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The Puzzle is Complete - 95%

Stained Glass Assassin, March 15th, 2019

Queensryche’s, Operation: Mindcrime is often heralded as one of the landmark albums of US power metal and for good reason. Perhaps best described as a rock opera, the concept behind “Operation: Mindcrime” follows the tale of a drug addict named, Niiki and the sinister plans of Dr. X. Feeling a sense of revolution, Niiki seeks out the notorious, Dr. X, whom uses a form of drug to brainwash individuals and thus, tasks Nikki to assassinate various targets. Eventually, Nikki becomes conflicted upon having to kill a particular target, a woman for whom he falls in love with and from there the story progresses into bouts of panic, pandemonium and suspense.

Story aside, which deserves its own review and synopsis, the music on “Operation Mindcrime” itself is fantastic. Geoff Tate is often considered among the greatest vocalist of our time, which should come to no surprise after hearing his performance on “Operation: Mindcrime”. Not unlike, Dio, Dickinson or Halfod, Tate has a vocal range that can reach soaring heights that carry both power and majesty, but also stir up emotions across the spectrum. His voice is simply captivating and one can’t help but get lost in the dreamy tones he creates throughout this album. Songs like, “Revolution Calling” and “Speak” show off is glorious highs while songs such as “Breaking the Silence” and “Operation: Mindcrime” he shows off the ability carrying a more mellow tune and sing with a grace few others can. At times, he even has a poppy, more 80’s hair sound to his voice, which can be heard once more on “Operation: Mindcrime.” The verse ‘They're all in Penthouse now, or Playboy magazine, million-dollar stories to tell.’ always make me think of some sleazy glam song, which I absolutely love! The area in which he excels in the most however, would be the choruses, as they allow him to simply let loose and allow him to put all of his emotion into his voice. The choruses really steal the show throughout the album and only enhance the story, or chapter I should say, of each song.

The guitars on Operation: Mindcrime deserve a special nod as if it weren’t for Tate’s legendary performance, they would be the subject of all the praiseworthy banter. However, they deserve no less than an equal showing of admiration as on their own, they display a wide variety of strong and melodic rhythms, as well as captivating and energetic leads. The riffs alone carry enough heft to hook the listener, but then you add in unique rhythms and guitar timings and then sprinkle in some captivating solos and you will be left beyond satisfied. Michael Wilton and Chris DeGarmo’s guitar work on their own warrant their own mention, but it’s their ability to harmonize with one another, feeding off each other’s timing and ability to create a genuine sound that helps not only enhance Tate’s vocals, but allows the entire album to flourish from start to finish.

The bass has a nice reverberating tone to it, a sound that is easily detected and integrates well with Wilton and Degarmo’s dual guitars. There are many times when the bass really helps add an additional pop to the sound during the interchanging of said guitars and helps maintain the pulse of the rhythm. I would argue that the band’s ability to harmonize all three of Wilton, Degarmo and Eddie Jackson’s chords is nothing short of brilliant, as all of their sounds never seem do overtake one another nor do they sound forced at any point.

Scott Rockenfield delivers some fine work on the drums, adding a heavy dose of progressive sounding elements to this progpower masterpiece. The unusual tempos and beats allow the songs to seamlessly alter from straight forward hard rocking sections to a more mellow sound. Whether it’s a quick paced beat or a slower more tempered sound, the drums provide a very nice compliment to the overall rhythm and develop a sturdy foundation for the rest of the instruments (and vocals) to build upon.

The additional pieces of the sound also deserve mention. The use of acoustic guitars, keyboards, synths and of course soundbites play a vital role in creating an additional layer to both the sound and story. The production as well deserves an additional tip of the cap, as it is clear and concise, allowing everything from the vocals to the bass to the synths to shine.

I suppose, what I enjoyed most about Operation: Mindcrime, was not so much how wonderful Geoff Tate’s vocals sound or how great each of the instruments were played, but rather how they sound together. My love for this album is attributed to just how well they all mesh into one cohesive sound forming a single heartbeat that pumps the lifeblood throughout the album’s entirety. It’s true that on their own, the vocals and instruments could be viewed as a success, but the reason this album is so widely praised is the fact that Operation: Mindcrime serve as a perfect analogy to a completed puzzle. Each piece is just as important as the rest, but even if just one is missing, you’ll never have a whole product. You’ll never truly be complete. That is how you sum up this album: complete.

Highlights: “Revolution Calling” “Operation: Mindcrime” “Speak” “Breaking the Silence”

Into the Abyss of Oblivion