Queensryche & Geoff Tate

Travis The Dragon

"Set yourself on fire as we remember this forever"
I saw them open for Scorpions in 2015, I thought they were phenomenal
But headlining, they don't play arenas anymore and of course never will. It's great that they're happy though.

In a recent interview, Tate said that Scott Rockenfield is in a very dark place right now because he hasn't been with the band for so long. The reason is because he's at home with a new child and raising his family! Sadly, I think it's Tate who's in that dark place and is just saying that because of the opportunity.
 

Jer

Fuddy Buddy
I know I’m in the minority, but I’d really like to see Tate do a live Blu-Ray of The Key trilogy played in its entirety. Trotting out Queensrÿche albums that he can’t really sing anymore doesn’t do him any favors, and I think the Key albums would work really well with a full theatrical production and help to give him a separate identity from his former band. He could probably also coerce some bigger name guest musicians to participate in a recorded event.

Yeah, yeah, the trilogy didn’t sell well and some people think it sucked. I don’t fully agree with that, and I think people’s minds might change a bit if it were taken as a whole.
 

Collin

Chasing Ponce De Leon's Phantoms
I know I’m in the minority, but I’d really like to see Tate do a live Blu-Ray of The Key trilogy played in its entirety. Trotting out Queensrÿche albums that he can’t really sing anymore doesn’t do him any favors, and I think the Key albums would work really well with a full theatrical production and help to give him a separate identity from his former band. He could probably also coerce some bigger name guest musicians to participate in a recorded event.

Yeah, yeah, the trilogy didn’t sell well and some people think it sucked. I don’t fully agree with that, and I think people’s minds might change a bit if it were taken as a whole.
You are very much in the minority.
 

Jer

Fuddy Buddy
You are very much in the minority.
Well, let’s unpack that a bit.

Let’s take The Key itself. What’s wrong with it, really? Some people think “The Stranger” is stupid. Some people roll their eyes the moment they hear a saxophone (yet many of these people still like Promised Land, saxophone and all). “Hearing Voices” has some issues. “On Queue” might not be to everyone’s taste.

But let’s look at the positives: “Choices” is a great intro that gains more meaning after you’ve listened to the whole trilogy. “Burn” is solid, and also gains a lot once you have the full context of the story. “Re-Inventing The Future” should please any fan of the original Mindcrime album. “Ready To Fly” is fine. “Discussions In A Smoke Filled Room” is a good proggy instrumental with important story exposition. “Life Or Death?” and “Kicking In The Door” are strong songs that both advance the story, and “The Fall” is great, and ends the first album on a cliffhanger. And I actually like “The Stranger”, though I can understand why others wouldn’t.

Resurrection’s production is muddier, which isn’t great, but part of me wonders if this was intentional to reflect the main character’s woozy head state. I wouldn’t agree with that choice, but it’s something I could imagine Tate doing on purpose.

Yes, the first 5+ minutes of the album is a series of instrumental and exposition bits, but I think they work well. “Left For Dead”, “Miles Away”, and “Healing My Wounds” are all strong. “The Fight” is great, “Taking On The World” is quite good, and “Invincible” is a grower.

The album takes a bit of a left turn after this, with the rest of the tracks being a bit odd and focused on exposition, and this is admittedly a drawback, but could work much better with on-stage theatrics backing up the story components.

The New Reality is a bit weirder, with the musical sounds getting more synthy and computerized to line up with the story. I could see this being a barrier to some. That said, “Wake Me Up” and “Under Control” are pretty strong, and many of the other tracks build or maintain the atmosphere while advancing the story. This one is the toughest sell, though — either you’re on board with where he’s heading or you’re not. But this is another one that would benefit from the live setting, where the musical and stage atmosphere could help to sell the whole package.

Really, I’d think that most of Tate’s classic fans would enjoy at least half the content in the Key trilogy if they gave it a fair shake.
 

Collin

Chasing Ponce De Leon's Phantoms
Well, let’s unpack that a bit.

Let’s take The Key itself. What’s wrong with it, really? Some people think “The Stranger” is stupid. Some people roll their eyes the moment they hear a saxophone (yet many of these people still like Promised Land, saxophone and all). “Hearing Voices” has some issues. “On Queue” might not be to everyone’s taste.

