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The best sequel Operation Mindcrime could have! - 96%

Scizzgoth, February 23rd, 2006

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)