So, here it is, the third and final chapter of ex- Queensrÿche singer Geoff Tate’s dystopian rock opera. And according to Tate, it’s the final album by the project called Operation: Mindcrime. I write project because Operation: Mindcrime were always a project and never a real band. There have always been lots of different musicians helping Tate out to create this overblown and big story and after this, Tate will go further down the road to new projects, whatever those might be. I must admit that when I first heard of his new project I really wasn’t expecting much. See, the way Queensrÿche were heading after the formidable Promised Land (1994) was more and more downhill by each album and Tate’s solo stuff has been everything but satisfying. Also, after seeing Tate live – and listening to his records – it has been pretty clear that his once so amazing voice is today is a mere shadow of what it once was.
However, the two predecessors, The Key (2014) and Resurrection (2016) by Operation: Mindcrime the band turned out to be surprisingly good and even though they were quite a long way – quality wise – behind the glory days of Queensrÿche, it sure looked like Tate just might be on to something with them. The metal he had been so removed from – and speaking not in the fondest words of – seemed to have, at least partially, made a come back and it gave us fans (at least me) a new hope that Tate would return to what once made him famous. So when the final chapter now is here, I was hoping for a real knock-out, an album that screamed “I’M BACK!!!” All in all, I was hoping that this would be the album that proved all of us that had counted him off as a once great singer that just haven’t got what it takes anymore wrong. Because frankly, that’s how it have felt for a long time now.
The album kicks off with “A Head Long Jump”, a dark, slow and heavy tune full of sci-fi vibes and sound effects. All could be well with that if it wasn’t for the fact that it sounds very unstructured and I can’t find a melody or something that holds the tune together. To me, it comes off as a very long intro and maybe that’s what it is. Be that as it may but the song doesn’t exactly brings hope for the rest of the album. Underwhelming, to say the least. They continue with the leading single “Wake Me Up” – a way better track but on the other hand it’s not that strong either. It’s faster, harder, rougher and edgier and it do sports both a punch and a decent melody. But it just won’t stick. With “It Was Always You” they go a bit jazzy and even funky, very rhythmic and the big sound scape goes quite bombastic. It’s progressive and create an avant-garde feel. Still, it holds an ok main melody and as a whole, the tune is decent.
“The Fear” sounds weird and even though it’s hard to get a hold of it, it do have some cool rhythms. It’s dark, horror-like and quite messy which makes it hard to grasp. It’s not a useless song but I miss distinct melodies and the tune disappears from the memory quite fast. We get some more traditional metal riffing and more memorable melody structure on “Under Control”. It’s the kind of tune I had hoped to get more of from Tate and it’s the most ok one so far. The title track is on the softer side but it’s still very dark, heavy and holds a striking rhythm. It sounds a lot like the late Tate-featured Queensrÿche but with a more floating and dreamy sound. For the first time on this album I manage to get hooked – this is a really good song! But it doesn’t last long as “My Eyes” also goes into unstructured territory. There are some pretty decent melodies here but it’s hard to find a real song in there among all the million different sounds that hits time and again.
To me, the absolute highlight of the album is the instrumental “A Guitar In Church?”. It’s a soothing and invigorating piece with a very beautiful melody and a gorgeous arrangement where main melody is even catchy, both dramatic and intense. On “All For What”, Tate talks more than sings, something he has picked up quite a lot on this album and the song is built on sounds, sounds and more sounds – electronic noises in different arrangements. It’s quite bombastic but where are the melodies? The song just don’t stick at all and is very easily forgotten. The heavy and mid-paced “The Wave” comes with more talk-singing and another selection of synthesized sounds, effects and I find myself searching for the actual song – and wondering if there’s actually a vocal melody hidden somewhere. “Tidal Change” is nothing more than messy instrumental intermission before it’s time to say goodbye with “The Same Old Story”. It’s some kind of jazzy, lounge-music like ballad, smooth and dreamy and holds an ok melody line. It don’t really speak to me but maybe this one could be a grower.
As a whole, this album is a huge disappointment after the two previous records. There’s a huge production, a very big and bombastic sound-scape and shitloads of different sound effects and rhythms, all of which feels unstructured and without any cohesion at all. Where are the songs? The memorable melodies? The catchy arrangements? The thing is, I don’t remember squat even after a few spins and the songs are all too samey, so much that it’s hard to tell which song is which – I just can’t keep them apart. And what’s with all the talk-singing here? When Tate do sing it’s always in his lower register which is ok, but I do miss when he goes higher and add some balls and punch, like he did back when. I’m sorry, but this album is underwhelming, to put things mildly and it’s sad that he decided to bid his Operation: Mindcrime farewell with an album like this instead of going out with a bang. However, I still think it’ll be interesting to see what Tate will do in the future – be it as a solo artist or with a new (real) band.
More Operation Mindcrime reviews:
1. A Head Long Jump
2. Wake Me Up
3. It Was Always You
4. The Fear
5. Under Control
6. The New Reality
7. My Eyes
8. A Guitar In Church?
9. All For What?
10. The Wave
11. Tidal Change
12. The Same Old Story