But let’s look at the positives: “Choices” is a great intro that gains more meaning after you’ve listened to the whole trilogy. “Burn” is solid, and also gains a lot once you have the full context of the story. “Re-Inventing The Future” should please any fan of the original Mindcrime album. “Ready To Fly” is fine. “Discussions In A Smoke Filled Room” is a good proggy instrumental with important story exposition. “Life Or Death?” and “Kicking In The Door” are strong songs that both advance the story, and “The Fall” is great, and ends the first album on a cliffhanger. And I actually like “The Stranger”, though I can understand why others wouldn’t.

Resurrection’s production is muddier, which isn’t great, but part of me wonders if this was intentional to reflect the main character’s woozy head state. I wouldn’t agree with that choice, but it’s something I could imagine Tate doing on purpose.

Yes, the first 5+ minutes of the album is a series of instrumental and exposition bits, but I think they work well. “Left For Dead”, “Miles Away”, and “Healing My Wounds” are all strong. “The Fight” is great, “Taking On The World” is quite good, and “Invincible” is a grower.

The album takes a bit of a left turn after this, with the rest of the tracks being a bit odd and focused on exposition, and this is admittedly a drawback, but could work much better with on-stage theatrics backing up the story components.

The New Reality is a bit weirder, with the musical sounds getting more synthy and computerized to line up with the story. I could see this being a barrier to some. That said, “Wake Me Up” and “Under Control” are pretty strong, and many of the other tracks build or maintain the atmosphere while advancing the story. This one is the toughest sell, though — either you’re on board with where he’s heading or you’re not. But this is another one that would benefit from the live setting, where the musical and stage atmosphere could help to sell the whole package.

Really, I’d think that most of Tate’s classic fans would enjoy at least half the content in the Key trilogy if they gave it a fair shake.
I could certainly give it a try. I've only heard parts of the first album. I must admit though I am not a Geoff Tate fan. Queensryche could have been and should have been at or near the level Iron Maiden is at today. Think about it, Mindcrime and Empire tour. They are playing huge venues. Stadiums. The first EP through Promised Land is all fucking amazing. He ruined the band. They are no longer relevant and haven't done anything relevant since Promised Land. I don't like what they've become because of him. Even though he is gone and the band is now better, it's tragic just thinking about the 'ifs'.
 

Jer

Fuddy Buddy
I must admit though I am not a Geoff Tate fan.
I wouldn’t really say that I am either. He was great in his prime, but he’s kind of a prick and his solo albums and later Queensrÿche work haven’t been anything to get excited about.

For me, his Operation: Mindcrime band project was a bit different because it was right in his wheelhouse (multi-part story-driven concept album), and it was right after the Queensrÿche settlement, so he had something to prove. And in the end I think it was pretty successful from an artistic standpoint, warts and all.
Queensryche could have been and should have been at or near the level Iron Maiden is at today. Think about it, Mindcrime and Empire tour. They are playing huge venues. Stadiums. The first EP through Promised Land is all fucking amazing.
Well, the blessing and curse of Queensrÿche is that all of their albums sound different. Aside from Tate’s voice and some of the guitar choices, there isn’t really a “Queensrÿche sound”, and that makes it hard to maintain a fan base. If Promised Land had stayed closer to the Empire sound, or if Empire had stayed closer to the Operation: Mindcrime sound, and then they had continued on in one of those directions, maybe things would have gone differently.
He ruined the band. They are no longer relevant and haven't done anything relevant since Promised Land. I don't like what they've become because of him.
In fairness, Hear In The Now Frontier was mostly DeGarmo’s doing; but the crap that followed is largely on Tate’s shoulders.
 

Black Bart

Ancient Mariner
In fairness, Hear In The Now Frontier was mostly DeGarmo’s doing
I love this record, and I even prefer it to the first EP or The Warning for example, but who knows what would have happened if it had been released as a DeGarmo solo project ("Reach" is the only song he had not taken part in writing) and the band had gone on a long pause.

