovelorn lyrics pack a satisfying emotional punch.
Aside from the *occasional* overabundance of strings (both synth-simulated and otherwise), really the only real detriment to this album is that the narrative this time around does not seem to flow as well as the original did. In fact there's a bit of a dead spot starting with "The Hands"->"Speed of Light"->"Signs Say Go" until "Re-Arrange You" kicks your keister (where the original _Mindcrime_ had the ruthless economy of "Operation: Mindcrime", "Speak" and "Spreading the Disease.") The biggest advantage to the original _Mindcrime_ was how successfully the theatrical nature of the album was woven into the songs. But the narrative seems more inscrutable this time, more detached from the songs themselves, maybe a little too subtle. In any case, the music raging beneath it generally kicks so much ass i'm inclined to forgive the extra work i'll have to do to really dig into Nikki's story. What a kickass surprise for 2006.
I set my expectations reasonably high for this. The first album is an absolutle masterpiece, one of metal's best, and one of my favorite albums. I'm obviously going to be highly critical over a sequel to it.
After listening to the album for a few days now, I have to say, Queensryche have put out a not perfect, not amazing, but GOOD album, which does not desecrate on the original in any way.
I'll get into the good stuff first...
- Guitar solos. All over the place, and they rule. Wilton and Stone did a fine job, and shouldn't leave anyone dissapointed in that department. We all know that Degarmo's soloing talent is going to be missed, but these two do a very good job of almost making you forget about him.
- The guitar and drum production is solid. As many have been saying from those who have reviewed it already, it's very similiar to the original.
- The songwriting. This obviously was my biggest concern about this album, seeing as one of the major writers of the original (Degarmo) was not involved with this project. However, Tate and Co. have created songs which sound similiar in style to the original, while fusing a bit of their modern sound in as well. I know, most of you are cringing reading that (I would be as well if I hadn't already heard the album), but it's not nearly as bad as it sounds. The riffs aren't as catchy as the original, and are a bit more gritty. They contribute to the darker tone that this album is trying to present, and it fits quite nicely... at least for the most part.
- "I'm American" is a great opener, which is guaranteed to bring back memories of the original, both musically and lyrically. Saying you don't like this song is like saying you don't like "Revolution Calling" or "The Needle Lies" off OM1.
- Dio's guest appearance is absolutley great, but then again, I had very little doubt that it wouldn't be. His duet with Tate is one of the highlights of the album.
Things that surprised me...
- the overall tone was much much more darker than I had expected. Yes, it's a dark story, but the grittier riffs, and the ambient synth / keyboard work give a very eerie tone throught.
- I expected more recurring melodies from the first album, and aside from a few noteable spots (the beginning of the Hands has the same chord progression as Breaking the Silence, and the riff from Anarchy X makes an appearance at the end of A Junkie's Blues), they weren't present. There are a few places that a modulation of a riff or a melody will appear for a few seconds, but you would serioulsy need to scrutinize to find it. That's a shame... I feel they could have maybe brought back a few more distinct riffs in a places to keep an even more common musical theme throughout the story. Anarchy X should have been the albums opener instead of burying it at the end of one of the later songs! Instead they opted for a new opener. It still was effective, but not nearly as good as OM1's classic opener.
And now the not so great stuff...
- Overuse of the synth. Yes, it was there on the first, but it was perfectly in balance. No overuse whatsoever. I understand what they wanted to create this "dark and eerie" tone, but at points, it's a bit much.
- The interlude songs aren't nearly as cool as the first. "Circles" immediatley springs to mind. It's boring, it lasts for two minutes, and it's mostly just noise over a guitar tone.
- Despite the abundance of really good songs, we've got a couple clunkers (at least musically)... "Speed of Light", "Circles", "If I Could Change it All" and the closer "All the Promises." These songs plod along at a stagnat pace with riffs that aren't as catchy or powerful as you'd like them to be. Speed of Light is anything but, staying mostly at mid pace, and then moves into a riff section towards the end which just doesn't flow at all. In some places, you'll be nostalgic for the tempos and melodies of "Spreading the Disease" and "The Needle Lies." There here on this album, but not in the afformentioned songs.
- The closing song, "All the Promises" is VERY anti-climactic. I was hoping for something as epic as Eyes of a Stranger for a closer and was a bit dissapointed. Instead, we get a very artistic, somber exit. Don't get me wrong, it's a well done acoustic ballad including a vocal duet between Tate and Pamela Moore (as Mary), but epic closer to an epic album this IS NOT. I wanted something in the vein of "Eyes of a Stranger" and was dissapointed.
I wont get into the story much as to not spoil the plot for those interested, but for what's obvious, Nikki is released from jail 18 years after the events of Mindcrime 1. After his release, he sets out to take his revenge on Dr. X (who on the album, is played by Ronnie James Dio).
