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The Ryche at its Absolute Peak! - 100%

Dornseax, March 18th, 2023

Queensryche since its genesis in the early 80s was a band that never shied away from experimentation. From their futuristic synth-laden album, "Rage for Order", to their acclaimed conceptual effort from 1988, "Operation: Mindcrime", which is the topic of this particular review, they were always at the forefront of metal music as art. While concept albums were definitely not a new thing, with albums like Rush's "2112" from 1976 and Pink Floyd's "The Wall" from 1979, Queensryche was among the first bands to apply that concept to metal.

"Operation: Mindcrime" was an album particularly inspired by political unrest and rebellion, and tells a particularly human story relating to drug addiction, corruption, and idealism. The concept was developed by the lead singer of the band, Geoff Tate, and was particularly inspired by the political unrest in Quebec at the time. Inspired by Pink Floyd, they employed symphonic elements, perhaps making them one of the first bands to incorporate symphonic elements in heavy metal.

The story details Nikki, played by the singer Geoff Tate, an amnesiac drug addict who suddenly regains his memory. He remembers that he was an idealistic revolutionary fighting on the side of a shadowy Lenin-esque figure by the name of Dr. X. After meeting a nun by the name of Mary, played by singer Pamela Moore, he grows disillusioned with the Doctor's movement. Nikki falls in love with Mary and realizes that Dr. X led the movement for his own personal gain. Nikki finds Mary dead, and was taken subsequently to a mental hospital, blamed for the murder.

The first half of the album is very upbeat and leans more on classic heavy metal bands like Iron Maiden and Dokken. The first track is a spoken word track titled "I Remember Now", and right after that is a 1 minute upbeat symphonic interlude leading to the song "Revolution Calling". Right after this is the eponymous track "Operation: Mindcrime". This particular track is catchy, fun, and upbeat.

The second half, starting with the song "The Mission", is more melancholic, symphonic, and I think this is where the musicians truly flex their muscles. The songs are longer, more dynamic and more orchestral, often moving from clean guitars to distorted, loud and bombastic rhythms. This of course, is all while the symphony in the background plays beautifully on. The lyrics are more melancholic. Geoff Tate's vocal range truly shows, as he moves from soft croons to loud, operatic crescendos. The album culminates with the 10 minute long symphonic metal suite titled "Suite Sister Mary", which starts with a choir chanting the medieval Latin poem "Dies Irae" over an anxious clean guitar rhythm. Geoff Tate proceeds to start singing, and the song culminates in a great crescendo, where Tate as Nikki and Pamela Moore as Mary begin to sing to each other in a duet.

After a series of interludes and the song "I Don't Believe in Love", all with deeply pessimistic lyrics detailing Nikki's loss, his insanity and subsequent hospitalization, the song "Eye of a Stranger" begins. The song is 6 and a half minutes in length, and details Nikki remembering the past and wondering how he got into this particular situation, alone in a mental hospital. It ends as it began, with Nikki saying the words "I remember now..."

All in all, this is an album like none other before it. The mix of Pink Floyd inspired symphonic/progressive rock with classic Dokken-esque heavy metal is a match made in heaven, and on top of that the musicianship is top notch.