However, the tour production and setlist were great, however short the touring was:
The Voice Inside
Get a Life
Empire
Jet City Woman
You
Spreading the Disease
The Mission
I Am I
Damaged
Reach
Bridge
Another Rainy Night (Without You)
Take Hold of the Flame
The Lady Wore Black
Silent Lucidity
Hit the Black
I Remember Now
Anarchy-X
Revolution Calling
Breaking the Silence
I Don't Believe in Love
Eyes of a Stranger

Sign of the Times
Walk in the Shadows
Some People Fly
 

Jer

Fuddy Buddy
This recent conversation about the Key trilogy got me listening to it again, so I figured some reviews might be in order. Since these are concept albums that tell an interconnected story, and the music tends to serve the story more than the other way around, I’ll need to talk about both elements.

First off, these are not metal albums. They are prog rock albums, heavily influenced by the 70s and 80s prog scene, with lots of in-your-face synths and noodly bits. There are also a number of performance and production choices that are made to support the conveyance of the story, rather than what might make the tightest or best-sounding version of a specific song. For example, when the main character is scattered or woozy, so are Tate’s vocals. When the story is talking about things happening in cyberspace, the synths take the lead and the vocals may be oddly clipped or distorted to give a techy feel. For these reasons you’re not going to hear a crisp rendition of everything with the best possible technical performance, because that’s not what these albums are trying to accomplish. Whether that’s a detriment or not is in the ear of the beholder.

Regarding the story, not much is given away at first, but over the course of the trilogy you’re able to infer a number of things. The core conceit is that the main character has helped to create software that does...something...that could either entrench power in the hands of a rich few, or fundamentally change the social order if it were given away to everyone. My interpretation is that the code allows the user to perfectly reconstruct and visualize past events (at least within recent tech-friendly times), essentially revealing anyone’s secrets and lies if the user chooses to look into their lives, or allowing them to relive their own memories if they look into their own. The software also appears to be able to suggest future outcomes, but not very accurately. Realizing this adds new context to some of the earlier songs, which was a pretty neat revelation at the time.

So, let’s get started...