My favorites: I'm American, The Hands, The Chase, A Junkies Blues, and Fear City Slide.
As far as I'm concerned, NONE of these songs would sound out of place on the original Mindcrime. Hopefully that gives you a clue as to their quality.
Combine that with about 5-6 songs ranging from decent to good, and you get exactly just that... a GOOD album. No, Queensryche did not put out a masterpiece to follow up their masterpiece. However, this late in their career, looking at their previous track record over the past decade, and how far removed they are from writing the original album in the first place, one can not help but to be at least mildly impressed at how well this album came out.
For years have Queensryche fans been served the mind of a dying giant, the leftovers from some crap pop rock sessions of the masterminds behind such classics as Rage For Order, Operation Mindcrime, Empire and Promised Land.
And it has been almost 15 dark years where Queensryche, lost in a strange reverie have been trying to find a new personality, never really making it seem like they are being real to themselves. Hear In The Now Frontier featured some of the best Queensryche lyrics ever, and some clever musical arrangements, but on certain occasions it left a lot to be desired. While no one could hate them for turning their backs to metal (that was something they partially had already done in Promised Land), it was the fact that something from the spirit was missing.
Q2K made it plain obvious that it was probably De Garmo that was missing. Or Kelly Gray making the band his own whore, writing music as a friend, but music that did not tune in with Queensryche.
Tribe was a step in an interesting direction. The concept was there, the lyrics were there, again. But musically, it was not even an ugly brother to Promised Land. It was simply beyond boring. Apart from two tracks, it was such a passable release that the band could have simple released a single titled The Great Divide and they would do better.
And we come to see, at last, a release that dares bare the name of Operation Mindcrime. Have Queensryche decided to humiliate the name of what is possibly the finest release in progressive metal ever?
Luckily, no. They are here to complement it, in an unprecedented way. What Queensryche have finally provided, is an album that re-writes all the mistakes and throws a new huge stone in an ocean of empty and still water. The splash that is about to follow is going to lose them fans, make them new ones, and help some people who have the vision always wanted to share take notice and look in their direction. If Queensryche has always been about being original, progressive and groundbreaking, then there is nothing they failed to do. At last.
We begin with Freiheit Overture, a very impressive and extremely technical progressive metal intro, infused with amazing guitar work a fantastic orchestra, that it all sets for a grand opening. We are off to a great start. Convict, you are a free man.
I'm American will mostly remind of Steel Prophet, or Saxon and Iron Maiden. It all begins as a thrashier version of classic NWOBHM. Geoff Tate, once again, sounds like he should, and you suddenly have pictures in your mind of the great performer doing what's he is best at. Singing powerfully and emotionally. The song itself is a very straight mixture of Speed/NWOBHM with some very thrashy riff work that will definately make the classic rockers out there headbang through the entire song. The solo (finally, a solo in a Queensryche song!!!) is simply amazing.
And here we are, one foot in hell, with our journey eventually starting. The next track continues in the same idea. With a sound that reminds of late 70s hard rock infused with something taken from Hear In The Now Frontier. The music is catchy and as song progresses, new melodies unfold as the song changes into 80s Black Sabbath. The solo (again?!?!) is simply one of the best solos written in the history of Queensryche and the history of metal. Reminds a lot of Led Zeppelin and Iommi. So far, we are off to an amazing start. What seemed like the best song (I'm American) it is already far outdone by an even better one. One Foot In Hell is a damn classic!
So, we are already captivated. We've been taken hostages and listening to Hostage now. Can the band keep it up? We so far saw them pay a tribute to 70s and 80s music. But are we listening to Queensryche? YES WE DO! Hostage is a classic Queensryche song, and the most progressive metal song so far. With song structures that will (FINALLY!) remind Promised Land, an amazing melody and a fantastic refrain (the stuff that you will be remembering for the rest of your lives!).. there is nothing missing from the song. Is there? Nope.... how about dual solos finally making a return? They are here and they sound bloody amazing. How about emotional vocals driving the melody? They are here, finally! How about acoustic guitars in the background? Everything's here. Don't worry. Queensryche are back, and they take no hostages. They annihilate.
Moving on to "The Hands" then. And with every song, this is getting even more deeper, even heavier, even more intelligent, even more classic and even more... Queen? Yup, that's right. The album is slowly taking an approach towards Symphonic/Progressive Rock, while keeping an overly metal structure. The Hands is not a song that can be described as "typical" in any way or form. Strange but magical song structures that change without notice, from slow to heavy, vocal lines that can make any Geoff Tate fan sing along with pride, and riffs to kill (that's my Wilton!), and a refrain to which you can't stop headbanging even a single moment. But for one more time, they've been saving the ****ing best for the last moment. Dual harmonic solos that lead into a very heavy progressive metal passage. What the hell, why wasn't this material part of Promised Land? Because it sure as hell feels like it hasn't been a single day since 1994!
