Review Summary: Sequels: A Mindcrime or not?
Sequels. We all face them with a bittersweet grimace which only exposes our innermost thoughts about them. We all deeply want them to live up to the expectations, to stand proudly next to their truly covetable cousins, that took our hearts away. But then…then we all face the naked truth. Sequels really suck. Gone are the smart ideas, the innovative structures, the brilliantly shaped characters. So what do we have to expect from them?
The important thing always is to raise the right question: Is Operation Mindcrime 2, the sequel to one of the greatest prog metal albums, good enough so as to stand up next to its 18 year older brother?And is this the right question?
The answer is simple: NO.
Operation Mindcrime 2, simply can’t encounter the band’s magnum opus in terms of lyrical content, songwriting, and musical performance. But wait. Think twice and remember: Which other album can encounter Operation Mindcrime in all these within its genre? Well, I don’t think anyone can find more than 3 or 4 answers. And so, under that prism, the criticism that this sequel took was too harsh. So, let’s ask ourselves again: is Operation Mindrime 2 an enjoyable listen?
Of course it is. So let’s begin anew:
Operation Mindcrime 2 is a fine-crafted metal album, which continues the story of Nikky who has been blinded by his terrible want of revenge against the evil Dr X. Yes, it seems clichéd , but Tate always has some good lines to deliver, and make a plain story showing genius. However, in this case, there is nothing truly genius , but the album flows well and the songs are generally smart and simple, baring Queensryche’s unique formula.
The whole thing revolves around the famous junkie’s revenge, and the consequences of his actions. It’s a clever way to start, and especially from an album which raised so much questions. Revenge here is not so similar to the sardonic way it is portrayed in Kill Bill, or in the famous Park Chan-Wook movies, nor in the way ancient Greeks had in mind(arrogance, blindness, nemesis). Nikky was the victim and he just wants to revenge for all the years he spent rotting in prison, for the death of Mary and for so many demons a junkie with such a crumbled life can have, ultimately haunted by his sinful past. Tate is given the chance to criticize once again specific things through the eyes of his hunted character. His pen indirectly targets the government or the legal system for which Nikky still bares resentment. Tate’s lyrics are decent: they have surely lost some of their older sharpness and lyricism, but they are well written, and adequately interact with the music.
In this field, you’ll find no specific changes at all. Operation Mindcrime 2 follows the first album almost blindly. This is not a bad thing, if you consider that the band wanted to keep the original atmosphere, so these 2 albums can be heard the one after the other with a level of resemblance. The band even used older instruments in order to capture the original sound. In this point, Queensryche have done a splendid work. The production is good, and the sound is totally reminiscent of the band’s golden age and the atmosphere of the Operation Mindcrime. However, convincing you that the record holds the Mindcrime sound is nothing on its own, and without Chris Degarmo in the band’s lineup,(who literally owns half of the first Mindcrime) the songwriting may easily fall apart. Fortunately, this isn’t happening at all.
The bassline from “The Hands” is brought straight from the old times, leading a song that can easily be a classic. Ed Jackson’s bass work is omnipresent as always used to be, and Scott Rockenfield’s drumming may not have progressed that much, but it’s solid and technical. The faster tracks like “I’m American” or ”Signs say no” , stand next to slow paced pieces like “Hostage”, and moody ballads like “If I could change it all”. Pamela’s Moore voice in the latter, makes it unique, as also happens in the vocally driven “The Chase”, where Tate’s duet with Ronnie James Dio make it the highlight of the album. However, the album’s quality slowly diminishes after the first half. Trying to recreate a nostalgic and dark ambiance, the album exhausts the listener with long interludes and choir sections. The album carries on with an extended dialogue between Nikky and Sister Mary(disguised as his consciousness) through the last songs. ”Fear City Slide” could have been better and “All the promises” ends up being nothing more than just a decent ballad. The album gives the feeling that the band was somehow bored during the last section. Furthermore, the possible grandeur of the standout tracks will eventually diminish quite soon. Sadly, there is no perpetual flame here.
So, what Operation mindcrime 2 truly is?
Partly flawed, that’s what it is. And maybe that’s also the true face of the band in the 21st century. Queensryche’s attempt is a brave one, and compared with their other works in the post-Hear in the New Frontier era, it is also their greatest. A last glimpse of a band that used to be a milestone in the metal universe, this album never wanted to be anything more than decent closure to a more-than-heavily-discussed story. Nikky is free at last, and maybe that’s what matters. Now remember. Remember how it started.