Wednesday, December 13, 2006

The Year's Best, Part One

Operation Mindcrime II
It's been a long time coming, but Queensryche's "Operation Mindcrime II" finally hit the shelves in April of 2006. Was it worth it? Well, inevitably the answer is "yes and no." Less a concept album (all songs working together to tell a story) than a full-blown rock opera (multiple vocalists assuming the characters in a story), the album often reaches too high for it's own good. However in the main, Operation Mindcrime is a very good album--it doesn't simply rehash the original, and it works hard to stand on it's own merits. The writing, singing and performance are all top notch, and that wonderful Queensryche sound is back in spades. Considering just how big a chance the band took on this album, coupled with just how badly it could have blown up in their faces, I think Queensryche should feel justifiably proud with what they achieved.

Crimson Skies
Nightmare Records released some real gems this year, and I'm eternally grateful to them to making so many of them available for Tapping the Ether. Crimson Skies is the second album from Cloudscape, a Swedish Power/Prog Metal band. In a country that has to boast more musical talent per capita than anywhere else in the world, Cloudscape manages to more than hold their own. A modern Prog-metal sound with hints of Kansas and Rush (who the band cites as influences), Crimson Skies sounds much more professional than a young band on an independent label has any right to sound. I got a lot of positive feedback on this release almost immediately after adding it to my playlist. Word is they are already working on their next release (their third). Until then, I suggest you pick up a copy of Crimson Skies and get to know a band with a great future ahead of them.

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