Queensryche
Operation: Mindcrime


5.0
classic

Review

by Kenneth E. Rathburn USER (70 Reviews)
December 30th, 2009 | 16 replies


Release Date: 1988 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Narration, poetry, addiction, tragedy and intrigue contribute to create a powerful, everlasting album.

Queensryche are a band who have had their share of success and, debatably, a long stretch of mediocrity. The group hadn’t quite broken into the spotlight for their first couple releases, but by the summer of 1988 that was about to change. Lead vocalist Geoff Tate had gotten the idea for an ambitious concept album during a snow-filled night at a Montreal Catholic Church. Though initially greeted with silence by the fellow band members and dealing with potential changes to the sound prior to release, the album came out untouched, as the band intended. And after more than twenty years, the album has left a legacy for both the band and the progressive metal genre.

Perhaps the most driven aspect to Operation: Mindcrime comes in its story as a concept album. Essentially, it deals with a much-conflicted protagonist (Nikki) recollecting snippets of his life and, more specifically, the past month in how he joined a revolution organization led by a man only known as Dr. X. For the sake of spoilers, I’ll refrain from saying any more about the plotline. The album tries to say a lot in its less-than an hour-long runtime but everything is brought to light without feeling drawn out or briefly skipped over. While listening and picking up the plot details (whether through the music itself or the lyrics), much elaboration can be found on its many subjects even with some tracks barely being a minute in length.

This also leads to another impressive feat that the album accomplishes wonderfully: the lyrics. While some might be turned off by some of the seemingly cliché track names such as “Spreading the Disease” or “I Don’t Believe in Love,” the words (and story) behind these songs are simply absorbing. The writing and poetic style that comprises the lyrics seems indistinguishable at first, but there’s in-fact a great blend of narration and verse here. And though this is arguably the most imperative characteristic of a concept album, Queensryche managed to present some truly spectacular work here that makes many other songs feel dull and one-dimensional by comparison. Easily the best example of this is “Suite Sister Mary,” giving a few moments of insight into one of the key characters of the story.

Of course, in order for a concept album to work it needs good music with a strong sound to accompany and flow the tracks together. And thankfully for us, Operation: Mindcrime pulls this off with ease. Variety is definitely at-hand for the entire album yet it never loses consistency of its core sound. If one were to play the more upbeat “Revolution Calling” and then skip to the unapologetic “Spreading the Disease,” they’d find the sound to be quite similar yet still hear a stark contrast in the mood. The early progressive metal style here is rather interesting in how it has an accessible sound but is invigorating in how it can appease more dedicated fans thanks to the no-nonsense themes. It can be very easy for a casual listener to compare the sound to early Iron Maiden work thanks to Geoff Tate’s high pitch and borderline operatic vocal style and the tuning of the guitars.

Speaking of Mr. Tate, the entire band is in great form here, with mixing that allows each of the members to give us an idea of their talents. Now, granted, you’re not going to be getting Hellhammer-esque drumming or guitar work that sounds like it’s competing with Yngwie Malmsteen, but this is appreciated for the sake of getting the story across. Since this is a concept album and thus has the priority of telling a tale, as listeners we don’t want much to detract us from the delivered plot. And this is realized wonderfully as moments such as the guitar solos are welcomed but not prolonged to where we forget what was sung or narrated in the last line.

Also impressive is how well the album’s production has managed to hold up, despite being over two decades old. Even with the remastered recordings in-mind, the sound is still reminiscent of its release in ’88 without sounding “washed up.” The ambiance and atmosphere that arises during moments such as the opening to both “Suite Sister Mary” and “Eyes of a Stranger” along with “Electric Requiem” are very effective and, in the case of the latter, chilling. And just like Operation: Mindcrime’s other various aspects, its points like these that contribute to the listening experience.

Regardless of whatever opinion one might have of Queensryche, what can’t be denied is the influence this album has left behind thanks to how excellent everything about it is. Even those who aren’t fans of the band or genre are encouraged to give the entire album a listening, at the very least. You can listen to it several times, even in the same day, and still be fascinated by what it has to offer. Without a doubt, one of the greatest heavy metal releases to date.



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user ratings (976)
Chart.
4.5
superb
other reviews of this album
1 of
  • D. Anthony Kerr (5)
    "What I know for sure is that Queensryche crafted a magnificently ambitious collection of ...

    PsychicChris (5)
    The story might be its biggest talking point but the songwriting and band performances are...

    menawati CONTRIBUTOR (5)
    Queensryche at the top of their game. One of the best concept albums ever released....

    dannyboy89 (5)
    The essential Queensryche album. If you have not heard this, and you say you're a prog fa...

  • Jorn van Schaïk (5)
    This album is one of the defining concept albums released in 1988, and the accompanying mu...

    Mendigo (3.5)
    This is one of the best known conceptual albums and one of the most important progressive ...

    deflepp0925 (5)
    ...

    Priestmetal (5)
    ...


Comments:Add a Comment 
Xenorazr
December 30th 2009


444 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

I'm a bit nervous since I'm reviewing an album and essentially calling it perfect. And I know there's already four 5 star reviews for this album, but I couldn't resist reviewing my current favorite album after listening to it almost non-stop for the past month.

JWT155
December 30th 2009


9262 Comments


Never could get into these guys, might give this a try though.

Digging: Death From Above 1979 - The Physical World

Jips
December 30th 2009


1129 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

agreed fantastic prog metal album... nice review

Douchebag
December 30th 2009


3624 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

whoa! thanks for reminding me how good this is! I'm gonna pop it back on right now.

sadly the follow up empire was terrible and put me off this band.

rasputin
December 30th 2009


14546 Comments


never liked this band/album

BigHans
December 30th 2009


26454 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I just saw them live and they didnt play a single cut off this. I was pissed. Great album.

Bfhurricane
December 30th 2009


6197 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Kind of forgot how awesome this album is, great review!

shindip
December 30th 2009


3536 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Good review, although I haveta dissagree

SteelErectedb4you8er
December 30th 2009


2618 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I don't believe in love!!!!! I never have and I never willlll!!!!! Hell yes, Queensryche!

Xenorazr
December 30th 2009


444 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

Lol, I just realized I wrote "addition" rather than "addiction" in the summary, how embarrassing.

@Alligator: I bought Empire a while ago since it was used for like $7, I listened up to the title and honestly, what I heard was perfectly good, enjoyable material. Yeah, it's an embarrassment compared to this album but on its own it's definitely enjoyable despite its obvious flaws.

@BigHans: Damn, so would I. My only guess is they might think they'd have to play the entire album if they were going to play anything off it, but they still should have at least played "The Mission," "I Don't Believe in Love" and/or "Eyes of a Stranger."

Douchebag
December 30th 2009


3624 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Yeah definitley agree. On it's own Empire has it's fair share of cool however compared to this it has nothing.

facupm
August 2nd 2012


7796 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Good review, pos'd. This album rocks so much. It's undoubtedly a masterpiece

Digging: Spectral Lore - III

TheNotrap
August 2nd 2012


8108 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

Agreed. Rules damn hard.

Digging: Threshold - For The Journey

glezz
August 2nd 2012


235 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

If i could only own 20 or so albums, this would be one of them.
Masterful writing and rocking.

TheNotrap
August 2nd 2012


8108 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

words of wisdom man.

facupm
August 3rd 2012


7796 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

^ agree



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