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I love several songs on this album though I recognize that this album is a mess, all things considered.
I put up with a minor sense of disappointment when "Promised Land" came out, but I put up with it long enough to let that album grow on me; I still like it to this day. "Hear Now in the New Frontier" was clearly a disappointment, but it was salvaged by one song: "sp00L". "Q2K" was a farce but I found myself liking the groove of a few songs (only two). "Tribe" ? I gave it several chances given DeGarmo was on it, and for a while I thought the self-titled track was genius until I heard the original version by Massive Attack (Inertia Creeps).
So when I heard that a "Mindcrime 2" was in the works; I thought "sacrilege", and "bound for failure". I bought it with no expectations given the decade of disappointments that preceded.
And, suprisingly, I liked it, like, I liked many songs on it. I listened to it quite often, and then saw the concert, then stopped listening to it for a year, but picked it up again, and again another year later, etc. So, what's good about it? I would have to shamelessly admit that it is calculated nostalgia. I hate to say that it works on me, but I have to be honest.
The beginning tracks announce very straightforwardly, without any depth or thought, that "this is a concept album like the previous Mindcrime so it has people talking on it". "Freiheit Ouverture" is the first German song title since "Neue Regel". Then we hear that Nikki is out of jail. OK, fine, I got it.
"I'm American" has some of the "Revolution Calling" tone to it. I know this was on purpose; I know it was fabricated in the studio by guys who are not in the band, but I like it for the same reason I like "Revolution Calling". The drums really suck however. I remember hearing this song in a live incarnartion, as a preview, and it didn't feature the lead guitar for some reason and I hated it. Strangely enough the drums are not worse than on the preview version. I also like the middle fast part after Geoff's bit "Another television war ?". Another case of calculated nostalgia is their reuse of the "Believe in Love" chords sequence in "The Hands", another song I like.
Lyrically and structurally, the album is a mixed bag and does not hold water at all. A song like "Speed of Light" muses on how things have changed since Mindcrime came out ehhr.. since Nikki went to jail, and how difficult it is to adapt to everything now. Yes, that's supposed to be Nikki talking but for some reason I see Geoff musing on his career having gone downhill since the same point in time. The transition to the bit where Sister Mary sings comes out of nowhere. How do we go from "I stand here fascinated" to "Don't worry, I'll kill the bastard" ? Poor design.
The faster-paced songs really work for me. "Signs Say Go" and "Re-arrange You" run into one another very well. Again, one can see that when Geoff sees or hears something he likes, he uses shamelessly in his music in the year to come. This sometimes gives fun or good results. In this case, the lines "Let the world change you - and you can change the world" are from the promo poster for "Motorcycle Diaries", a film on the life of Che Guevera, which Nikki probably saw after getting out of jail.
Leading on to the "The Chase", a Broadway-number which I really really like despite having just called it Broadway-like. Dio was still alive when I bought this of course, so it wasn't just out of respect for his memory that I liked this song. I just like it, the lyrics, the interplay, the harmonies.. Hadn't heard Dio and Geoff singing on the same track since "Stars (We're)". The personification of Dr.X by Dio is a great idea. Only unfortunate that Geoff almost ruined this song for me by staging it as a motorcycle chase with hands-free walkie-talkies or cellphones where Nikki and Dr. X are confronting one another, and Dr. X has an accident at the end, during the show!!! Really? I guess that's again an inspiration from the "Motorcycle Diaries"?
I also find that the "dialogs" between Nikki and either Sister Mary or himself during songs like "Murderer" and "An Intentional Confrontation" are pretty well done in terms of vocals. But the album by then is just one flow of songs in which I don't really care enough to know where "Circles" end and the next song begins, etc. until "Fear City Slide", which really stands out. The real Mindcrime didn't suffer from such disorganization, though it had a few songs that sounded similar to one another and put side by side.
I really believe that "Fear City Slide" is a great Queensrÿche track all epochs combined and it is not built on gimmicks like other songs which I mentioned so far. Lyrically, though, there was a moment during the show which I thought was unintentionally appropriate and funny; when Geoff sings "Got my finger on the trigger and no one cares"; yeah, that pretty much described it by then, when the crowd had been suffering through this sleazy Broadway rendition, complete with fake money, plastic guns, and a singer-actor (Geoff) who knows three moves: 1-wrapping his arms around himself "straight jacket-styl" while dropping his knees to the floor, 2-mimicking shooting heroin in his veins and 3-mimicking putting a gun to his head.
There are some choir chants on this album, but they don't manage to bring any of the atmosphere or ambiance that the choir chants during "Suite Sister Mary" did on Mindcrime. They actually don't really sound like choir chants because it seems that at the change of each note, all singers change their tone as opposed to just the main singers. It's basically as if a song had three lead guitars performing the same melody with a tierce or quint difference as opposed to a lead guitar with a rhythm guitar and bass in the background playing what they should play (rhythmic chords and basic melody lines).
Of the two ballads, I can't stand "All the Promises", and I still have nightmares of the "dance" which Geoff and Pamela performed during it at the show. But I have a soft spot for "If I could Change it All".
All in all, my favorite post-"Promised Land" album, and yet it's not really a Queensrÿche album (*sigh*).