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Operation: Doctor Bad Guy - 59%

Acrobat, May 19th, 2013

…or “how we learnt to disguise a singles album with an overblown concept”.

Let’s get one thing straight: this isn’t a bad album but its acclaim is something I find rather curious. Hell, there’s even times when I can sort of get into it; but only for the odd song and even then it’s not exactly the band’s crowning glory. Call me kooky-come-wacky but in my view classic albums aren’t supposed to be ridden with plodding filler tracks. But alas the ‘ryche really tricked people with this one as Operation: Mindcrime still has a reputation as being one of metal’s all-time classic albums. But to me, all it’s got is a few excellent singles in a mire of proggy, conceptual-filler. Apparently people remember filler more fondly if you tell them fans that the filler tracks aren’t even filler: they’re serving the High Conceptual Art ™ and you really must listen to them or else you’ll never appreciate the High Concept ™. The singles are genuinely good – there’s about four songs here that are really rather excellent, but that doesn’t make a classic album now, does it? Moderately entertaining, sure, but I don’t think I could ever mistake this for a great, consistent work.

I think one of the real problems with this album is that it spends way too much time serving its silly concept and even then the story doesn’t come across too well. Certainly, lyrical excellence isn’t something I explicitly need from metal bands but I do find Operation: Mindcrime to be a prime example of a band getting ideas above its station. I mean, really, the story just doesn’t come across that well from the lyrics alone; there’s some guy called Nikki and Doctor Bad Guy, some nurses with English accents, prostitute nuns (oh, the dichotomy!), heroin and some sort of dumbed-down Orwell meets Total Recall vibe running through the whole thing. I dunno, I just feel that the band spend a great deal of time serving a concept that’s perhaps not told particularly well. Say what you will about King Diamond’s concept albums – they’re certainly “sillier” on a superficial level when compared to Operation: Mindcrime – but at least he gives a good sense of character and a sense of movement in the plot. The stories – however fanciful – tend to come together quite well in their given playing time. With Operation: Mindcrime’s first half, I’m often trying to make sense of the plot rather than being immersed in it. All I can make out from this storyline is that there’s some sort of Revolution being planned and that it really needs Big Dumb Choruses to get its point across. I mean, how many times do we need to hear the chorus to the title-track? To the band’s credit it is a catchy song, but it just happens to be that annoying “Argh, please get it out of my head!” sort of catchy. So, let’s just recap some of the main points of the story, shall we?
1. Evil organisations are prone to committing acts of evil.
2. Assassinating nuns is a bad idea.
3. Falling in love with the said nun-cum-prostitute will probably lead to heartbreak.
4. Doing heroin is probably not a great lifestyle choice.
5. If you associate with an evil bad guy your life might not turn out so great.
But never mind me; it’s fucking deep because Geoff rhymes ‘raison d’etre’ with ‘forget’. Truly, this is life-changing stuff.

However, as I previously mentioned there’s a reason that this album is significantly better than Rage for Order and it’s because there’s a good few songs on here that really stand-out as stand-alone tracks. ‘Spreading the Disease’, ‘I Don’t Believe in Love’ and ‘Eyes of a Stranger’ (I guess it’s somewhat bittersweet that there’s such a great finale to such a mediocre album) are genuinely great tracks and, instrumentally, ‘Revolution Calling’ is pretty damn good but Tate really hurts it with the yelping chorus and the lyrics in the verses are just downright silly. It seems to me that this album was such a commercial success because it melded the proggy concept with the pop-metal single and therefore achieved the same crossover appeal as, say, Pink Floyd’s The Wall. Certainly, I can get some pleasure from listening to this just because of how “big budget” it sounds. Operation: Mindcrime is definitely an album that has had a lot of time and work put into it. It sounds like they probably spent all their shiny, yuppie cash on this as it’s so ruthlessly professional and ruthlessly slick. The pacing is meticulous, too, as after every few dull album tracks you’re treated to a delicious pop-metal number. There are plenty of great riffs, too, and overall, the guitar work is excellent. The problem will be often that the band don’t really utilise the riffs to their full-potential or, if they do, Tate’s vocal lines will be letting the side down. However, there’s still moments where everything comes together nicely and while these songs are on I almost feel like I can finally get this album. If I put on the aforementioned excellent tracks I find myself thinking “Hey, this album’s not so bad… I can almost overlook that dumb, convoluted concept”. However, if I play the whole bloated thing from beginning to end I certainly find myself checking the clock and wishing that the instrumentalists would have been given more time to shine. Hell, for a progressive metal album this album is rather short on cool instrumental sections – I could certainly do with more guitar and less Tate. Oh yeah, and fuck ‘Suite Sister Mary’, fuck it on the stupid choir-riddled horse it rode in on.

So, just like Rage for Order before it, Operation: Mindcrime is at its best when it drops all pretence and simply delivers sweet, sweet pop metal for the masses. I do really wish that on this album Queensryche just delivered an excellently produced pop-metal album, with blazing twin lead guitars and massive choruses. Instead we get a stupid half-baked concept getting in the way of everything. Just imagine an album full of songs like ‘I Don’t Believe in Love’ instead of dopey prog like ‘Suite Sister Mary’. You’d have a sure-fire winner there, certainly. I suggest you make a great EP out of ‘Revolution Calling’, ‘Spreading the Disease’, ‘I Don’t Believe in Love’ and the brilliant emotional climax that is ‘Eyes of a Stranger’ and forget about the rest. For me, however, I’m sticking with The Warning. You don’t remember owt!