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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