I should know better by now — yet I have made the same mistake about Geoff Tate led releases for almost a decade now. I have always highly doubted that Tate could recapture the magic of old when Queensryche released their pinnacle record, Empire, now more than 25 years ago. That album was so good that I have kept hoping that another masterpiece from Tate is finally on its way yet I have ended up disappointed time and time again.
Queensryche‘s Operation: Mindcrime II in 2006 was pretty good and certainly boasted at least a few good songs such as “I’m American” and “The Chase…” and apparently got my hopes up for another decade. I bought Queensryche‘s last concept album, 2009’s American Soldier, which was boring at best. I purchased Queensryche‘s 2012 dud Dedicated To Chaos which was mostly simply chaos to my ears. No need to say that those two releases have been and will continue to gather dust on my CD shelves for many years to come. Certainly the few songs that I heard from Tate‘s last “solo” album Frequency Unknown — albeit under the moniker Queensryche before he and the “real” Queensryche settled their legal disputes — were very far from impressive. However, with the release of the song “Re-Inventing The Future” from Operation: Mindcrime‘s forthcoming new album The Key, my expectations started climbing once again. Could Tate actually release a good album again? Or better yet, could he release something even close to reaching to Empire‘s brilliance? Could Tate finally release something worthy of his amazing talent? After all, I still consider Tate‘s voice to be up there with the best. Unfortunately, my expectations quickly took a beating when I heard the next two tracks “Burn” and “The Stranger” released in advance of The Key because if those were the next two best tracks that Operation: Mindcrime could come up with to entice the public to purchase their new album, I would likely be served with yet another disappointing effort from Tate.
The Key is even worse than I thought that it would be. “Re-Inventing The Future” is unfortunately the best track on the album and with the possible exception of “Life Or Death” — there is nothing that comes close to that song. It’s not that “Re-Inventing The Future” is that great of a song but it was good enough to make me think that if Tate was able to come up with similar “faster” tracks, The Key would be a decent to good album. Instead you are served with slower paced tracks with the emphasis on Tate talking / singing his way through stop and go guitar riffs and seemingly complex drumming which are devoid of any real good melodies of any kind. Aside from “Re-Inventing The Future,” there is simply nothing that I want to hear again. I could go track by track telling you how bad the songs are but I won’t bother. It’s not worth my time or yours.
With The Key, Tate is certainly proving who was the weak link in terms of songwriting and ideas in Queensryche before he left the band. Some people may think that I am being too hard on Tate but the reality is that the guy has unbelievable talent that has to be deemed squandered in terms of his studio album output in the last quarter of a century. After more than two decades of delivering mostly subpar efforts with The Key being another album that comes close to hitting rock bottom, it is time for me to simply be satisfied if Tate can deliver one or two decent songs per album. I simply don’t think that he is capable of much more.
03. Re-Inventing The Future
04. Ready to Fly
05. Discussions In A Smoke Filled Room
06. Life Or Death?
07. The Stranger
08. Hearing Voice
09. On Queue
10. On Ambush Of Sadness
11. Kicking In The Door
12. The Fall
Geoff Tate – vocals, keyboards, saxophone
Kelly Gray – guitars, vocals
Scott Moughton – guitars, vocals
Dave Ellefson – bass
John Moyer – bass
Mark Daily – vocals
Randy Gane – keyboards
Simon Wright – drums
Scott Mercado – drums, dulcimer
Brian Tichy – drums
Produced by Kelly Gray
Reviewed by Olivier for Sleaze Roxx, September 2015