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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