I'm not a Queensryche hater, not by a country mile, but it's somewhat difficult to articulate why I'm so displeased with this record.
No, displeased is the wrong word; indifferent, moreover. This is a record which forces your indifference. It's not good, it's not bad, it just -exists-, in the same way that sugarless cake feels like a great wad of nothing in your mouth.
Right up front, I'll give the band credit in that the album is centered around a novel concept, and nothing feels out of place with the instrumentation, with a tight performance all around. But how could anything feel out of place, with compositions so bland and seemingly apathetic to their own existence?
Many people hated Operation: Mindcrime II, but dammit, that album took a musical stand, as all good records do; it stood for a gritty, treacherous urban landscape in which the story took place. It may not have been what a lot of people wanted as a sequel to the bombastathon that was the original Mindcrime, but it went in a direction and it stood by it. And it was followed by the theatrical, dramatic Mindcrime At The Moore, which held fast to the musical vision of both records and gave us a DVD/CD that, I think, both fulfilled and closed the Mindcrime saga.
Unlike this. This is mush; these meandering, lightweight compositions just kind of float along, but it's not a Pink Floydian or Katatonian kind of transcendence they evoke, only the occasional checking of the clock.
That's my big problem with this record: you can put on the highest quality headphones out there, push play, listen all the way through, and come out of the experience having felt absolutely nothing, no emotional resonance with the art presented here.
Granted – there are moments. Opener Sliver at least attempts some kind of energy, while the lyrics are solid throughout. It’s a shame to have to give this a low score, because it’s easy to see the contemplative mood that the band wanted to achieve with this – but it’s a tightrope to walk. You do it right, and you come up with the transcendent brilliance of later Katatonia, but you fail to inject that extra dose of compelling musicality, and this is what you come up with. The elements are there, but they fail to mesh and really kick-start one another, or captivate interest.
By rights, a record so bland as to inspire total and utter indifference (the polar opposite of love; not hate, as many say) in me should get a complete, flatlining "average". But as Luc Lemay (and I'm sure a host of others) once said, music is the universal language; it's an art form that reaches out and requests - no, demands - that you clench and feel the artist's passion. From the most energetic of power metal to the most vicious of death metal, even to the fluffiest of pop, music is (cheesy as it may sound) the language of the soul. That's why I'm being so harsh with this, despite the instrumental precision and the occasional spark: it's simply a soulless album on the whole.
It's still not enough to erase the goodwill that their earlier prog masterworks have granted in me. Queensryche have a new album coming out this year, and once again, I’ll be checking it out. Here’s just hoping it’ll make me feel something, anything.