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I Remember Now....this sucks - 53%

Jophelerx, November 29th, 2017

I won't deny that Queensryche were savants, in their own way. They were, of course, extremely influential, and there was a time, even, when they didn't suck...that time was 1983. For a while they held the title of "Most talented musicians who make the most boring music" until Dream Theater took over for them in the 90s. Operation: Mindcrime, however, might be their crowning achievement in more than one way; not only does it contain some of their best songs, but it manages to put them together in practically the most unpleasant way possible, in concert with a concept so generic that it is literally a walking, breathing stereotype. Not one they created, either; the concepts at play were almost as old and overused in 1988 as they are now. Add this to the fact that Geoff Tate sounds as castrated as he has since The Warning (does he just sound castrated? has anyone checked?), and you get a complete clusterfuck that could have actually made a legitimately good album with an overhaul on the tracklist and a significantly shorter run time. This, unfortunately, is not that theoretical album; this is the highly celebrated Operation: MIndcrime.

I will cut them a little slack for this one fact alone: concept albums are tricky. Very tricky, in fact, and in 1988, they were still a relatively new (pardon the pun) concept to metal as a genre. That being the case, no one would expect them to combine the most subtle, artfully crafted story with the greatest riffs and melodies of the decade. They deserved to be given some leeway, and, you might ask me, isn't that still true to this day? Yes, I would reply, yes it is. I've given them some leeway. Plenty of it. Perhaps more than they deserve. Lyrically and conceptually, at least, this is still the biggest turd of a story the 80s brought us this side of Streets: A Rock Opera. I mean, seriously, how generic can you get? You've got a villain with the groundbreaking, ingenuitive name "Dr. X," a valiant hero who someone decided it was a good idea to name Nikki (I mean, come on, guys, a 5-year-old could have told you that was horse shit), a love interested named Mary who is literally a hooker with a heart of gold, a message about the evil of the media and the government that's about as edgy and subtle as Alex Jones, presenting us the protagonist's disillusionment with a song that's actually called "I Don't Believe in Love" and brilliant lines of prose such as "Even in death you still look sad." Now, in that last case, I admit I may be cherry picking a little bit - the prose isn't unanimously awful. The rest of it is, more or less.

All, or at least, most, of this could be forgiven if the music just kicked ass all day up and down the streets, and at first it seems that might be exactly what we'll get. "Revolution Calling" is an energetic number and a great opener, one of the (very) few good decisions regarding the album's structure. After all, we could have gotten goddamn "I Don't Believe in Love" at the beginning - surely that would be worse, wouldn't it? Yes, yes it would. That is the one way to structure the album that would have been worse than the way it's presented. So we've got only the second-worse possible organization of the songs. Wonderful. Well, this trend continues through the title track and even "Speak." At this point I'm ready to join the masses and call this one of the better things we've come up with since at least video games, if not sliced bread, and certainly this is the high point of the album. A couple more energetic rippers, a ballad or two, and maybe some sort of epic tacked on to the end, and we'll-- Wait. What's that? A midpaced rocker, you say? Well, we did just come off of the two energetic metal tracks around the other midpaced rocker (the title track) - two rockers in an album isn't so bad, even if I personally wouldn't put them so close toge-- The hell? A long spoken word intro, right after a rocker? Is that a fucking acoustic intro now? Guys, we need to speed things up, you're getting a little off track. Okay, things are heating up again now. A bit of a blunder there, but it could still be a very strong album if the pacing doesn't take any more - oh, dear god. Is that a 10 minute epic? In the middle of the album? Guys, you need to space out the exposition a bit, and we need a couple more brisk, speedy numbers, you need to cut this shit right now-- oh, fuck. Fuck. This is how the whole album's going to be, isn't it? Maybe you can end it with something fun and succinct, it doesn't need to be a complete disa-- wait, how many songs do we still have left? That many? Jesus H. Christ, it feels like it's been an hour already. These guys are completely insane.