Speed Of Light takes us into a trip into classic progressive rock musicianship. Fans of Led Zeppelin will instantly recognise the obvious homage in the melody and the vocals. Yet the song has quite a few things up its sleeve, past the so-so refrain: This song is actually the first step in driving the concept further. After a strange passage, that sounds taken out of the same titled from Promised Land (and sounds absolutely amazing I must say), you are left speechless as a familiar voice comes back after many years. You call this your best? What's you gonna do? Make more excuses? Yup... better get excited. It seems the best is yet to come.
But sadly, not immediately. Signs Say You Go is an instantly forgettable track. All signs say that the song will go down as yet another boring Queensryche song. This is the first dissapointment of the album so far. You may as well skip it and re-arrange your tracklist because...
Re-Arrange You is one of the best Queensryche songs ever. With an intro to kill for, and a start that will make any Queensryche fan shiver in excitement... the orchestra makes a return. Geoff Tate's vocals are amazingly lead with Scott's drums. The song soon goes to show how amazing riffs Wilton can write if he wants to (Tribe pay attention)! The song structure, for one more time is simply staggering. This song is pure progressive rock/metal and one of the finest examples of the band at it's prime. "It's taken me years to get to this place". No. It did not. You just never tried you idiots. That's what a true Queensryche fan waited for YEARS YOU IDIOTS! A fantastic solo taken out of Nevermore, is only the icing on the cake to seal the deal. Yes, that's my favourite band right here!
The Chase is on, and what hell? This is Dio?! We are off to an amazing start, and I'd rather tell you, this is an amazing track. One of the best heavy metal / progressive metal duets in the history of metal. When you have Dio and Tate on the same song you just know that this is beyond amazing. This metal opera just gets things more interesting. The song itself has a fantastic refrain, a very catchy melody that will remain in history, and there is the orchestra again to fill in all the holes. And suddenly it all starts to remind you of Queen in a more heavy metal form. The solo is simply staggering. There is simply nothing that could get this song sound better. This is a classic.
Can this album get any better? So far the band has been showing an almost perfect showcase of how they can make great music if they want to (with one exception). Well, the answer is yes. It gets even better and even heavier. A Murderer? is taking you by surprise with some semi-harsh vocals, some very noisy/numetal-ish riffs and a very thrash/NWOBHM/Motorhead rythm going on. But this is only getting you started, for when the refrain kicks in (one of the best refrains in their entire history), you are suddenly left amazed. You just don't know what hit you. Queensryche are heavy metal again, how strange does that sound? Step down on your knees, explain it to me one more time.... I am talking to Wilton of course. Because the time has come for him to once again step in and play another fantastic solo, the stuff that the fans have been longing to listen to for almost 15 long years. And the solo work is once again immaculate, as if it comes out of the hands of Jeff Loomis or Petrucci. But we already knew that Wilton is the best guitarist. Anyone who has seen the man live knows that. Perfect. Never missed a single note, and he won't do in live either.
Circles is an interlude, which keeps a very sad and unsettling ambience. I can't explain it, but it is a very interesting track that sets the perfect atmosphere for...
...yes, it is finally time for the first ballad of the album. And as you expected...she is back in one of the most wonderful duets ever. A slow jazzy melody that shows the band's vast musical apetites. Tate is proof that is one of the greatest vocalists of all time (just listen to 0:55 until 1:20), with a performance that is simply great. The refrain is amazing and it sounds like taken out of Promised Land. An amazing track that words cannot describe. An actual chorus sings near the end taking you by surprise and grandeur. This is total majesty and art at its finest. And it all builds up to...
...the International Confrontation. Probably the most symphonic/progressive metal track of the entire album. And by far another masterpiece that goes beyond words. Any fans of Dream Theater will simply love this. This is the second part of the duet and it is simply magic. "Am I closer?" "Go back" "Go back to your mountain"... and Wilton goes back to the highest mountain to play one of the best solos in his career, as if he didn't already outdone himself in the entire album already. Guys, pay attention here, for the master has once again decided to show his real skills. Damn, he's good!
A Junkie's Blues is 100% Promised Land material. With a sound and a riff that seems born from the Damaged Universal Mind (let's see whom of you is a real fan to spot the connection here!), and a melody that is really deep and heavy... it all suddenly progresses to... gospel?
Yup, it certainly seems that the band loves to tease us by throwing towards us all kinds of genres. The song then gets heavier again, with a fantastic melody similar to Lady Jane... and you suddenly feel that we are slowly coming to an end. And it has been a fantastic trip... a trip worth waiting 15 years for.
