The New Reality is former Queensryche vocalist Geoff Tate’s third album under the Operation: Mindcrime name (named after one of Queensryche’s most successful albums), and the final part of a trilogy also including albums The Key and Resurrection. Tate’s creative style remains recognizable from his Queensryche days, notably later contributions such as American Soldier. However, this Operation: Mindcrime album also has its own individual sound, largely centered in synths and symphonic bombast.
The album begins with the weird sounds and sci-fi effects of ‘A Head Long Jump,’ setting up a tale that focuses on the contemporary concerns of virtual currencies, Internet banking and stock trading. The sound in this overture is both digital and ethereal, with Tate’s echoing voice telling the listener that, “A dream is all this is.” The music would seem almost New Age if not for the digital elements. The track then introduces symphonic horns and choir, followed by strings. By the time the crunchy guitars enter, Tate’s vocals are not far behind, but a little lost in the mix. This is a particular problem in this track, though it is apparent throughout the majority of the album, despite the fact that Tate is a very strong vocalist. Meanwhile, the intricate keys courtesy of Randy Gane have a 70s psychedelic vibe reminiscent of The Beatles.
‘Wake Me Up’ begins with more straightforward heavy guitars, with an undertone of synths giving the track body. Tate’s voice stronger in the mix now, but could still be brought up more. The track is fast-paced and engaging, with heaps going on in this track. The horns are still present, and this is one of several tracks on the album that hits the listener with everything at once. The guitar work of Kelly Gray and Scott Moughton is reminiscent of 80s Satriani, while John Moyer’s bass has a strong presence towards the end of the track.
It’s quite the gear shift to the haunting intro of ‘It was Always You.’ The track builds tension slowly with plenty of Gane’s synth, bringing to mind desolate, rainy streets in the style of Blade Runner. The track then becomes more bombastic, giving the sense of something looming, overwhelming. Slightly staccato vocals during the verses maintain the futuristic feel, while Brian Tichy’s martial drums combined with orchestral elements could almost make one think of BattleMechs. Moyer remains a strong presence on this track. Eventually the horns cause the track to lose its haunting feel for something more New York metropolitan, though Tate’s narration attempts to keep the listener on edge.
‘The Fear’ is interesting and mournful, but still carries the power of the martial drums and symphonic bombast. Again, Gane’s synths add plenty of atmosphere and more than a little sci-fi. The creative direction of later Queensryche is certainly recognizable in this track, with an instrumental section that builds an oppressive atmosphere before a subdued Tate carries that oppression into his vocal delivery. While still meaty, overall this is a more restrained track by comparison with an album that’s so far been unashamedly over the top.
‘Under Control’ immediately kicks into a crunchier, groovier space with plenty of low guitar sounds. Despite the more straightforward metal feel, Tate’s vocals have more space, making it one of the more stirring tracks on the album, and it also includes the most outstanding guitar solo.
The intense opening of ‘The New Reality’ leads into a more downbeat track, quite comparable to the latter part of ‘It was Always You’ musically. Tate’s vocals are more direct and certainly stronger in the mix, without the attempt to create an ominous vibe. The track introduces a few heavier moments, but largely remains downbeat despite some guitar and synth intrusions. The appearance of the piano sound works nicely. Tate’s declaration that, “In the blink of an eye, everything changes, and you’re left with more questions,” captures the mood of the album neatly.
‘My Eyes’ brings back a strong focus on the electronic elements, almost taking the track to an Industrial place. Bass leads ground the track, and while the chorus is more melodic, the track quickly returns to more discordant elements. Overall, ‘My Eyes’ draws on the full range of this album’s instrumentation to create a discomfiting wall of sound outside of the chorus.
‘A Guitar in Church’ is a gentle track of guitar and synth, harking back to the somewhat New Age feeling of ‘A Head Long Jump.’ There is an undertone that suggests something dramatic is coming as the piano builds in intensity, then introduces the drums and a much fuller synth track.
‘All for What’ then opens with strange electronic noises, an ominous synth rumble, and an alarm. This is maintained for some time as the listener is taken on a sonic journey of escape, while Tate declares, “Everything we think, everything we know is a construct,” but affirms, “We decide what is real.” When the noises subside, the track takes some moments of quiet before raising the tension again and introducing Tate’s singing, mainly accompanied by piano until the guitars and drums fully enter the scene.
The rest of the album is surprisingly restrained after the high tension of ‘All for What,’ with ‘The Wave’ led by guitar, drums and vocals with the synth taking more of backseat. The synth and pianos grow in prominence throughout the track, leading into the jazzy intermezzo of ‘Tidal Change.’
The jazzy feel is carried on in ‘The Same Old Story,’ which also re-introduces Tate’s vocals and synths in the style of the Hammond organ. The downbeat nature of this track is particularly surprising, being the closing track of the album – one might have expected something more climactic. As the title suggests, the track leaves the listener feeling that for all that’s been experienced throughout this journey, nothing much has changed – to a point, even reflecting this type of track in the album that harks back strongly to Tate’s Queensryche days.
Overall, while The New Reality is an interesting journey, it ultimately leaves the listener unfulfilled. There is great promise in the bombast and almost overwhelming instrumentation of the earlier tracks in the album, but it seems to wind down prematurely into something reminiscent of some of Queensryche’s more staid material. Both Tate and Queensryche find their strength, by contrast, in heavier moments that draw out much more unique areas of their talents, rather than the homogeneous feel that lets down the latter portion of The New Reality. The album overall may not reward much repeat listening, but there are certainly tracks that will have longevity, particularly ‘Wake me Up’ and ‘Under Control.’
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