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Released: 2015, Frontiers Records
Well here we are. After years of embarrassing media statements, lawsuits, and most importantly, less than well-received music, the final split between Geoff Tate and Queensryche is in the past. I’m not going to recap the whole mess, but suffice it to say that consensus is that the ‘Ryche easily won the first round of new albums with their self-titled album winning out over Tate’s FREQUENCY UNKNOWN record. Now that he’s ensconced within his new “project group” Operation: Mindcrime, what does Tate have in store for his remaining fans?
First, let’s tackle the whole “project group” thing. According to the man himself, Operation: Mindcrime is intended to be a fluid gathering of like-minded musicians coming and going around a core of Tate, his long-time partner in crime (and guitarist/producer) Kelly Gray, and keyboardist Randy Gane, who’s association with Tate goes all the way back to his pre-Queensryche band, Myth. There are a slew of guests on this album – check ‘em out at right.
Fittingly for a group named after one of the most loved concept albums of all time, Operation: Mindcrime’s debut is the first in a planned trilogy of linked concept albums with an involved storyline. As for the music, the song “Re-Inventing the Future” was wisely chosen as the lead-off single. The track is like a long-lost Queensryche song that I can easily imagine fitting in on EMPIRE. Tate sounds fantastic singing it, and the song’s deep hooks and catchy chorus are irresistible. Seriously, it may be a bit derivative of Tate’s past, but it’s easily one of the best songs he’s written in many years.
I admit though, that I found the rest of the album a bit harder to love. First off, although there are twelve tracks, three of them are instrumentals / spoken interludes, which means a quarter of the album can be skipped easily. As well, the ballad “On Queue” is easily tossed. As for the rest, if you were hoping for more Queensryche-esque tracks well…keep waiting. That said, I found that the heavy & hard progressive rock that characterizes cuts like “Burn”, “The Stranger”, and “Life or Death” to be some of Tate’s best written and effortlessly enjoyable songs. They may not sound like his classic years but I will say that the more I listen to THE KEY, the more I like it. It’s definitely a grower.
My advice is this: don’t disregard THE KEY until you’ve really given it a chance. I know most fans will crap on it simply because of Tate’s past, but there’s a lot to enjoy here if you let sink in. I, for one, am optimistic and looking forward to the next part of this trilogy.
3. Re-Inventing the Future
4. Ready to Fly
5. Discussions in a Smoke-Filled Room
6. Life or Death?
7. The Stranger
8. Hearing Voice
9. On Queue
10. An Ambush of Sadness
11. Kicking in the Door
12. The Fall
Geoff Tate: Vocals, Keyboards, Saxophone
Kelly Gray: Guitar, Vocals
Scott Moughton: Guitar, Backing Vocals
Dave Ellefson: Bass
John Moyer: Bass
Mark Daily: Vocals
Randy Gane: Keyboards
Simon Wright: Drums
Scott Mercado: Drums, Dulcimer
Brian Tichy: Drums
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