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Queensr˙che - Operation : Mindcrime II CD (album) cover

OPERATION : MINDCRIME II

Queensr˙che

 

Progressive Metal

3.25 | 185 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Marc Baum
Prog Reviewer
4 stars DISCLAIMER: I'm probably going to refer to the legendary Operation: Mindcrime a lot, as it's literally my favorite album of all time. This is going out to be a very detailed review, since there is so much to write about it.

The background:

For years have Queensryche fans been served the mind of a dying giant, the leftovers from some crap pop rock sessions of the masterminds behind such classics as The Warning, Rage For Order, Operation Mindcrime, Empire and even the heavily underrated Promised Land.

And it has been almost 15 dark years where Queensryche, lost in a strange reverie have been trying to find a new personality, never really making it seem like they are being real to themselves. Hear In The Now Frontier featured some of the best Queensryche lyrics ever, and some clever musical arrangements, but on certain occasions it left a lot to be desired. While no one could hate them for turning their backs to metal (that was something they partially had already done in Empire), it was the fact that something from the spirit was missing.

Q2K made it plain obvious that it was probably De Garmo that was missing. Or Kelly Gray making the band his own whore, writing music as a friend, but music that did not tune in with Queensryche.

Tribe was a step in an interesting direction. The concept was there, the lyrics were there, again. But musically, it was not even an ugly brother to Promised Land. It was simply beyond boring. Apart from two tracks, it was such a passable release that the band could have simple released a single titled The Great Divide and they would do better.

And we come to see, at last, a release that dares bare the name of Operation Mindcrime. Have Queensryche decided to humiliate the name of what is possibly the finest release in progressive metal ever?

Luckily, no. They are here to complement it, in an unprecedented way. What Queensryche have finally provided, is an album that re-writes all the mistakes and throws a new huge stone in an ocean of empty and still water. The splash that is about to follow is going to lose them fans, make them new ones, and help some people who have the vision always wanted to share take notice and look in their direction. If Queensryche has always been about being original, progressive and groundbreaking, then there is nothing they failed to do. At last. But there lies one question on hand: Can the sequel to one of the best concept albums ever made capture the magic of the original and bring on the same goosebumb-factor as about 18 years ago?

In a recent issue of a entertainment magazine there was an article about the 50 worst movie sequels ever made. Usually, movie sequels are never as good as the original. With music, though; this is not always the case. Many artists have created sequels to their initial efforts, quite successfully. Usually, they do this in a short amount of time while the original concept is still fresh and inspirational. So why now after 18 years has the aged chemical youth chosen to seduce us with a sequel to the outstanding 'Operation Mindcrime'?

The concept:

According to Geoff Tate, he has always endeavored to make a sequel when the perfect time presented itself. Presently, he is desparately attempting to shop his 'Mindcrime' screenplay to prospective movie associates or theatrical venues. His political perspectives have remained consistent over the years, even if his musical direction has changed drastically over the last decade. Geoff has always kept an active file on the Nikki character, which he has updated every time he felt inspired by designs of social convention. The band always plays classic tracks from the 'Mindcrime' era, so the music has always been close to their hearts.

The story:

The story, which takes place 18 years after Nikki was tried and imprisoned, mostly captures Nikki's state of mind and his encompassing desire for revenge against his former employers, who left him to rot. It also gives a sense of connectedness as both we and Queensryche are also exactly 18 years older since the original 1988 release of "Mindcrime". Nikki is now a free man and has to face a world that is in many respects as evil and twisted as the impulses that landed him in jail. Many of the same players are here, including a good amount of original Mary vocalist Pamela Moore, and there are rain-soaked, eerie interludes, or religio-musical iconography (such as the choral outro to "If I Could Change It All" ) that hearken back to the conceptual sprawl of "Suite Sister Mary" and "Electric Requiem" from the original. Occasional snippets of voices and musical themes prominent in the original "Mindcrime" (such as "Anarchy-X").

The music:

We begin with "Freiheit Overture", a very impressive and extremely technical progressive metal intro, infused with amazing guitar work a fantastic orchestra, that it all sets for a grand opening. We are off to a great start. Convict, you are a free man. > I've missed the magic of the intro in part I, but it finally sounds like a freedom- punch after all these years and it delivers very well that feeling.

