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An American Hostage To Their Empire - 85%

MettleAngel, April 2nd, 2006

In a recent issue of "Entertainment Magazine" there was an article about the 50 worst movie sequels ever made. Usually, movie sequels are never as good as the original. With music, though; this is not always the case. Many artists have created sequels to their initial efforts, quite successfully. Usually, they do this in a short amount of time while the original concept is still fresh and inspirational. So why now after 18 years has the aged chemical youth chosen to seduce us with a sequel to the outstanding 'Operation Mindcrime'?

According to Geoff Tate, he has always endeavored to make a sequel when the perfect time presented itself. Presently, he is desparately attempting to shop his 'Mindcrime' screenplay to prospective movie associates or theatrical venues. His political perspectives have remained consistent over the years, even if his musical direction has changed drastically over the last decade. Geoff has always kept an active file on the Nikki character, which he has updated every time he felt inspired by designs of social convention. The band always plays classic tracks from the 'Mindcrime' era, so the music has always been close to their hearts. Unfortunately, with the departure of Chris DeGarmo , the empire crumbled into a broken promised land leaving many Queensryche enthusiasts bereft of their passion here in the now frontier.

18 years have passed since they unveiled their conceptual masterpiece, and the tribe is back ready to rage for order. They diligently toured last summer doing 'Operation mindcrime' in it's entirety while playing 2 new songs to prepare the fans for the continuing saga. Now, with less than a week before the new CD arrives in stores, (release date: April 4th), I am presented with the honor and privelege or reviewing their lastest and highly anticipated 'Mindcrime 2'.

I will not waste your time with clandestine plot points or detailed storylines. If you are reading this review, chances are you are very familiar with the original concept. Most of you will either purchase the CD or enjoy listening to the music for free at the band's website. I will simply mention that the original cast is back in true form finishing what they started. Pamela Moore returns as Sister Mary or rather Nikki's memories of her She essentially becomes his conscience and driving will. Ronnie James Dio portrays Dr. X in an excellent duet with Mr. Tate. According to Geoff, he has always hoped to work with Dio ever since the glory days when he sang on the 'Hear N' Aid" Stars project 20 years ago. Personally, I never pictured Dio as Dr. X., since the mastermind behind operation mindcrime is such a mendacious man; yet Dio's performance is flawless. Months ago there were rumours of Rob Halford playing the role. I have no doubt that Rob would have sealed the deal and truly become the sinister Dr. X; however, given his high vocal range, he may not have harmonized as well with Geoff's.

As far as the story goes, it's rather apparent that Nikki was incarcerated when Bush was in office, and he is released when another Bush is president. I don't want to focus on the political polemics, though; my intent is to critique the music. Most of my readers want to know if Queensryche are again breaking the silence to build a bridge to their past and take hold of the flame, or if they have lost their path on the roads to madness.

My review thus comes with a warning. "Caveat Emptor"! This may not be the Mindcrime we all were anxiously awaiting. The saga continues in all its grandeur. The production has a true 80's feel to it. Geoff purposely chose Jason Slater to serve as their engineer since he is so skilled with assisting the band in a live situation. Geoff utilized a four-forty writing style to create an authentic 80's vibe in the melodies. The recording is voiced in half-steps using the same exact equipment used to create the original 'Mindcrime". New guitarist Mike Stone is a true metal devotee for the classic Queensryche sound. After he was hired to play on the CD, he actually moved into Geoff's home for 4 months, with fervor and heartfelt alacrity to write an appropriate sequel. This is evidenced by some of the most professional soloing since DeGarmo's exodus. Some of the tracks on 'MC2' are real burners.

The first real track after a rather bombastic opening, "I'm American" may be one of the fastest songs Queensryche have ever penned. The drumming sounds like Slayer and the solos just shred. Some other standout tracks include: "One foot in hell", "Hostage", "the Chase" (with Dio) , and "Murderer?". Sadly, the other songs don't quite have the classic sound. They remind me of the last few complacent releases. There are some musical allusions to the first 'Mindcrime' with echoes of "Eyes of a stranger", 'Revolution calling' and "Speak" in the riffs; but the songs are just not as coherent. There are too many inchoate orchestrations which don't unite the storyline as cogently as the often quoted "Why'd you do it? We Know You Did It!" or "I Remember Now". In the original brilliant story, these dialogues and voice-overs served to proliferate the story, infusing it with an interactive and compelling vibe. This time, it's a real challenge to follow the storyline; especially, without a lyric book to enhance the experience.

I'm pleased that Pamela Moore has returned as Sister Mary. This time her voice is more prominent and even more operatic Unfortunately, 18 years have passed, and her killing words just does not sound as vulnerable or victimized as the original Mary. Perhaps, this is because, she is speaking to Nikki in his mind or through flashbacks. I just don't feel as sympathetic for her character or for Nikki's dilemma as I did in the original.

Ultimately, the decision is yours, whether or not to purchase 'OM2'. All I have is a promo copy, yet I still plan on buying this CD. 'Operation Mindcrime' is my favorite concept album of all time, so I must have the sequel, even if it's not as stellar as it's predecessor. This is by far the best Queensryche CD since 'Promised land'. I do believe in love and this will make an excellent birthday present for the lady in black - my wife.