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Personnel: 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) and Brian Tichy (drums).
With all the negativity that has been surrounding Geoff Tate since the Queensrÿche split a few years ago, I tried really hard to have my mind set blank before I started to listen to this effort. The Key is the starting chapter in a series of 3 concept albums and with the band name that he has decided to use, he naturally is trying to feed off the success that the Operation: Mindcrime album has gained throughout the years. Geoff has also indeed, despite having a tough time recently, been able to gather a nice lineup which comprises a good portion of well-known musicians in the world of heavier music.
This album is kind of a mixture of what he did with his former band during their decent later 90's and the in fact poor makings that he was completely in charge of in the 2000's and to some extent also what was the band's creative top in its first decade. He tries to step up to the expectations for sure, but I think that he chooses the wrong direction, by letting his own form of artistic freedom set the standards for this record. It's like he is trying to express himself too much in the music and comes out too experimental, instead of just letting things have their natural course and give his fans what they really want, because he must certainly be well aware of what his former fans prefer to listen to and regrettably Re-Inventing The Future is the only song that has the energy and fervor to come out great.
The songs feel a little constrained and sort of artificial occasionally and the album seems to include some unnecessary self-conceit, because what would be the point in having a saxophone involved with a hard rock album, if not for someone's own satisfaction? I personally don't want instruments like that included on his records and I'm pretty sure that most of you agree with my standpoint. Evolvement in this way is useless, as far as I'm concerned. This outcome is surely recognizable in many melodies, but at the same time, this album mostly contains music which eventually more or less turns out to be a long and hard process until the end and at the end of the day it becomes a rather unglamorous experience.
Tate's voice is fully functional on studio recordings still and the actual performance includes some great moments as well, although most of the songs suffer from the lack of hooks, striking melodic parts and captivating stuff. Even if the record contains a lot of diversity, it seems like the songs are pretty much stuck in the first gear somehow, without the needed capacity to jump over the fence and thrive. The songs are certainly identifiable with what he has done earlier and the record is definitely not as bad as some of his latest releases, but unfortunately the overall song material doesn't stand a chance against his better days either.