I realize the stream of consciousness approach above fails to properly address all of the specific issues I might raise against the album, but don't worry, there are plenty of those yet to come. I felt it was difficult to accurately describe how bad the pacing is without going through my specific thought process. For another point of reference, it drags on about as long as a post-2000 Metallica album, which is a little bit longer than a post-2000 Iron Maiden album, and just a hair short of Reverend Bizarre. Well, at least there's another vocalist in this song, right? Whoever it is, it can't be worse than castrated Geoff Tate's interminable whining....can it? Yes, boys and girls, yes it can. Not only does Pamela Moore sound strangely similar to Tate (not that I'm implying anything about them being one and the same, merely that the interminable has become, if anything, moreso), but her specific style of old-lady crooning is...well, about what I'd expect from a hooker with a heart of gold named Mary. One thing I'll give Tate and the boys - they're nothing if not consistent. It's at this point in the album that the incredibly unoriginal lyrical content and the sloppy songwriting and (in some cases) execution seem to me to merge into one, the mediocrity and monotony of the music perfectly fitting that of the thematic elements. This monstrous cohesion, unfortunately, continues through the rest of the album.

Well, hopefully the next song is mercifully brief, at least - hey, that riff isn't half bad, and it's only a 3 minute song, to boot! My expectations now are quite a bit lower, but if the last few songs follow suit with this one, perhaps it will be a survivable enough experience that, at least, doesn't slow down to something truly glacial. Okay, next track. An interlude, and then one that's four minutes and something. Well, not fantastic, but if they're able to pull out some more riffs like these... It's with the opening notes of "Breaking the Silence" that recognition hits and the true low point of the album commences; the knowledge that this album is more ballads and rockers than anything with remote semblance to balls, and that it turns a slightly overlong hour into something that resembles three in (this) listener's experience.

"Breaking the Silence" is actually a pretty good song, one of the better rockers here, but again, when it's rocker after rocker after ballad after ballad after rocker, I'm likely to lose interest. The album then plods sluggishly into "I Don't Believe in Love," which in my estimation is easily the worst song on the album, its name being the first giveaway of that, as it shows that the album clearly deals with subjects like emotion and relationships with all the subtlety and sophistication of a 15-year-old who's broken up with their girlfriend/boyfriend of two weeks. I can say with surety that it appeals to that teenage mindset, because I sure liked it when I first heard the album at 16, but to me this song and this album overall just feels like something one should grow out of; it's smooth and polished, and to someone young and inexperienced, the "fight the system" message seems about the most edgy and revolutionary thing in the world. However, I feel its many, many flaws should quickly become obvious once one reaches the age of, let's say, 19 or so. Finally, after a couple more interludes (because clearly the album was no slow enough yet), we get "Eyes of a Stranger," my personal favorite song on the album, although after slogging through so much shit, I'm not exactly excited about another 7 minute song; out of context, however, it is, to give credit where credit is due, a great track.

Perhaps the only song on the album to deal with themes like regret, introspection, self-loathing, and disillusionment in an intelligent manner, "Eyes of a Stranger" manages to live up to the real moral ambiguity promised in its title. The verses certainly don't speed things up any with their slow-paced bass line underneath Tate's delivery, and-- is that-- yes, that sounds moderately similar to the verse melody in the infamous hit single "Never Gonna Give You Up" by Rick Astley. Listen to it, folks. Once you hear it, you can't unhear it! The melody isn't bad, though, and once we get to the chorus it's clear this is Queensryche cranked up to 11-- well, maybe 10 and a half, since Tate still sounds like a whiny prepubescent girl, but hey, you can't have everything. It is a relief to be treated to actual thought-provoking lyrical content, rather than the complete and utter dogshit lyrics present on the other 95% of the album.

However, it is still far, far from being anywhere near close enough to save the album. Make no mistake, this is a giant turd, through and through, and for one of the more unusual reasons possible. Like I said, I like a lot of the songs, and in some other order they might make a passable album, even though at least 2/3 of it isn't metal, and if I were rating each song as though hearing it out of the context of the album, it would probably get something close to a 70 - not the classic it's hailed as, but far from terrible. It is, however, released the way Queensryche released it, with such a strong penchant for stumbling onto terrible track listings that it's almost brilliant. If ordering the tracks to create the slowest pace possible were substituted for something useful, like curing cancer, then the world would know Queensryche as the men who singlehandedly stopped all cancer from existing anywhere in the world in a matter of days. But since that's not the case, we really are just left with this nonsense, and for me at least, it has not aged well, not at all. If you must listen to Tate's effeminate whimpering, there's nothing I can really recommend over this-- he doesn't whine quite as effeminately on the band's self-titled EP, and The Warning, while thankfully much briefer than Mindcrime, is still moderately to severely dull, so the best thing I can recommend is to take the three or four best tracks from this album and avoid the rest like the plague.