The discovery of a new band is always exciting. Will it be something you’ve heard countless times? An experience that leaves a bad taste in your mouth? Or is it a treat from which you cannot stop consuming? I wanted to take a trip back in time to reminisce about bands/albums that not only introduced me to heavy music, but kept me coming back for more…
From The Archive: Queensrÿche – Operation: Mindcrime
For the final week of Prog-Metal March, I wanted to feature a band that is not only very influential in the world of metal but also happened to write one of the best concept albums ever. Their story follows a man who becomes disillusioned with the society of the time and reluctantly joins a group that are dedicated to the revolution by becoming an assassin of political leaders. Queensrÿche’s use of brilliant lyrics and amazing musicianship brings their story of love, manipulation and murder to such a powerful high, it’s an album that not only flows perfectly, but demands your attention all the way through…
Operation: Mindcrime is an album that takes you on one hell of a roller coaster ride, so captivating that it will have you waiting with bated breath for the next chapter in the story. And lets be honest, the storyline is the driving factor of this album. Told through a series of 15 tracks; each song is so well written and thought-out that they could stand alone, outside the Operation: Mindcrime storyline and still be an awesome song.
From here on I will try not spoil the story for anyone who has yet to listen to this album, as I don’t want to ruin the experience (but some points will be mentioned, but not enough to ruin it). Lets focus on the other aspect that makes this album some damn memorable… the music. Operation: Mindcrime opens with the intro, “I Remember Now”, in which we hear a nurse talking with Nikki (protagonist). This however is not the only interlude on the album, as there are quite a few of them spread throughout to help the listener better understand the concept. And unlike some interludes you hear on other albums, these actually work well and never come across as filler. This eventually leads into the instrumental track, “Anarchy-X”, a nice short piece that serves as a prelude to “Revolution Calling”.
Now “Anarchy-X” is your first taste of music, but “Revolution Calling” is where you get the one stand out factor that will grab your attention instantly… the vocals. Geoff Tate delivers mind blowing vocals song after song, they simply soar, and coupled with the well written lyrics, they are the driving force at getting the story embedded into your mind. As for the music on “Revolution Calling”, the guitars are strong and powerful, as is the catchy chorus. All and all the song in general is a great anthem of the album and kicks the story into high gear.
The title track, “Operation: Mindcrime”, tells a lot of the main characters background, with the use of haunting lyrics and music. It’s a very dark, atmospheric track, setting the mood perfectly for Nikki’s descent and involvement with Dr.X (leader of a religious/political underground organization). The story and music presses on with “Speak”, a faster, more rock-oriented song, with plenty of speedy riffs and memorable chorus/lyrics that are once again handled beautifully by the vocal work of Tate. Much like “Speak”, “Spreading The Disease” continues the mid-tempo rocking flow by offering plenty of riffs. This track also serves as the story of Sister Mary (a prostitute turned nun).
By the midpoint, this is where the album really starts to heat up. Tracks like “The Mission”, with it’s strong vocals, amazing guitar and solo work, brings the love aspect to the story by having Nikki meeting Sister Mary, and ultimately, falling in love with her. Next we come to “Suite Sister Mary”, the longest and most epic track on the album. Clocking in at over 10 minutes, the story gets pretty hectic, but I won’t spoil it, you’ll just have to hear it to find out. Nevertheless, you can be rest assured this track is emotional. The track sets up the atmosphere quite well, starting with a soft, clean guitar riff and Tate providing more subtle vocals, the song oozes with despair. It eventually picks up the pace, not once breaking the tone, and the addition of Pamela Moore (playing the character of Mary) on guest vocals, sings alongside Tate and does a pretty competent job accompanying him and gives the song such a powerful feeling. If you’re going to listen to just one song on this album, this would have to be it.
After such a powerfully driven set piece, Queensrÿche come out of nowhere with the faster, somewhat speed metal driven “The Needle Lies”, which out of the entire album, is definitely the most energetic of the bunch. “Electric Requiem” is another interlude which continues the story along and leads into the rock-oriented “Breaking The Silence”, complete with it’s booming chorus, rocking guitars, and an awe inspiring solo by Chris DeGarmo.
We now come to the final tracks, starting with the obvious ballad of the album, “I Don’t Believe In Love”, this is where we see Nikkis distress as he further degenerates. There is some nice guitar work throughout and DeGarmo belts out another impressive solo. I won’t even mention the vocals anymore, because honestly, Tate nails it once again for the remainder of the album. The next two interludes, “Waiting for 22” and “My Empty Room” are there as set pieces and help build up to the finale of the story/track, “Eyes of a Stranger”. One of the softer and all be it stronger tracks on the album, this track closes the story as we are taken back the hospital where the story began. Both haunting and atmospheric, it’s a perfect closure to the album.
I’m sure it’s obvious by this write up, but just to clarify things, I love Operation: Mindcrime. It’s one of those albums I recommend to all fans of music (not just metal), as it encompasses all the attributes of a well-wrtitten and structured album. And the fact that it’s a concept album with an amazing story that becomes better as it progresses from track to track, only makes this an album of must-hear proportions. So do yourself a favor and check this album out, as a lover of music, you owe it to yourself…
Queensryche – “Revolution Calling”