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Operation: Mindcrime II

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  • Well I admit that deep down I never really thought that Queensryche would really be able to top the first Mindcrime album, I mean that album is a landmark in hard rock / metal and one that will live forever. Having said that I am suprised in the depth and in some cases intensity of the critisism this album has received. I havent really liked a Queensryche album since Empire, yes I have them all, yes there are some great tracks such as Damaged (one of my faves)and yes the band was always going to change with the general change in musical tastes around that time and the departure of Degarmo. This release surely must be the best since Empire, back to the style that the vast majority of fans loved, with only the occasional hint of that depressive drone that has haunted the last few releases. Granted not every track is a winner, but in general I think this album rocks.

    As with so many bands this album doesnt really capture the new material as it is meant to sound. Last night I had the privelige to see the band live, at last, their first visit to Australia (unbelievable I know)and after travelling about 600 miles to see them in Melbourne. This material really shines live, so much more dynamic and powerfull and sits really well after the O.M 1 material. I’m American just blew me away, what a great song live. I only think that the diehard QR fans might consider giving the new material a chance live, Im glad I did. Geoff Tate sounded great, despite some of the harsh critisism he seems to cop these days and the band rocked. Anyway – just my opinion but if you get the chance, have a listen to the live tour with the two albums sitting together so well.


    Posted on March 1, 2010 - Permalink - Buy Now
  • Quite Simply this is the best Ryche album in a very long time, I would venture a guess as far back as EMPIRE in fact, though in my opinion Empire is better. What I think folks fail to realize before they write a review here is that this is a follow up to a brilliant concept album, and with that there is a complex story line that needs to be concluded…so why would it be simple, or easy to get right away….it’s not, first time I heard this album, I was yes…disapointed too, in fact it took about 6-7 spins before it started to grow on me….but, it did grow each and every time.
    And by that 8th time there are only a few songs that I’m not really enjoying, however, no big, there is A LOT of songs on this album….17 if I remember correctly so who cares if a few aren’t all that…???

    There are some amazing tracks on here and it is a great album, it’s just that as classic Ryche fans…we put the original so far up on the rychter scale that anything they would release would be hard pressed to compete!

    Posted on March 1, 2010 - Permalink - Buy Now
  • I am abolutely stunned how many “fans” are tearing this album apart. The only possible reasons I have come up with for this are: They are expecting a compelete rehash of the first OM…OR they have only listened to the album once or twice. Give this album a chance for God’s sake! One of the “FEATURED REVIEWS” stated that “Murderer?” was an unmemorable, forgettable track…WHAT??!?!? Did you even listen to the song more than once!?! This album is a true grower and an absolutely amazing comeback that I for one was skeptical that they could pull off.
    Their last 3 albums have been very mediocore by Queensryche standard, I think most fans would agree. For me, the trifecta of Operation Mindcrime, Empire, and Promised Land are probably the strongest 3 consecutive albums by any band that I can think of. While the newer albums have had a few good moments, and the live shows were still strong, it definitely seemed the band had lost it’s true greatness.
    I will admit, the first time I popped OM2 into the player, I was nervous. And after the first time thru the disc, I really didn’t know what to make of it. But I knew that I wanted to hear it again to try and make sense of it. Upon repeated listenings, this album has blossomed into a true masterpiece. I really am just in love with this CD. After 3 or 4 listenings, I knew it was good, but I actually now think it stands along with those 3 classic albums I mentioned.
    The story flows beautifully through the album…In some ways I think the story is clearer and more ingrained into every song than on the original Mindcrime. Read along with the lyrics all the way through at least once (after you’ve heard the album a few times though).
    Geoff Tate is in top form here, both vocally and lyrically. It has been a long time since he has shown off those pipes like this. I mean, I am not stupid, I know that his voice is not quite what it once was, but it is still pretty darn amazing.
    The guitars on this album are great! The solos are back, and Mike Stone is absolutely incredible. Whoever says, “where are the old dual guitar moments” isn’t listening carefully, because they are here in abundance. Also, many of the reviews have complained that there are no memorable “hooks” in these songs. Repeated listenings reveal that they are actually all over this album. The drums are outstanding as you might expect.
    There are actually very few weak tracks on OM2, once you really let them all sink in. I would say that “Speed of Light” and “Sounds Say Go” are probably the weakest, but are not bad. Tracks 3-6 are outstanding, particularly “I’m American”. For me the strongest section of the album the middle- tracks 9 to 11. “Re-Arrange You” flat out rocks and does have those memorable hooks. “The Chase” is a GREAT duet between Geoff Tate and Ronnie James Dio. I freaking love this one, the way they bounce lines back and forth at each other is awesome. Then comes what I consider the centerpiece of the album, “Murderer?”. WOW! This ones got everything. EPIC! Keyboard/synths in the beginning sound like it’s gonna be a New Order or Nine Inch Nails song. Then all hell breaks lose. Frantic rhythms and time changes. Tate screaming and then background voices chanting “Murderer!”. Finally erupts into a majestic chorus and then back into chaos. Another chorus. Then, goes mellow and haunting, just absolutely gorgeous. A truly all-time top Ryche song. The remainder of the album is great too, although needs even more listens to grow on you, I think. I really love these songs though, as they feature the female “Mary” vocals prominantly.
    As to any drawbacks, I do concede a couple. Altho the album flows beautifully, I do find the last song to be a bit of an anti-climactic ending. It is a bittersweet love ballad. Its a fine song, but I felt like the album should end with some sort of rousing triumph (or tragic) sound. The other problem, which tons of reviewers have noted, is the production and mixing. It is not AS bad as most people claim. However, the mixing is definitely flawed. Certain parts are mixed way too low, including some of the vocals. And the drums do sound murky at times. But it is not bad enough to strongly detract from the album.
    Overall, give this one a chance. Several chances. Because the best albums are usually the growers, not the immediate hits. It will reward you greatly! THANK YOU QUEENSRYCHE!!!!!!