Fear City Slide is sort of like, the final thunder before the end of a storm in the desert. "I feel like I'm falling". "Arise"! This is definately one of the songs that sounds the most like old Queensryche, with very obvious NWOBHM guitar work that is mixed with an 80s rendition of the themes in Hear In The Now Frontier, it is a very clever and deep progressive rock track. The solo that follows, is once again fantastic. Typical Wilton, but the guy's far from your typical guitarist.
So, did Queensryche gave all that they promised? All Promises is a slow, strange and ambient outro (that is wonderful), bringing everything to a closure, with one of the saddest and most melancholic solos ever. It all sounds like Promised Land all over again. The magic is here again. And this time, it feels like it will never leave. If this can be the last Queensryche song ever, I will be more than happy to see them go now. At the top of the mountain, throwing that huge rock in the ocean. And everyone else, shall take notice.
"We had it all, but couldn't see anything"
"The blind leading the blind through the darkest night"
"When you said you loved me it made me feel alive"
A fantastic ballad, and an amazing end to one of the greatest albums of all time.
Yes, Queensryche finally kept their promise. Operation Mindcrime is an album that cannot be described by words. It is the sound of crystal ryche to the veins of the real Queensryche fans. It is simply, by far, and without any shadow of doubt, not only the best album since Promised Land... but also the best sequel it could have ever been to Operation Mindcrime.
Not by copying it. By completing it. And that's what a real sequel should do.
96% (because of one single weak track)
DISCLAIMER: I'm probably going to refer to the legendary Operation: Mindcrime a lot, as it's literally my favorite album of all time. I'm also not going to discuss the story at all, since A) I don't have the lyrics, and B) that would completely spoil it for anyone who does care. The following thoughts are based on the music alone.
Beginning with an orchestral-type of intro arrangement, it's a far cry from the BOMBAST of the original's "Anarchy-X" ("paging Dr. Davis, telephone please Dr. Davis"), yet before you know it, the aggressive strains of "I'm American" are upon you. This is easily the best "new" Queensryche song since anything off Promised Land, so I'm already happy. "One Foot In Hell" stays along this path, with an "updated" Queensryche sound. This is easily the most metal they've written in over 10 years. "Hostage" is fairly strong, and "The Hands" even hearkens back to that glorious melody from "Eyes of a Stranger." In terms of best "pure" song, it's either "Re-Arrange You" or "Fear City Slide." The former featuring tons of great melodies & vocal harmonies to complement a good, chunky riff, and the latter establishing itself as a killer complement to the classic "I Don't Believe In Love." But even then, bands like Vanden Plas and Symphony X have far surpassed the master in this case.
Lest you think I drank the cool-aid, there are some AWFUL songs here, "Speed of Light" being the worst culprit. It sounds like a Tribe outtake, if that tells you anything. Ho-hum rhythm, boring drumming, some jackass in cargo pants strumming a "riff," you get the picture. "A Murderer?" might be the prototypical "new" Queensryche song. It's catchy, if you're not careful, your head will nod up & down a bit, Tate is spot-on vocally (as always), yet there's just something missing. These songs simply do NOT reach down your throat and squeeze your liver like the 1980s Queensryche was wont to do.
Of course no review of this album will be complete without talking about what's missing. Namely, Chris DeGarmo, and not just his riffs. There is simply nothing that brings to mind the INSANE TALENT of songs like "Suite Sister Mary," "I Don't Believe In Love" or "Spreading the Disease." Take a song like "Signs Say Go" for instance. It begins promisingly enough, with an awesome vocal harmony and some tasty guitarwork, but then a downright awful chorus kicks in and trainwrecks the whole thing. This is where the songwriting genius of DeGarmo is sorely, sorely missed. As for his guitar-playing, did I miss something? There were solos on the first Operation: Mindcrime, right? Because this album has 14-or-so legit songs on it, and I can only remember like, a single solo! WTF?!
Another example, whereas we get brilliant ballads like "The Mission" and "Empty Room" on the first part, O:M II has dreck like "If I Could Change It All" and "All the Promises." Bah, not even the return appearance of Pamela Moore as Nikki can save these, though I suppose the bluesy vibe (which must be 100% Tate's doing) is done well, at the very least.
Obviously, Queensryche's glory days are long, long gone. BUT, if you can get past that (many cannot, I'm well aware), this is...decent. Nothing more. At first I was tempted to be caught up in the total elation of Queensryche material that didn't outright suck. And this does not. But once I stopped to think about just how good the first Mindcrime record is, I caught myself. I do maintain it's easily their best album since Promised Land, and quite possibly their best since Empire, but that might not be enough. I will in all likelihood purchase this for nostalgia's sake, and to read/complete the story (which is seemingly done well). But it goes without saying that it was a near-impossible task for Queensryche to recapture the magic of that first Mindcrime, a task they probably should not ever have attempted in the first place.