Operation: Mindcrime - The Key (2015)
  • Choices - An atmospheric intro suggests the birth of the software that the story revolves around. Discussions swirl around the potential implications of its use. The main character contemplates the impact of his choices in the past, present, and future, as the music crescendos. On first listen this appears to be the main character thinking about things in the present, but after completing the trilogy this may very well be the main character contemplating past events after using his software to relive them. Moody and effective. 7/10.
  • Burn - The main character asks the software for suggestions on “system termination”. This might be about tearing down the social order, or might be about shutting down the software itself. A grungy groove carries us along as the main character daydreams about ending corruption and lies, burning down the existing power structure and wondering how society would restart in a world where people can’t get away with lies anymore. There are nice melodic bits under the chorus and a decent solo. 6/10.
  • Re-Inventing The Future - The software is asked whether it should be given away for free or sold for profit. The music kicks in with a vibe heavily influenced by “The Mission” and “Eyes Of A Stranger”. As the main character puts the finishing touches on the software, he decides that he’s got one chance to change the world and he wants to give it away for free, no matter who may get hurt. His partners are pissed off because they stand to make a fortune, and because they’re worried about what will happen to the world if everyone can know the full truth of anything. A great dueling solo punctuates the middle of the song. Great vibe, probably the most accessible song to Queensrÿche fans. 8/10.
  • Ready To Fly - A haunting melody with a playful bass line blends into a smooth, dreamy chorus. The main character has completed the code and gathers his final thoughts about the decision to release it to the world. A great synth solo plays out over a beefy rhythm line before returning for a final chorus and an odd ending. This one’s a grower, but I’d round it up to 8/10.
  • Discussions In A Smoke Filled Room - The protagonist’s partners discuss their concerns about his plans. They talk about controlling him so they can still sell the code for profit, but one of them suggests killing him instead. The rest of the track is an atmospheric instrumental that’s effective, but doesn’t have a lot of substance. 7/10.
  • Life Or Death? - One of the main character’s partners, who I will call Conflicted Guy, is seriously concerned about the current course of events. He wants to get rich, but he doesn’t want anyone to get hurt in the process. And yet the evil seed of an idea to kill the main character has been planted, and it seems to be taking root with the other partners. A guest vocalist sings the role of Conflicted Guy over ringing guitars, building up to a catchy chorus with synth horns. A piano-driven bridge accompanies his reluctant decision to go along with the majority’s plan, while spending the rest of the song second-guessing his choice. Another song I would round up to 8/10.
  • The Stranger - A downtuned and aggressive groove accompanies Tate singing in the role of the braggadocious assassin that the partners call in to kill the main character. The vocal harmonies are a bit odd leading up to the chorus. Tate’s grunting and half-rapping here may be off-putting to some, but it lines up with the character he’s portraying. A nice atmospheric break with some ringing guitar folds back into a final run of verse and chorus. The song ends with the assassin’s phone call, wondering if the main character will “take it like a man”. This one is polarizing, but overall I like it. 7/10.
  • Hearing Voices - An aggressive groove offers a promising start, but the vocals are all over the place and never find a melodic line. The chorus is just atrocious. Story-wise, the main character has been confronted by the partners and kicked out, with them keeping control of the software. The protagonist lashes out over their characterization that if he gives the code away, it will amount to “everybody watching you”. He threatens to find out everyone who was involved in pushing him out. The partner who ordered his assassination feels justified in his decision, wondering how many more people would have ended up dead if the protagonist’s plan had come to fruition. A strong solo break can’t salvage this mess. 4/10.
  • On Queue - A message from the main character to Conflicted Guy claims that the code retained by the partners is encrypted and can only be unlocked and used if they have the titular encryption key. The main character describes where the key can be found, and he implores Conflicted Guy to take it and run, so the partners won’t be able to use the code. Everything now depends on him. The music is relaxed and reverberant with electronic accents, and a nice melodic break in the middle, as well as a laid back synth/sax solo. Solid stuff. 7/10.
  • An Ambush Of Sadness - A brief Asian-tinged instrumental that foreshadows a melody from “The Fight” on the next album. Nice. 7/10.
  • Kicking In The Door - An acoustic groove accompanies Conflicted Guy lamenting the position he’s in, knowing that the other partners will be coming for him. He has access to both the code and the encryption key, and isn’t sure if he should hand them over and get rich, stay put and resist them, or run away and help the main character. Nice melodic break. 7/10.
  • The Fall - A haunting intro leads into a busy, disjointed groove. The assassin has caught up to the main character, and as the protagonist faces his end he processes the betrayal by his friends and partners, and the loss of the future he was almost able to create. The staccato verses echo his pounding heart, while the soaring chorus captures his anguish. A nice saxophone solo leads into a layered melodic break before we hear the main character’s final thought, followed by the shoveling of dirt onto his unmarked grave. Great stuff, almost excellent. A robust 8/10.
Overall: 7.0/10

A strong effort with an interesting story and a great cliffhanger at the end. There are some blemishes, most notably in “Hearing Voices”, and the production is a little muddy in places. There also aren’t any songs that really hit it out of the park (though “The Fall” comes close).

I was really into this album when it first came out, and I think it still holds up well today.
 
Last edited:

Collin

Chasing Ponce De Leon's Phantoms
This recent conversation about the Key trilogy got me listening to it again, so I figured some reviews might be in order. Since these are concept albums that tell an interconnected story, and the music tends to serve the story more than the other way around, I’ll need to talk about both elements.

First off, these are not metal albums. They are prog rock albums, heavily influenced by the 70s and 80s prog scene, with lots of in-your-face synths and noodly bits. There are also a number of performance and production choices that are made to support the conveyance of the story, rather than what might make the tightest or best-sounding version of a specific song. For example, when the main character is scattered or woozy, so are Tate’s vocals. When the story is talking about things happening in cyberspace, the synths take the lead and the vocals may be oddly clipped or distorted to give a techy feel. For these reasons you’re not going to hear a crisp rendition of everything with the best possible technical performance, because that’s not what these albums are trying to accomplish. Whether that’s a detriment or not is in the ear of the beholder.

