"The Key" is the 'debut' of Tate's new band Operation: Mindcrime, named after the band's most groundbreaking metal album. The all-star cast seems somewhat obedient to the voice of their vocalist as I expected more dynamics from this (so to say) band album. "The Key" makes clear that it is the Geoff Tate band by all means and the man and his wife seem to leave no room for discussion.
"The Key" is the first chapter from the trilogy in the making dealing with present financial issues such as stock trades, virtual currency and internet banking, placed in the light of the virtual community/economy we are living in nowadays. It's food for thought and Tate addresses the modern day problems in his own unique way, providing his band the handles to spit it all into a musical intriguing concept. With the concept of Mindcrime in mind, I was triggered by the new story and hoped for the ultimate dream; QR's split leaving fans with no less than two excellent bands to carry on the torch.
The first spin of this album however proves that despite of all the musical craftsmanship at hand, Tate managed to take another dive into anonymity. "The Key" leans strongly on the latter material and darker sound of the band and that is exactly why they lost me in those days. Downtuned guitars and grunge elements have little to nothing to do with the sophisticated sound of the band's classic albums and even less with the album which provided the new band name. "Choices" is the intro which takes me to the edge of my seat right away, but "Burn" thrashes every high hopes on the spot. The sound is grasp and dark without sparkling or breathing the grandeur matching the concept at hand. The songs are dull and lack enthusiasm. Musical explosions from the all-star crew are killed on the spot and even the powerful and vivid drumming of Brian Tichy is killed by the uninspired songs of the album. It just lacks power much like Geoff himself lacks it. The only powerful statement made is his outburst "I'm the best, fuck the rest" which matches his rants of the last couple of years.
Aren't there any highlights on this album?
Yes, there are. But there's just too little of them at hand to uplift this CD from mediocrity. "Re-Inventing the Future" is one of the only tunes that matches Tate's creativity of the old days. The song has a powerful body and its melody warps me back to the days that "The Warning" nested in my head. It's the only song which oozes the grandeur of Tate's heydays and it wouldn't have been out of place on any of those albums. Another good solid track is "Life or Death" with The Voodoos' Mark Daley on vocals. His singing matches the band better than Tate's vocals and it is painful to conclude that he is kicking ass more on one song than Geoff on the entire album!
The rest of the album is as dull as "On Queue" and the seaman killing "Kicking in the Door" which are as exciting as dry-humping without an orgasm. Just plain dull!
Review by Edwin van Hoof, 2015.