RATINGS: A = must own B = buy it C= average D = yawn F = puke

Operation Mindcrime – The Key
Frontiers Records

Rating: B

If you’re a fan of hard rock then you are well aware of the troubles that burdened the band Queensryche over the past few years.  The bad blood between the band and vocalist Geoff Tate was unbearable and led to two Queensryche’s  crisscrossing the country.   The lawsuits are now settled with the band keeping the name and Tate moving forward with his own project which is called Operation Mindcrime.

There is no doubt that Geoff Tate is intelligent.  He is extremely creative.  He is a rock and roll philosopher and an artist.  He pursues music as a medium to give his art life.  He is intense about his creations and he is hardworking.  He is also over the top, a bit obvious in his efforts and, often, his own worst enemy.
The Key is the first in a trilogy of albums that sees Tate asking the deep question of “what it will take to change the world?”  Tate, whose past several efforts strayed from the classic Queensryche/Operation Mindcrime formula, has predictably returned to the classic sound... well, for the most part.

He explains in the press release for the album ‘why’, but one must wonder if part of the reason is to attract the fans that he was losing which his former band has retained.  Tate is also a businessman.  He needs to be compensated for his efforts, and so returning to the popular classic sound was the right move… but was it for the right reason?  Only Geoff knows for sure.  We will find out in the second and third installments of the trilogy.

"Musically, this album is quite adventurous," says Tate. "Of course there are key elements in the music, melody and phrasings that are really identifiable, but throughout my career I've opened my eyes and ears to new standards and arrangements, and that's what keeps things fresh and exciting as an artist - we've thrown out the rules for this record, and it's been really liberating. I'm a fan of old prog, and that music didn't stick to rules. It's inspiring and enjoyable to be able to explore, and it's great being in a position to write without constraints."

Tate has assembled quite a cast on the album.  Appearing on The Key are bass players Dave Ellefson and John Moyer [Disturbed, Adrenaline Mob], drummers Simon Wright [AC/DC], Scott Mercado [Candlebox] and Brian Tichy [Billy Idol, Ozzy Osbourne], guitarists Kelly Gray [Queensryche] and Scott Moughton [Geoff Tate], keyboardist Randy Gane [Myth] and vocalist Mark Daly [The Voodoos]. 

Tate wants people to know that Operation: Mindcrime is a project, an outlet for this type of musical endeavor.   “Music is a personal journey, and all you can do is write what moves you. That's what passion is - it's so difficult, yet it's such an important human emotion. There are moments on this record that really impact me, the questions raised and the music those questions are set to... I don't know if it will have that same effect on everyone else, but that's where my passion and their passion meet. I do this because I love doing it. I love touring and I love playing live, performing with like-minded people in front of like-minded audiences, and being there in the moment together when all of our passions collide."

It sounds good, Geoff... both your words and the music.  This is a solid album that rocks like Tate has not rocked since he liked –or put up with- the members of Queensryche.  One must tread cautiously, though, as with Tate nothing is off-limits or out of bounds.  It is part of what makes one love the guy, and part of how he can shoot himself in the foot.

Operation: Mindcrime The Key is a good album.  It mixes melody with power and musicality with thought provoking lyrics. It is pop sensibility with sheer hard rock mayhem.  There are no rules, yet the result is, for the most part what Queensryche fans have been begging him to do for years. Sadly, it took the demise of their working relationship to bring this out of Tate.

Ironically, the key to Geoff’s success with this musical project lies within himself and his ability to create while keeping in mind the age-old entertainment rule of giving the people what they want.

Track listing:
Re-Inventing The Future
Ready To Fly
Discussions In A Smoke Filled Room
Life Or Death?
The Stranger
Hearing Voice
On Queue
An Ambush Of Sadness
Kicking In The Door
The Fall

By Jeb “Who’s Mother Mary” Wright

oh... I remember now.