Those of you familiar with Queensryche may have heard about the acrimonious split between the main band and singer Geoff Tate in 2012. As splits go this has been a particularly messy and painful one involving the sacking of family members, band fights and prolonged court battles; even dividing the fan base in the process. With both sides claiming rights to the name, it took over 2 years for the legal wranglings to be concluded and as a result Tate lost use of the name and even referring to being an ex member of the band after a 2 year period.
To those less familiar with the work of Queensryche, they were (and are) a progressive heavy rock band, founded in 1982 whose success peaked in the early 90’s when they were nominated for 3 Grammys.
It is no surprise then that Tate has chosen to call his new band Operation: Mindcrime, the title of Queensryche 1988 breakthrough album; with Tate stating in recent interviews that he wanted his fan base to recognise his past work and give a nod towards a familiar future. It is therefore of even less surprise that Operation: Mindcrime have taken up where the original line-up of Queensryche left off.
To help him in this task Tate has gathered an esteemed group of musician’s around him including bassist John Moyer of Disturbed, drummer Simon Wright of AC/DC and Dio, drummer Brian Tichy of Whitesnake and Ozzy Osbourne, Myth synth player Randy Gane and ex Queensryche guitarist Kelly Gray
The first thing that strikes you about The Key and opening tracks “Choices” and “Burn” is that this classic Queensryche right from the slow build-up of “Choices”, the samples and dystopian voices. I know that Tate has been keen to emphasise that this is part of a trilogy but you have to wonder how much of the bands recent history has influenced his topic choices. In Choices he talks of ‘facing your choice alone and all alone we will face the future and of ‘the past I hate’. Whilst in “Burn” he ask ‘If I change the world will it turn out the same’.
It is with the third track and first single that the album starts to come alive however. I was already familiar with “Re-inventing the Future” before I had heard the album and it is a track that would not have been out of place on Empire. Again the band uses samples to help build up an atmosphere on the album (there are also two filler tracks on the album designed to again to create an overall feeling of a concept album) but it is also the first time that guitarist Kelly Gray gets to show and remind us that this is a rock band at the heart of it when it gets to unleash the first of the albums leads.
From here on in this is where Operation: Mindcrime has tried to differ from past efforts and the album goes through a variety of different styles. “Ready to Fly” is a very bass driven track that crescends with heavy use of Hammond style synth. Later in the album you get the Kings Xish “The Stranger”, with its funk timing and word play and final track “The Fall” is a perfect album closer and even introduces a sax solo to round things off.
For me the stand out track though is “Life or Death” changes the tone of the album and the sound of
Tate’s voice Mark Daly’s voice (singer with The Voodoos, who guests on this track), he sounds almost desperate. For album two please someone poke Geoff with a great big stick and get him angry. We all know what Tate is capable off with his vocal range but on “Life or Death” when Daly just lets the rawness of his emotions and the energy of the song take over Operation: Mindcrime become a different proposition; one where you feel the restraints of the dystopia they normally create are cast away and a band ready to actually let fly are hiding underneath. With a start reminiscent of early Nine Inch Nails and its sing along rock chorus it adds an extra dimension to the album outside of its prog metal mold.
In conclusion The Key is a continuation of themes that Tate has explored on earlier albums and if you loved Queensryche then Operation: Mindcrime will fill that void. On this album Tate reanalyses how he has got to this point and looks to the future and the times when he puts that behind him there is hints of a new future less apocalyptic and more expectant.
The Key is due for release on September 18th through Frontiers Music