Barely a year after their debut record The Key, Geoff Tate’s Operation: Mindcrime project is back with Resurrection, part two of what threatens to be a trilogy of concept albums. Backed by a large cast of supporting musicians, the former Queensrÿche vocalist is aiming to beat his former band at the conceptual-metal game. To say I did not enjoy The Key would be an understatement, and my expectations for Resurrection are modest at best.
Oddly enough, the album kicks off with not one, but FOUR short intro-style tracks. The first, “Resurrection,” is a spoken-word callback to “I Remember Now,” while the others are either brief instrumentals or short pieces that advance the album’s “storyline.” Admittedly, the musicianship on instrumental “When All Falls Away” shows potential, sounding like something Yes might’ve done in the ’80s. Regardless, an album that begins with 4 tracks of filler does not bode well for the rest of it.
The first real song on the record is “Left For Dead,” a mid-tempo slog that would fit right in on any post-Tribe/pre-Todd LaTorre Queensrÿche album. Musically, this doesn’t even sound like the same band that played on the previous 4 tracks. Aside from a decent chorus hook, Tate’s in full William Shatner mode, sing-talking his way through the verses with minimal effort. “Miles Away” seems totally out of place thematically with the tracks that preceded it, trading the dark vibe for a breezy, almost McCartney-ish approach in places.
“Healing My Wounds” is a duet between Tate and ’90s Angsty Dude, the mysterious vocalist who appeared on The Key previously. Speaking of guest singers, “Taking On The World” features the only two people on earth more washed-up than Geoff Tate: Blaze Bayley (ex-Iron Maiden) and Ripper Owens (ex-Judas Priest). The band tries to heavy it up a little for the guests, in perhaps the same way that you might put out carrot sticks if you had vegetarian friends coming to your barbecue. But in the end, Blaze and Ripper’s contributions are nearly inaudible, while Tate continues to mumble his way through the album’s increasingly nonsensical plot.
As the album wears on, the storyline element seems to almost disappear, and if I didn’t know better I’d swear that Tate was addressing the split with his former band. On “A Smear Campaign,” he intones “People will love you/or hate you/and none of it will have anything to do with you,” showing an impressive lack of self-awareness. “Which Side You’re On” is even more explicit, seemingly demanding that the listener choose between Tate and some other entity — and reminding them to “make sure you’re not talkin’ out your ass” before they decide. This threat would be far more intimidating if it wasn’t preceded by a saxophone solo.
I’m particularly frustrated by the closing track, “Live From My Machine.” Despite containing the same flaws as every other song on Resurrection, this one gets by on musical atmosphere and Tate’s ability to sound intellectual when he wants to. The result falls somewhere between ’80s Pink Floyd and Queensrÿche‘s more cerebral works like “Spool” or “Right Side Of My Mind.” Calling it an “artistic triumph” would be a stretch, but it fucking works. If the band had applied the same minimal effort to the rest of the album, you would be reading a very different review right now.
While its predecessor was genuinely and offensively bad, Resurrection is merely long-winded and boring. In a weird way, this album reminds me of Steven Wilson – an artist who is working with influences very similar to Tate’s. Wilson references ’60s prog and ’80s pop just as blatantly as Operation: Mindcrime does, but his songcraft and attention to sonic detail are what makes his music great and unique. Conversely, Tate and his collaborators approach the record-making process with all the passion of a plumber fixing a clogged toilet. Until that changes, I see little reason to keep up with Tate’s career, particularly while his former band is once again producing high-quality music.