CD Review: Operation: Mindcrime – The Key

CD Review: Operation: Mindcrime – The Key
Frontiers Music srl
All Access Rating: C+

Operation: Mindcrime - The Key 2015
The sprawling concept album Operation: Mindcrime was indeed Queensryche's finest hour, a grand puzzle of progressive metal full of grandiose arrangements, sweeping drama and intelligent, socio-political storytelling. Queensryche's former singer is hoping some of the magic of his old band's most iconic work rubs off on his latest mission, which bears the same name.

Not so much a band as a collection of hired guns gathered together to help Tate realize his vision, Operation: Mindcrime borrows the talents of Megadeth's Dave Ellefson, John Moyer (Disturbed, Adrenaline Mob), drummers Simon Wright (AC/DC) and Brian Tichy (Billy Idol, Ozzy Osbourne) and seemingly a cast of thousands on the elegant mess called The Key, said to be part one of an epic musical trilogy from Tate and released by Frontiers Music srl.

An enormous undertaking, The Key is ambitious, thought-provoking and cinematic in scope, and the chord progressions, strings and deep bass grooves establish a dark and stylish environment for a series of scenes addressing the question: What would happen if a key was found that could completely alter our perception of the world? The crunching, surging riffs and building drama of "Burn" and "Re-inventing the Future" that follow in the wake of the soaring, orchestral opener "Choice" all suggest the high expectations for The Key were warranted. This is where the engine stalls.

Quickly losing focus, its jumble of interesting ideas never quite pulling off the jaw-dropping tricks its set of musical magicians promise, The Key devolves and flatlines. "Ready to Fly" meanders about without any real sense of purpose or direction, as if sleepwalking through an empty park in the wee hours of the morning. Just as rudderless, the proggy indulgences of "On Queue" and "An Ambush of Sadness" are set adrift instrumentally without any hope of rescue. And choruses destined for greatness end up ineffectual and formless, as is the case with "Hearing Voices," a chunky, heavy riot of Rage Against The Machine-like stomp that ends up stammering like a petulant child.

Still possessing a powerful, expressive voice and a gift for bold theatrics, Tate has time to fix this, with two more acts yet to play out. Getting all these disparate pieces to fit together logically, allowing for greater flow and fewer stumbles, might be his biggest challenge.
– Peter Lindblad

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