Regarding the story, not much is given away at first, but over the course of the trilogy you’re able to infer a number of things. The core conceit is that the main character has helped to create software that does...something...that could either entrench power in the hands of a rich few, or fundamentally change the social order if it were given away to everyone. My interpretation is that the code allows the user to perfectly reconstruct and visualize past events (at least within recent tech-friendly times), essentially revealing anyone’s secrets and lies if the user chooses to look into their lives, or allowing them to relive their own memories if they look into their own. The software also appears to be able to suggest future outcomes, but not very accurately. Realizing this adds new context to some of the earlier songs, which was a pretty neat revelation at the time.

So, let’s get started...



Operation: Mindcrime - The Key (2015)
  • Choices - An atmospheric intro suggests the birth of the software that the story revolves around. Discussions swirl around the potential implications of its use. The main character contemplates the impact of his choices in the past, present, and future, as the music crescendos. On first listen this appears to be the main character thinking about things in the present, but after completing the trilogy this may very well be the main character contemplating past events after using his software to relive them. Moody and effective. 7/10.
  • Burn - The main character asks the software for suggestions on “system termination”. This might be about tearing down the social order, or might be about shutting down the software itself. A grungy groove carries us along as the main character daydreams about ending corruption and lies, burning down the existing power structure and wondering how society would restart in a world where people can’t get away with lies anymore. There are nice melodic bits under the chorus and a decent solo. 6/10.
  • Re-Inventing The Future - The software is asked whether it should be given away for free or sold for profit. The music kicks in with a vibe heavily influenced by “The Mission” and “Eyes Of A Stranger”. As the main character puts the finishing touches on the software, he decides that he’s got one chance to change the world and he wants to give it away for free, no matter who may get hurt. His partners are pissed off because they stand to make a fortune, and because they’re worried about what will happen to the world if everyone can know the full truth of anything. A great dueling solo punctuates the middle of the song. Great vibe, probably the most accessible song to Queensrÿche fans. 8/10.
  • Ready To Fly - A haunting melody with a playful bass line blends into a smooth, dreamy chorus. The main character has completed the code and gathers his final thoughts about the decision to release it to the world. A great synth solo plays out over a beefy rhythm line before returning for a final chorus and an odd ending. This one’s a grower, but I’d round it up to 8/10.
  • Discussions In A Smoke Filled Room - The protagonist’s partners discuss their concerns about his plans. They talk about controlling him so they can still sell the code for profit, but one of them suggests killing him instead. The rest of the track is an atmospheric instrumental that’s effective, but doesn’t have a lot of substance. 7/10.
  • Life Or Death? - One of the main character’s partners, who I will call Conflicted Guy, is seriously concerned about the current course of events. He wants to get rich, but he doesn’t want anyone to get hurt in the process. And yet the evil seed of an idea to kill the main character has been planted, and it seems to be taking root with the other partners. A guest vocalist sings the role of Conflicted Guy over ringing guitars, building up to a catchy chorus with synth horns. A piano-driven bridge accompanies his reluctant decision to go along with the majority’s plan, while spending the rest of the song second-guessing his choice. Another song I would round up to 8/10.
  • The Stranger - A downtuned and aggressive groove accompanies Tate singing in the role of the braggadocious assassin that the partners call in to kill the main character. The vocal harmonies are a bit odd leading up to the chorus. Tate’s grunting and half-rapping here may be off-putting to some, but it lines up with the character he’s portraying. A nice atmospheric break with some ringing guitar folds back into a final run of verse and chorus. The song ends with the assassin’s phone call, wondering if the main character will “take it like a man”. This one is polarizing, but overall I like it. 7/10.
  • Hearing Voices - An aggressive groove offers a promising start, but the vocals are all over the place and never find a melodic line. The chorus is just atrocious. Story-wise, the main character has been confronted by the partners and kicked out, with them keeping control of the software. The protagonist lashes out over their characterization that if he gives the code away, it will amount to “everybody watching you”. He threatens to find out everyone who was involved in pushing him out. The partner who ordered his assassination feels justified in his decision, wondering how many more people would have ended up dead if the protagonist’s plan had come to fruition. A strong solo break can’t salvage this mess. 4/10.
  • On Queue - A message from the main character to Conflicted Guy claims that the code retained by the partners is encrypted and can only be unlocked and used if they have the titular encryption key. The main character describes where the key can be found, and he implores Conflicted Guy to take it and run, so the partners won’t be able to use the code. Everything now depends on him. The music is relaxed and reverberant with electronic accents, and a nice melodic break in the middle, as well as a laid back synth/sax solo. Solid stuff. 7/10.
  • An Ambush Of Sadness - A brief Asian-tinged instrumental that foreshadows a melody from “The Fight” on the next album. Nice. 7/10.
  • Kicking In The Door - An acoustic groove accompanies Conflicted Guy lamenting the position he’s in, knowing that the other partners will be coming for him. He has access to both the code and the encryption key, and isn’t sure if he should hand them over and get rich, stay put and resist them, or run away and help the main character. Nice melodic break. 7/10.
  • The Fall - A haunting intro leads into a busy, disjointed groove. The assassin has caught up to the main character, and as the protagonist faces his end he processes the betrayal by his friends and partners, and the loss of the future he was almost able to create. The staccato verses echo his pounding heart, while the soaring chorus captures his anguish. A nice saxophone solo leads into a layered melodic break before we hear the main character’s final thought, followed by the shoveling of dirt onto his unmarked grave. Great stuff, almost excellent. A robust 8/10.
Overall: 7.0/10

