Operation: Mindcrime – “The Key” (Frontiers Music)
Even if you’re not a Queensrÿche fan, it would have been hard to ignore the recent legal debacle following lead singer Geoff Tate’s departure from a band he had been fronting for 30 years! With more than 25 million records sold, 3 Grammy nominations, 5 MTV Music Video Award nominations and 1 MTV Music Video Award, Tate has been universally acknowledged as one of the greatest frontmen in rock n metal. Little wonder then that he has bounced straight back big time with an ambitious 3 conceptual album project – beginning with the “The Key”. Apparently deriving the story when he was in Singapore, this is internationally set across a number of countries involving a financial theme. In keeping with his bold reputation, Tate has assembled a hard-hitting cast of familiar faces and new collaborators: bass players Dave Ellefson [Metal Allegiance] 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]. However, despite the apparent smorgasbord, Tate has done a sterling job in building an overall sound across the 12 tracks that offer a modern take on classical prog a la Pink Floyd and by using unconventional instruments like the saxophone to create a big, theatrical and at times futuristic sound like in ‘The Fall’. With Gray and Moughton the main songwriters, unsurprisingly there is also a definite early Queensrÿche influence such as on ‘Re – inventing the Future’ with its big drum sound and pumping rhythm. Tate’s own vocals remain as recognizable as before, layered in some cases while actually rapping Faith No More style on ‘The Stranger’ although bizarrely employing Daly to handle vocals on ‘Life Or Death’, a sorta grunge rocker with Tate handling the harmonies in the background. Never one to be boring, it’s great to hear Geoff Tate is back in his usually challenging self and backed by an all star cast, although it remains to be seen if he makes as much of a mark by pushing the envelope in a different direction to that of his legacy.