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Operation: Mindcrime - "The Key" (CD)

Operation: Mindcrime - "The Key" CD cover image

"The Key" track listing:

1. Choices
2. Burn
3. Re-Inventing The Future
4. Ready To Fly
5. Discussions In A Smoke Filled Room
6. Life or Death?
7. The Stranger
8. Hearing Voice
9. On Queue
10. An Ambush Of Sadness
11. Kicking In The Door
12. The Fall

Reviewed by on September 3, 2015

"For fans of Tate’s legacy, this album represents another stale, directionless slab in a long string of monotonous releases from a legendary singer fallen from grace. Any glimmers of hope (represented in one song) come across as infuriating mockery."

You can choose to believe that Geoff Tate is still a phenomenal talent or just a drab nameless “stick in the yard,” but his mark upon the metal scene is vast. He has flashed his pipes on some of the most classic and influential progressive metal albums of all time, arguably some of the best power metal albums as well (“Warning,” “Rage for Order,” “Operation: Mindcrime”).

Had he concentrated on music and not evolved into total asshat he is today, and the separation between he and Queensryche been conducted less publicly, the fan’s approach to his music would be from a neutral stand point…at least. In as much as “Frequency Unknown” would be disastrous, despite it all – I truly wanted to like it. Deep down, I was rooting for a good album, because it means more to me than the man behind it. Now that the divorce is complete, Tate’s Operation: Mindcrime has quickly pumped out “The Key,” not so coincidentally around the same time as Queensryche’s new album “Condition Human.” The complete lack of a band logo is proof that Tate wants you to believe this is still Queensryche.

I’m not sure whether its Tate’s pompous attitude that deludes he and his merry band of castoffs into believing they are still good songwriters. “The Key” presents flashes of past brilliance, but it is still a lifeless, nameless branch among thousands of others buried beneath a blanket of winter white. There are just too many instances where the album descends into morass of freestyle jazz with no apparent direction or aim. Take “Ready to Fly,” “The Stranger” and “Burn” – drab impotent riffs trudge in all directions like a shapeless mass as Tate flails to fill in the gaps with an endless stream of bad lyrical puns of apparent finger wagging at Rockenfield, Jackson and Wilton.

But hey, on the bright side: “On Queue” and “Kicking in the Door” are perfect for the times when you need to put your clients on telephone hold at the office. “Burn” actually winds up being one of the better tunes on the album, but as the recently released video shows – Tate looks insanely bored. Why then should the fans be excited?

It is almost as if Tate goes out of his way to let each washed up band member show off in some sarcastic gesture of defiance against his former band mates (“Look at the talent I have…don’t you miss me?”). Had he put more effort into creating music that mattered, tapping into the strengths of the band instead of trying to pass off the album as a democratic unified effort, I think he still has enough talent to pull it off. The most infuriating thing is that the man has all the ability in the world, but would rather play mind games and tinker with futile pseudo-prog rock experimentation. The more he and his former mates stay apart, the more it becomes apparent where the horrid directionless hymns of 1997-2001 came from. The appropriate digging sample at the conclusion of “The Fall” seems all too appropriate….as “The Key” digs Tate another foot deeper in a vast graveyard.

Prior to the release, there was one glimmer of hope with the release of “Re-Inventing the Future” as the album’s first single. It was the smartest move the band and/or label Frontiers Records ever made. The song is a remembrance of a time long past, with glimpses of “Rage for Order” and “Empire” strewn throughout. It actually had your author believing that we could potentially have two amazing bands, much in the same vein as Accept. Dangling this like a Mold Craft Super Chugger….it has likely lured in a number of Marlin, including one big fat one. By far, the tune is the best on the album – and one of the best songs Tate has composed since the glory days. This, along with the “NM156” style keyboard pounding samples in the opening intro, represent infuriating reminders of what could have been.

If you enjoy white noise, or wish to have nonsensical directionless background music to clear your mind for deep thought, Operation: Mindcrime might just be the “The Key” to your serenity. For fans of Tate’s legacy, this album represents another stale, directionless slab in a long string of monotonous releases from a legendary singer fallen from grace. Any glimmers of hope (represented in one song) come across as infuriating mockery.

Highs: "Re-Inventing the Future" is a mocking glimmer of hope to a once lustrous past.

Lows: Bad songwriting reduces the album to free-style jazz with no apparent direction.

Bottom line: Operation: Mindcrime has "The Key" for your insomnia.

Rated 1.5 out of 5 skulls
1.5 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)