A strong effort with an interesting story and a great cliffhanger at the end. There are some blemishes, most notably in “Hearing Voices”, and the production is a little muddy in places. There also aren’t any songs that really hit it out of the park (though “The Fall” comes close).

I was really into this album when it first came out, and I think it still holds up well today.
Dedicated to Chaos or Frequency Unknown next??
 

Jer

Fuddy Buddy


Operation: Mindcrime - Resurrection (2016)
  • Resurrection - Ambient noise and distorted screams as the main character briefly regains consciousness. 6/10.
  • When All Falls Away - A cacophonous but effective instrumental as the protagonist lies near death. 7/10.
  • A Moment In Time - The main character notes that he’s buried alive. In retrospect, this makes more sense if it’s a comment the character makes while reliving the memory. 6/10.
  • Through The Noize - The protagonist thinks about the moments before he was shot and buried, how close he came to his dream, and what he lost. He can barely think through the haze of his pain and the memory of the gunshot. 6/10.
  • Left For Dead - The first traditional song on the album. A woozy, grungy, dreamy groove carries us along as the main character thinks about his attempted murder and his partners’ betrayal. As he notes his injuries and tries to find his bearings, all he can think about is revenge. Strong melodies and a catchy chorus drive this one along. 7/10.
  • Miles Away - Booming drums and atmospherics lead into an extended melodic interlude. This breaks into a surprisingly upbeat song about infected wounds and running as far away from the grave site as possible. The vocal harmony choices are a little odd, but most of this works well. Nice melodic break, nice wrap-up on the chorus. I’d round this up to a 7/10.
  • Healing My Wounds - The main character connects up with Conflicted Guy, who wonders if the protagonist knows he was complicit in the hit. The main character describes being shot in the chest and explaining he has no choice but to stay on the run. Conflicted Guy realizes that he’s never going to get rich off the code now and agrees to help. The main character heals as he resolves to release the code to the world and reveal the truth. More strong melodies and a cool interlude buffet the song. 7/10.
  • The Fight - A melancholy ballad about the protagonist using the code to rewatch his betrayal and the machinations of his partners. He’s heartbroken and feels like he can’t trust anyone. He tries to find the motivation to go on. A beautiful song with a warbling first solo and a Satriani-esque second one. If the delivery had been a little crisper this would have been excellent, but as it stands it’s still great. 8/10.
  • Taking On The World - An aggressive guitar & bass opening rolls into a bouncy bass-driven verse. Ripper Owens and Blaze Bayley provide backing vocals as “I Don’t Believe In Love” provides some inspiration. The protagonist finds his voice, reveling that he’s outsmarted his former partners. There was apparently no encryption key after all, it was just a ruse to throw them off and delay their use of the code. The main character is now sure of his path, planning to bring them down while changing the world with the release of his software. Another cool melodic break and nice solo, as well as a great outro. I’d round this up to an 8/10.
  • Invincible - A noodly eastern vibe with electronic accents leads into a mid-paced groove. The main character has gotten over his immediate anger and is back at full strength. His former partners have figured out he’s still alive and in a position to release the code, so they’ve started badmouthing him publicly so people won’t believe him when he tries to take his work public. The protagonist has gotten past his fears and is ready to act. Solid stuff. 7/10.
  • A Smear Campaign - Arpeggios and synth horns merge with an aggressive riff which eventually gives way to a bouncy, odd verse. The vocal choices here are bizarre, and the horn accents aren’t good. The synth and sax breaks are much better. Story-wise the main character deals with the smear campaign directed at him by his former partners. There’s a nice aggressive, busy guitar outro. The vocals here are shit, but I think the music does enough in the end to eke out a 6/10.
  • Which Side You’re On - Dark guitars and piano lead into a funkier verse. The main character frames the debate and the social struggle ahead, and stands threatening and defiant. The use of synth horns is not very good here, but there’s a cool clean guitar interlude and some funky rhythm work. 6/10.
  • Into The Hands Of The World - Ominous music accompanies the main character releasing his code to the public. The music becomes really discombobulated and lame during the verses, but the chorus temporarily pulls it back together again. I assume the music is trying to relay the chaos of the code being distributed and used for the first time, but it could have been handled better. Some heavy 70s Genesis influence toward the end. A very mixed bag, probably a 5/10 overall.
  • Live From My Machine - Calm industrial stylings reflect the new reality where anyone can plug in and know the truth. Secrets revealed, lies exposed. In these early days it’s all about discovery, with people being able to delve into their own and others’ pasts without their present getting much attention. No one’s watching you now, but it’s just a matter of time before they do. How will you hold up to the scrutiny when the time comes? The vocals are processed and clipped to give a computery feel, and this is mostly an extended soft groove with some minor variations, but it works. 6/10.
Overall: 6.6/10

