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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.