|Classic Review: Queensrÿche - Operation: Mindcrime|
Year released: 1988
Genre: Heavy Metal
Review online: August 14, 2003
Reviewed by: Sargon the Terrible
Rated 4.48/5 (89.64%) (83 Votes)
All right. I would have thought it went without saying to anyone with any idea what metal is about that this is a classic album, one of the best metal albums of all time. I would say THE best power metal album ever. But apparently it does not go without saying, so here I am to say it. Queensrÿche took the world by storm with their EP and then cemented their heavy metal supremacy with "The Warning". "Rage For Order"was reviled for being a sellout album, despite its quality, and the band needed a really great album to get back their momentum. Fortunately, they not only had a great album in them, they had this, the greatest melodic metal album of all frigging time.
Queensrÿche have always been called 'progressive', which I never understood. Sure, they have more complex arrangements than a lot of other bands, but they have almost nothing in common with prog-rock at all, besides knowing how to play their instruments. On "Mindcrime" the band successfully combined the heaviness and aggression of "The Warning" with the dynamic and atmosphere of "Rage" to produce an album of unparalleled emotion, power, and grace. Song after song, the 'Ryche amaze with their rock-solid compositions; every note, every drumbeat, every vocal line and lyric exactly where it needs to be for maximum effect. From the opening volley of "Anarchy X" with its twining guitar harmonies and Scott Rockenfield going nuts behind the drumkit the album tears into an unstoppable array of absolutely perfect songs: "Revolution Calling", the grooving riffs of the title cut, with its unforgettable chorus. Then comes the explosive opening riff of "Speak" – still one of metal's all-time great licks. "Spreading the Disease" careens along, carried by the killer drumwork and the soaring vocals of Geoff Tate, who has never sounded so good. The centerpiece of the album is undoubtedly "Suite Sister Mary", a ten-minute plus epic backed by a full choir and Gregorian-style chanting. There just aren't any bad songs on this album, nothing you skip over or get bored by. I could go on for days about how cool each and every track is. I do have to single out "Eyes of a Stranger" as one of the best metal songs ever written, a tour-de-force of power, style and feeling with another ageless riff as a centerpiece. "Eyes of a Stranger" closes out this epic album on a breathtaking high note.
This is a concept album, and though most of the time I find those insufferable, this one enhances rather than distracts from the music. It started as a screenplay Geoff Tate wrote but couldn't sell, so he turned it into the story of this album. A story of the 80s in all their ugly glory: greed, corruption, drugs, government plots to control man and society through religion, fear, and violence. What keeps it from being pompous is that it is all told through the eyes of one man, and we see his pain, his loneliness and fear from a human perspective, and the story remains a human story of great and genuine drama. Combined with the music, the emotional and tragic story of the album gives it an enormous impact not often felt on metal albums. It's analogous to the effect of the ending of a good movie, where the climax brings together all the threads of the plot into a single moment.
Queensrÿche have long been revered as one of the greatest melodic metal acts, and this is a large part of the reason why. Rarely has any band sounded as on the money as the Ryche sounded on this album. From Geoff's unmistakable steely tone to Eddie Jackson's awesome fretless bass-playing to the inimitable Scott Rockenfield behind the drums, every element of the band is in absolute top form. And let's not forget the terrible twin-axe twosome of Chris DeGarmo and Michael Wilton – one of the great guitar teams at the top of their form. This album gave metal a kick in the ass a lot of people have never gotten over, and when people are describing a good new band, "Sounds like Queensrÿche" is right up there with the highest praise possible. This album was such a definitive expression of Queensrÿche's early sound that they never even tried to equal it, instead opting to diverge into non-metal territory for "Empire".
Given the long decline of Queensrÿche in recent years, it would almost be tempting to engage in revisionist history, and find some pretext for rejecting their early works. But there is no arguing with this album, and trying will just make you look stupid. Fans exclusively interested in the more extreme metal styles may not care for this, but even they would be forced to admit that for what this is, no one has ever done it better, nor is anyone likely to. For musical brilliance, ace songwriting, power, emotion and intelligence, "Operation: Mindcrime" stands alone. Nothing, not even the band themselves, will ever tarnish the shine of this metal milestone. Mandatory. Classic. Unequalled.
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