This album isn’t quite as good as The Key, but the story remains interesting and the album’s got some great highlights. (It’s got some lowlights too, but nothing quite as bad as “Hearing Voices” overall.) The production is also muddier than The Key, but only for the early part of the album, so I’m guessing it was intentional to reflect the character’s situation and head state.

Once the album gets going it’s really strong through “Invincible”, but then it turns a little weird. Some people are going to get off the train here and not get back on, because the final album keeps going down this musical rabbit hole — but as I said, the music is serving the story here, and not the other way around.

Incidentally, all three of these albums were recorded in late 2014, so it’s pretty much a certainty that Blaze Bayley’s guest appearance on this project is what inspired him to do his own concept album trilogy, Infinite Entanglement, which saw an album released each year from 2016 to 2018.
 

Jer

Fuddy Buddy


Operation: Mindcrime - The New Reality (2017)
  • A Head Long Jump - Computery atmospherics accompany us into the virtual world of the main character’s software. An aggressive groove eventually drives this forward as the protagonist implores people to jump into this new world. Some of the harmony choices are odd, and this isn’t much of a song, but it’s OK. 6/10.
  • Wake Me Up - The protagonist revels in what he’s accomplished. A punchy, grungy groove with some synth and clean guitar accents powers this track along. Ew, those orchestra hit stingers should have stayed in the 80s, and the pre-chorus isn’t very good, but the chorus is pretty solid. Some of the melodic breaks are odd. 6/10.
  • It Was Always You! - An ominous industrial intro gives way to a drum & synth groove. A staccato verse with some icky vocal harmonies leads into a catchier chorus. The main character sees the scope of what he’s done and wonders if he’s gone too far, but he only has himself to blame. The song takes a left turn in the middle, offering an extended interlude with some spoken word and a sax solo, and a catchy synth section toward the end. Some weaker elements hold this back to a 6/10.
  • The Fear - An extended intro leads into a synthy, distorted verse. The main character is surprised by the negative reaction and fear that many people feel once they realize the scope of what the software can do, and that their privacy has now been permanently forfeit. The chorus is catchy, but the rest is a bit messy. 6/10.
  • Under Control - A simple grungy groove breaks into a soaring chorus. The main character is pissed off by people’s reactions to the software and the inability of some to share his grand vision. He’s out of patience and ready to boil over. A good solo and a great high note from Tate bring this one home. 7/10.
  • The New Reality - A synthy opening breaks into a laid back groove strangely reminiscent of “Happy Together”, punctuated at times by heavy guitars. The protagonist laments that he’s been painted as the bad guy for what he’s unleashed. Has this expanded knowledge and lack of privacy made people more free or less free? No one can use lies or secrets to manipulate people anymore, but what has been lost as a result? Another saxophone solo and chorus wind this one down. 6/10.
  • My Eyes - The main character is ironically still on the run after accomplishing his goal, because he’s made a lot of enemies and his software allows anyone to see what he’s been doing. He can only stay one step ahead by watching their actions himself and constantly reacting. The verse is a little raw, but the chorus is strong. I think I’d round this one up to 7/10.
  • A Guitar In Church? - A pleasant instrumental that slowly crescendos before fading away. 6/10.
