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Despite not being an avid fan of Queensrÿche, I always thought that “Operation: Mindcrime” would turn me in a fanboy of the band. First of all, because of its marvellous concept, which speaks about Nikki, a guy that has lost his memory and begins to work for a criminal, the famous Dr. X. Of course there's also a love story within the concept: Nikki later meets Mary, a nun, also working for X. One day, Nikki goes to Mary's house, discovering her dead. I won't spoil the story further, so better read the lyrics or search for an entire and detailed description of the concept on Wikipedia.
And most of all, because it is widely regarded as one of the most important progressive metal records ever released. Bands like Dream Theater constantly praise “Operation: Mindcrime” as THE definitive prog metal album, the album that was absolutely essential for the creation of the genre. Well, like I've already said on my review of “The Warning”, I really don't get how so many people worship Queensrÿche as the fathers of prog metal. Yes, their music has some clear progressive elements and touches, but, at least for me, they always were more like a heavy (even with power metal touches) metal band. True heavy metal. Not progressive. If you compare Queensrÿche with Fates Warning (another influential prog band), everything becomes clear. Fates is one thousand times more progressive than Quensrÿche, I mean, compare songs like “Traveller in Time” or “Exodus” with, say, “En Force” or “Revolution Calling”.
Call me ignorant, but, in my opinion, the majority of the songs penned by Queensrÿche are very straight-forward and relatively simple, structure-wise. Really.
So, anyways, let's get to the music. The most distinctive characteristic of this album is the mindblowing vocal performance of Geoff Tate. While he was good on “The Warning”, he here is simply AMAZING. Oh my God, check out “Suite Sister Mary” (a kick-ass song, by the way) for a quick example. He can also sound so emotional sometimes, again, listen to the afore-mentioned song and you'll understand. The man of the record? Yeah, I think so.
As for the guitarists, the guitar playing isn't as raw or aggressive as on the first EP of the band or “The Warning”. The riffs no longer scream “Heavy metal!” in your face, but there are still some interesting ones to be found here, as the main one of “Suite Sister Mary” and the first of “The Needle Lies”. The drumming is extremely simplified, especially if you bear in mind the technical performance Scott Rockenfield delivered on the debut. Still competent though. Ah, and the bass drums are audible this time, thank God.
The album begins with a little intro, in which we hear a nurse talking with Nikki. There are lots of this kind of interludes on this record and despite I usually hate interludes on concept albums, this time they work very well; they are, most of all, USEFUL for us to understand the concept. Anyways, “Anarchy:X” follows, being a small instrumental, and then “Revolution Calling” begins, being a very straight-forward and catchy song. The catchiness is another characteristic of this record, there are lots of sing-along choruses to be found here, that's for sure.
The title track is another highlight; again, its structure is pretty straight-forward but the song kicks ass, anyways. Great performance by Tate. “Speak” is the first low point of the album, a generic number to say the least. The next track is “Spreading the Disease”, ahh, and this one wins the prize for the best song of the album lyrically. Overall, the lyrics are extremely good, but this one is the best of them all, really. “The Mission” is another weak track, before we reach...
The SUITE SISTER MARY. Oh my fucking God, this tune is amazing. Perhaps the only true progressive metal track of the record too. It begins with a little spoken intro, between Nikki and Dr. X. Unfortunately, Dr. Faggot wants our hero Nikki to kill Mary. Son of a bitch! Anyways, a soft clean guitar riff is played then, accompanied by the magnificient Geoff Tate. We then reach a crescendo and a heavy guitar riff is played for the first time, the song slowly becoming heavier and heavier, until Tate begins to scream like a madman, woow!
Anyways, Pamela Moore sings as Mary on this song, doing a pretty competent work accompanying Tate. After some minutes, we finally reach the outro, in which the clean guitar riff played in the beginning is played again. One of my favourite songs ever, indeed. “Operation: Mindcrime” is worth getting just because of this tune, really.
All the songs after this track are pretty weak though, the strongest may be “Eyes of the Stranger”, even though I consider it an extremely overrated take. “The Needle Lies” is a generic speed metal song, “I Don't Believe in Love” a bad ballad, and “Breaking the Silence”, a common catchy tune. The interludes present on this part of the album are great though, from “Waiting to 22” to “Electric Requiem”, I really have to praise the band for having the ability to pull out interludes that remain interesting after all.
So, concluding, the concept is excellent and so are the lyrics, Geoff Tate never sounded so good, and there are some really amazing songs here. However, there's also too much fillers in; the whole listening experience is harmed and so is the durability of “Operation: Mindcrime”. A worth getting album, nevertheless.
Best Moments of the CD:
-“Revolution Calling, revolution calling... Triiiiiim”.
-When Tate begins to sing on “Suite Sister Mary”.