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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.