  • All For What? - Electronic insect noises lead into more computery atmospherics. The protagonist ruminates on the meaning of truth, and his obsession with his past betrayal, which he regularly relives through the software. He rages against the apathy of the people who continue to ignore his vision and won’t reach out and take what’s right in front of them. The music swings around between thoughtful noodling and aggressive crescendos. Tate has some nice high notes. This meanders a bit, but has some cool parts. 6/10.
  • The Wave - Spacey synths give way to a cool verse with a funky guitar & synth break. The main character follows the money funding corruption around the world, hoping that exposing those details will sway people to his point of view. He declares that the political left has no power and the political right has no solutions. I think I’d round this up to a 7/10.
  • Tidal Change - A brief instrumental that riffs on the funky theme from the previous track. 7/10.
  • The Same Old Story - The protagonist gives up on trying to bring people over to his side. No one’s listening, and they’re mostly using his software to relive their own past memories while blaming him for the negative social effects. The main groove is pleasant enough, but there are some odd vocal choices, and the vocal harmonies are terrible. Kind of a lame way to close things out, but it does enough to salvage a 5/10.
Overall: 6.3/10

This album goes all in on the spacey, computery, chaotic, effect-laden prog to sell the story of this newly software-influenced world. If you didn’t like the elements of this that showed up on Resurrection, then you’ll really hate them here — but if you get on board with the whole thing, there’s still a lot to like. That said, this is definitely the least accessible album of the trilogy, and its weakest entry overall.

The story doesn’t feel as fleshed out on this album as it did on the previous installments, being more abstract and philosophical this time. It is interesting that the public didn’t really get on board with the main character’s plan, and just wound up using his software like a drug in the end. Plus he’s still on the run. Oops.

One thing I liked about the trilogy was that it looped back on itself well. The dark end of The Key, the activation of the software at the end of Resurrection, and the melancholy shrug at the end of The New Reality all fold back nicely into “Choices” at the beginning of The Key, so you could listen to everything in a coherent loop even when the full trilogy hadn’t finished releasing yet. It was also neat to see some of the lyrics in a new context once you had a fuller picture of the story.

As I said before, I’d love to see a full theatrical concert treatment of this trilogy like what Queensrÿche did with their Operation: Mindcrime albums. I think it would benefit greatly from the staging and some extra context around the songs. Probably a pipe dream, though.
 

Jer

Fuddy Buddy
Sounds like they must be pretty good albums..
Yeah, pretty good overall. A half step above Blaze’s trilogy, I’d say. It really depends on whether you get into the story and whether you’re repulsed by a non-metal approach.
 

Travis The Dragon

"Set yourself on fire as we remember this forever"
Pretty much Dedicated To Chaos through the Mindcrime trilogy mostly suck for me and just have a few good moments here and there. It's sad because he did show he could sing damn good on songs like Weight Of The World and now Sweet Oblivion. Hopefully that inspired him to do more of the same on his next project.

HOWEVER!

I gave Operation: Mindcrime 2 another listen and didn't realize how much good, melodic singing he does on there. It's just that the production isn't the greatest and that last song is a horrible way to end it.
 
Top