    Posted on March 1, 2010 - Permalink - Buy Now
  • Of Queensr?che’s eight studio releases, my best guess is that 1% (give or take a percent) would select any of their last three albums (Hear in the Now Frontier, Q2K, Tribe) as their best. For the majority of fans, their 1988 release, Operation: Mindcrime, will forever be the highlight of their career. It was no surprise how high the anticipation was when the boys from Seattle announced in 2005 that they would be recording Operation: Mindcrime II. (For those unfamiliar with the original Mindcrime – released in 1988 and certified Platinum, I’ll just briefly say that it was one of the most talked about, widely respected, and critically acclaimed albums of its time.)

    “Why now?” some may ask. Lead vocalist Geoff Tate provides a frank answer in a recent interview: “I think we’re in even worse shape as a society than when we wrote the original. It’s something I couldn’t ignore. We’ve lost the capacity to know the truth because everything is spin.” True that.

    With every member (except newcomer Mike Stone) now over the age of 40, I personally held little hope of R?che ever coming close to the brilliance of the original Mindcrime (which they recorded while all still in their passionate twenties), but I did hope the new album would surpass their last three (because, quite frankly, I was about to stop buying any of their new albums). Without key member Chris DeGarmo on board though, my hopes were slim, to say the least.

    It was startling how anxious I was right before listening to this album. I wondered nervously if the old (intense) feelings that the original aroused in me would come back. Would R?che be able to work their black magic and draw people into another tormented alternate reality again? I won’t answer that question, but I will gladly say that Operation: Mindcrime II is far and away the best of their last three (now four) albums.

    I considered summarizing the story and plot, but then decided I didn’t want to spoil it for anyone, because that’s half the fun of great concept albums – figuring it out. I will tell you the bare essentials: the story takes place 18-20 years after the original; Nikki has been doing time in prison while Dr. X has grown rich and powerful; after Nikki is released from prison, he’s hell bent on revenge against Dr. X. If you want to know more (including the identity of Mary’s killer), buy the album.

    Musically, Mindcrime II is an intriguing mix of contemporary Metal and the early Progressive Metal (with lots of guitar solos and duets) that Queensr?che pioneered. It manages to sound both fresh and familiar at the same time. And most importantly, the spirit of the new album feels the same as the original.

    The album explores several themes, with two of the most interesting and prevalent being the roles revenge and forgiveness play in our lives. How well does revenge work as a means to an end? Is forgiveness an alternative strategy? Lead vocalist Geoff Tate states in an interview that the whole album is really a study in revenge and what it does to a person.

    Two other themes the album deals with are the ability to change and the impact love can have, as epitomized in the songs “If I Could Change It All,” “A Junkie’s Blues,” and the last track, “All the Promises.”

    I believe any fan of the first Mindcrime will delight in this follow-up. It’s diverse, thought-provoking, and emotional. What I’m not sure of is if it will appeal to many new fans. Compared to most Progressive Metal bands these days, it’s not the heaviest music around, and not only is it musically (and story-wise) a mix of the old and the new, it is meant to be listened to as a whole. All 17 songs are arranged so that they flow into each other. As Tate says in an interview, “I’m proud of the fact that this album doesn’t make any compromises – it’s really an anomaly in an age where people have short attention spans and don’t listen to albums. The songs are strong enough to stand on their own, but the album was written to be played from start to finish – to be experienced as a whole – not shuffled around randomly.”

    The album starts with a moody instrumental lead in, then there’s a short piece where we learn that Nikki is being released from prison, and then we get to the first song: “I’m American.” Right away, you know that R?che’s long absent cultural acrimony is back, this time lashing out at the culture of entitlement. The song, with its hardcore and punk-rock influences, is very different from any other song R?che has ever done. Admittedly, I didn’t like it when I first heard it, but it’s grown on me and I’m actually fond of it now.

