|Queensryche Operation Mindcrime 2||Rhino Records|
Review on this occasion by Mick Ward.|
Typically full of twists and turns, the plot line for Operation Mindcrime II is rich intricate and involved. Whether you love or despise this incarnation of Queensryche is beside the point, for what the band has delivered here is quite the effort, dressing this sequel up in what resembles the sounds of an 80's era Queensryche while continuing to evolve and not duplicate themselves. A daunting task and first impressions would have the listener convinced that the band have succeeded in remaining faithful to the original in both story arc and its delivery. Yet while the plot should enthrall, the music and song delivery require closer examination.
Too often the melody lines which Geoff Tate sings veer on the side of pop, reminiscent of those on his Geoff Tate solo album and distance themselves from the obvious attempt by the musicians to put some metal back in the band. Also, on too many occasions a strong opening riff gives way to a softer song or, for want of a better word a ballad. Regardless of the story lines' requirement for these moments of fluff, MCII is flawed by the inclusion of too many of these softer moments.
MCII is less metal and more hard rock with a creative edge. However, having said that, the venture into new territory is occasionally quite extraordinary. The unfamiliar style of Re-Arrange You is absolutely wonderful, its exceptional chorus and driving verses leave you wanting more. Fear City Slide reeks of Empire era Queensryche and, aside from its rather unusual, bordering on awful pop sing-a-long chorus, the song is quite the number.
The idea of sharing vocals with Ronnie James Dio on The Chase, in theory is brilliant, but the reality should have challenged its performers so much more, the song lacks in dynamic and by no means does it showcase either vocalist's true ability. Good but could have been so much more!
When seeking the reason behind such a subdued performance, consideration needs to be given on how this album came about - allegedly Tate made use of storyboards to structure the story preparing it for a more theatrical presentation. So perhaps here lies the problem. Whereas the first Mindcrime captured you with its sensational songs and musicianship whilst at the same time working cohesively with an intricate and compelling story, MCII puts the story first and has instead been drafted from concept to song, thus resulting in a more crowded and at times forced atmosphere, the story getting caught up in its very own theatrics and leaving less room for the music to breathe.
Thankfully many of the tunes push through this small barrier, tracks such as the dark and brooding Hostage and the catchy and sharp delivery of The Hands send the listener on a definite trip down metallic memory lane proudly giving a wink to anything from the Rage for Order to the Promised Land eras. Put simply both tunes are brilliant!
The slightly fumbled yet kick ass I'm American launches the album out of the starter gates and while it reeks of a deliberate attempt at capturing the spirit of the first Mindcrime, it is a galloping rocker in its own right. Rejoice!
One also cannot ignore the intensity and uniqueness of Murderer, perhaps too obscure for the casual listener; Murderer borders on chaotic but its driving bass and progressive style make for one of the strongest moments in Queensryche history.
Thankfully there are plenty of guitar solos and some shared, although unlike the songs from which they come, the solos fail to ingrain themselves in your head daring you to duplicate them on your own six string like those of years gone by, which leaves the album a tad unfulfilling in this regard, but they do complete the songs and its damn pleasing to hear 'em none the less.
Unfortunately, being the prime architect for the album, Tate will likely take the brunt of any negativity that comes their way but on a positive note his performance is flawless. Regardless of less range, he relishes the emotions of MCII and hasn't sounded this dark, angry or convincing on a release since the release of Promised Land.
Executed to perfection with a fat production that dabbles in yesteryear while staying very in the now and giving MCII the dramatic effect it requires, the band have indeed thrown down a worthy album. If it's the Mindcrime tag that has caused this sudden darker and much better Queensryche to appear or re-appear, whichever way you see it, then for that we should be thankful. With the changes the band has had to endure, newcomers Mike Stone sharing guitar duties with Michael Wilton and Jason Slater taking on production values finally sees the band settling into a sound and style which most fans should embrace.
Masterpiece? Dramatic swansong or a rebirth of sorts? Time will tell.
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