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When Queensryche emerged onto the metal scene in the early 80’s they were seen as another glam metal band. With early releases such as The Warning and Rage for Order they proved that they were slightly more than that with a deep political background to many of their lyrics. However it wasn’t until the release of
Operation: Mindcrime in 1988 that they truly proved how wrong early assumptions were of this Seattle Metal band.
Operation: Mindcrime is indeed a concept album and is even verging on a rock opera. It tells the story of Nikki a street-wise punk who relies on his addiction to keep going who becomes a hit man for an underground group. Mary is a long-suffering girl who after living by a prostitute is seemingly rescued by Father William but once again ends up being left open to abuse. Dr X is an evil twisted leader of an underground group that on the outside is a freedom-fighting group but beyond the publics knowledge lays o dark secret. These characters lives start separately but this story and this concept is knitted together fantastically as the plot develops. To tell you the whole story would take ages, but now more importantly onto the songs.
We open with a scene setter “I Remember Now.” Here we hear a half dazed patient confused as the nurse puts him to sleep. His words are haunting and this is incredibly atmospheric and is a perfect to set the mood. The mood continues in the short instrumental “Anarchy X” this also sets the scene especially of the political side of this novel as crowds are heard screaming for revolution.
“Revolution Calling” is the first full song and it is by all means a classic and one of the most well known songs from the album. The lyrics are deeply socialistic and incredibly thought provoking. But lyrically aside this is a fantastic song! Vocally Tate is sensational throughout and excels in the chorus. He hits the high notes and they are unbelievably high effortlessly and flawlessly. The guitars are strong and powerful and the song is in general a great one and the anthem of the album.
“Operation: Mindcrime” the title track is not one of my favourite tracks but is a strong track none the less. It is another atmospheric track that does a lot of story telling and gives us the background of Nikki. Again haunting lyrically as Nikki’s background and involvement with Dr X begins, all in all a solid track.
“Speak” starts off with a very memorable riff and doesn’t disappoint in general. This is another deeply socialistic song that also covers the public message of the socialist group. Some interesting ideas are conveyed such as ‘Burning the Whitehouse down.’ With a memorable riff and solid vocals from Tate it is a strong track again.
“Spreading the disease” is my favourite song on the whole album. It is the story of Mary and her life of suffering. It contains another haunting line as to the priests actions “He takes her every week on the altar like a Sacrifice” As well as by the end a full blown political message. This song contains a great riff, with a great quick paced drumbeat to back it up. Tate is vocally at his very best again here and it’s unbelievable how he hits some of the notes here, as it goes from verse to chorus it is incredible how Tate belts it out. Great song.
“The Mission” opens with the words of a preacher and then slides into Nikki’s assassination of the priest. This is another strong song, and again Tate is strong vocally. This involves a great guitar solo too. It conveys Nikki’s confusion and develops the love story that every good story needs perfectly. It shows the way Nikki’s head has been manipulated.
“Suite Sister Mary” is this albums epic, perhaps overlong at 10 minutes though it is undoubtedly a good way to spend ten minutes. More subtle vocals from Tate as well as the atmospherics from the backing coir vocals and musical side is great in the first 3 minutes until it picks up pace wise without losing the atmospherics. Of course this is the big story teller and develop[s the love story and Nikki’s choice whether he can follow orders to kill his lover or not. Perhaps overlong, but a great song none the less!
“The Needle Lies” this speaks of Nikki;s confrontation with DR X and the pain of his addiction. It’s refreshing to hear anti drugs from a metal band in the 80’s. The drumbeat is phenomenal again as is Tate’s vocals the guy is absolutely sensational. Again this is powerful, high range singing and as ever the emotion comes out in abundance. This is once again a great song.
“Electric Requiem” is another scene setter as Nikki finds Mary dead in her room apparently she’s committed suicide and again this is incredibly atmospheric. This is as I said a scene setter but it contains a short display of vocals, which are once again incredibly impressive and softer than others in this album!
“Breaking the Silence” is the next track and one that conveys Nikki’s frustration and emotion after losing Mary as he calls but no answers. This is one of the more catchy songs and was one that stood out early it is again impressive and solid in every department. This is one of my favourite tracks on the album. Time and time again I am left in awe of Tate’s vocals and also listen out for a nice DeGarmo solo.
“I don’t believe in love” continues the trend and is almost a case of Nikki trying to forget Mary. Not one of my favourite tracks while still good, again you can’t fault any department and once again Tate’s vocals soar through it and it’s a pleasure to listen to as always. There is also some nice guitar work, with a crunching and catchy riff here and DeGarmo proves he can belt out a solo, without being over the top he makes a tuneful impressive solo.
Next is another scene setter and the second instrumental of the album “Waiting for 22” Sure you would not consider it as a great instrumental song in it’s own right but that’s not it’s design, it’s design is to build up what’s to follow and it does so brilliantly. The eerie tune works wonders. “My empty Room” is another short song, that once again contains speech and a vocal display by Tate, both of these link us to the last song and work wonders building up the ending! Conveying Nikki’s emotion before he’s taken away as we await the ending.
The ending comes in “Eyes of a Stranger” one of the softer and all be it stronger tracks on the album. This closes the story as we are taken back to the hospital where the story begins. All readers of this will be sick of hearing this but we are once again treated to some marvellous vocals from Tate. Haunting, atmospheric it is a perfect closure it’s one of the longer songs to at 6:38. The suspected is confirmed as it is Nikki who was speaking at the beginning, his finishing words while inconclusive are haunting “I remember now”
To sum up this is a phenomenal album and is my favourite album of all time. It has everything from a story point of view, you can pick more and more up every time you listen to it. Song wise it has everything, an anthem, love songs, ballads an epic, short atmospheric instrumentals! Vocally Tate is one of the greatest singers in metal and rock for that matter. The great sing about the music is it doesn’t show off while being impressive, and musically enjoyable to listen to. If you like any of what you’ve heard of Queensryche this is something you must listen to. If you like variety, value the vocal side highly, progressive lyrics, have an interest in politics and want a little bit more form your metal this is an essential album.