    The album proceeds from there much like the first Mindcrime – the story unravels and the songs and interludes vary from hard and aggressive to soft and mournful. There are repeating musical motifs throughout, and you’ll hear bits a pieces of melodies from the original Mindcrime – just enough to let you know this is the continuation of that album/story. Geoff Tate’s singing fits the album well. His vocals are older and deeper, reflecting perfectly Nikki, who is himself around 40 years old now. It may sound like there’s less passion at times, but that’s how it is growing older – you’re a little wiser, a little more even. There is a welcome return of guitar solos throughout, and even the Latin chants make a return (“If I Could Change It All”).

    Ronnie James Dio makes a guest appearance as Doctor X on the song, “The Chase.” He and Tate sing an operatic duet that’s just plain great. The second half of the album has an ethereal, haunting sound to it that is quite moving. Pamela Moore (aka Sister Mary) returns to sing on “If I Could Change It All,” and also the last track, “All the Promises,” which is a beautiful, sad duet between her and Tate. This ending song is quite the contrast from the loud, aggressive conclusion to the original Mindcrime. The song fades away like a melancholy dream, the lyrics a shrewd reminder of what is truly important in this day and age of war and terrorism and non-stop entertainment.

    It’s obvious the band members put a lot of work into this album: it is meticulously put together; the guitars and vocals are strong; and it all pays tremendous dividends. Clocking in at 59:42, Mindcrime II is 29 seconds longer than the original. How does it compare to the original? That’s an unfair question. Nothing could compare to the first Mindcrime. That said, Mindcrime II has surpassed all of my expectations and, in my opinion, is good enough to be a nominee for 2006 Album of the Year at TTM. (I won’t speculate on its odds of winning, but I think if there was a category for Comeback Album of the Year that it would win hands down.)

    After the first Mindcrime, it seemed to me like Queensr?che got lost in the desert and didn’t know where to go. Fortunately, they found their way out of the desert, and they did it not by running away from their past, but by accepting it – embracing it even. And that’s a lesson we can all learn from.

    Posted on March 1, 2010 - Permalink - Buy Now
  • The reviews on here are just as predicted. Some loyal to the old Ryche and some loyal to the entire career of this band (start to ….finish). As one who tries to commit to the latter, yet is truly moved only by material up to – and INCLUDING! – Promised Land, allow me to offer a heart-felt attempt at a reality-based review; one that reports mixed results.

    No, it’s not the same band. There’s no Chris. And really, there’s no epics. Nothing truly memorable. And the intensity of the legitimacy of the PURPOSE! …???????
    But as some of you have pointed out, it still IS Queensryche, in some form. Which will always be aweseome on some level. There’s still an addictive quality to the music.

    Without doing another play by play, here’s the real scoop on the album. The music is the best since Promised Land, but doesn’t match that or any prior effort. Why? Primarily because it is weighed down by the band’s terrible identity crisis about what sort of PRODUCTION their music needs. For a band who prides themselves on not following trends, that spirit is starting to get real paper thin. The music is compressed to holy hell, just like everything else out there, which squashes the mix and in turn it’s hard to hear a palatable stereo image. It’s just unpleasurable grain in the guitar distortion and the usual “2000’s” vocal treatment – up-front, without character or dynamic, and such that one can’t really hear any subtle nuance in the soundscape. So I blame the production team first. The music is never given a chance to breathe (unlike OMC I , if drowned in reverb ).

    The other problem – going back to the music itself – is the songs don’t get real good till the end. Too little too late. Where “Suite Sister Mary” was on I, we have Ronnie James Dio on II. Only in one of many go-nowhere 3 minute increments, the album doesn’t pace its way to anything. Before you know it, Pamela Moore is beginning a sweet duet with Geoff right as the record ends. No climax and no payoff.

    I follow the liner notes but as someone else put it, it takes a lot of effort just to CARE about the fact that there’s a literary thematic story going on. Unlike DT’s Metropolis 2, if the music isn’t highly intriguing, the story loses its credibility.

    One of the major saving graces is the song “Fear City Slide” – classic Ryche which erases the blemishes of recent years’ releases, and tries so hard to move the band forward, to once again try to evolve…

    The heartbreak is, despite all the marks against it, it really had the makings of something with potential. And it falls somewhere in between. I’ll probably listen to it over and over, never really forget about it, but I’ll probably never really remember it, either. For every admirable harmonized guitar lick on this album, there’s the same run on another album with more conviction and direction. I enjoy this album, but I fear for its test-of-time -ness

    I hesitated to write this review for fear that it really doesn’t go anywhere, but all in all, my infatuation with the mighty Ryche will always call me back…and I think that says a lot.

    Posted on March 1, 2010 - Permalink - Buy Now