"I'm American" will mostly remind of Iron Maiden. It all begins as a thrashier version of classic NWOBHM. Geoff Tate, once again, sounds like he should, and you suddenly have pictures in your mind of the great performer doing what's he is best at. Singing powerfully and emotionally. The song itself is a very straight mixture of Speed/NWOBHM with some very thrashy riff work that will definately make the classic rockers out there headbang through the entire song. The solo (finally, a solo in a Queensryche song!!!) is simply amazing.

And here we are, "One Foot In Hell", with our journey eventually starting. The next track continues in the same idea. With a sound that reminds of late 70s hard rock infused with something taken from "Hear In The Now Frontier", only much better. The music is catchy and as song progresses, new melodies unfold as the song changes into 80s Black Sabbath. The solo (again?!?!) is simply one of the best solos written in the history of Queensryche! So far, we are off to an amazing start. What seemed like the best song ("I'm American") it is already far outdone by an even better one. "One Foot In Hell" is a damn classic!

So, we are already captivated. We've been taken hostages and listening to "Hostage" now. Can the band keep it up? We so far saw them pay a tribute to 70s and 80s music. But are we listening to Queensryche? YES WE DO! Hostage is a classic Queensryche song, and the most progressive metal song so far. With song structures that will (FINALLY!) remind "Promised Land", an amazing melody and a fantastic refrain (the stuff that you will be remembering for the rest of your lives!).. there is nothing missing from the song. Is there? Nope.... how about dual solos finally making a return? They are here and they sound bloody amazing. How about emotional vocals driving the melody? They are here, finally! How about acoustic guitars in the background? Everything's here. Don't worry. Queensryche are back, and they take no hostages. They annihilate.

Moving on to "The Hands" then. And with every song, this is getting even more deeper, even heavier, even more intelligent, even more classic and even more... Queen? Yup, that's right. The album is slowly taking an approach towards Symphonic/Progressive Rock, while keeping an overly metal structure. "The Hands" is not a song that can be described as "typical" in any way or form. Strange but magical song structures that change without notice, from slow to heavy, vocal lines that can make any Geoff Tate fan sing along with pride, and riffs to kill (that's my Wilton!), and one strong refrain. But for one more time, they've been saving the best for the last moment. Dual harmonic solos that lead into a very heavy progressive metal passage. What the hell, why wasn't this material part of "Promised Land"? Because it sure as hell feels like it hasn't been a single day since 1994!

"Speed Of Light" takes us into a trip into classic progressive rock musicianship. Fans of Led Zeppelin will instantly recognise the obvious homage in the melody and the vocals. Yet the song has quite a few things up its sleeve, past the so-so refrain: This song is actually the first step in driving the concept further. After a strange passage, that sounds taken out of the same titled from Promised Land (and sounds absolutely amazing I must say), you are left speechless as a familiar voice comes back after many years. You call this your best? What's you gonna do? Make more excuses? Yup... better get excited. It seems the best is yet to come.

But sadly, not immediately. "Signs Say Go" is an instantly forgettable track. All signs say that the song will go down as yet another boring Queensryche song. This is the first dissapointment of the album so far. You may as well skip it and re- arrange your tracklist because...

"Re-Arrange You" is already one of the best Queensryche songs ever. With an intro to kill for, and a start that will make any Queensryche fan shiver in excitement... the orchestra makes a return. Geoff Tate's vocals are amazingly lead with Scott's drums. The song soon goes to show how amazing riffs Wilton can write if he wants to (Tribe pay attention)! The song structure, for one more time is simply staggering. This song is pure progressive rock/metal and one of the finest examples of the band at it's prime. "It's taken me years to get to this place". No. It did not. They just never tried it. That's what a true Queensryche fan waited for YEARS! A fantastic solo taken out of Nevermore, is only the icing on the cake to seal the deal.

"The Chase" is on, and what hell? This is Dio?! We are off to an amazing start, and I'd rather tell you, this is an amazing track. One of the best heavy metal / progressive metal duets in the history of metal. When you have Dio and Tate on the same song you just know that this is beyond amazing. This metal opera just gets things more interesting. The song itself has a fantastic refrain, a very catchy melody that will remain in history, and there is the orchestra again to fill in all the holes. And suddenly it all starts to remind you of Queen in a more heavy metal form. The solo is simply staggering. There is simply nothing that could get this song sound better. This is a classic.

Can this album get any better? So far the band has been showing an almost perfect showcase of how they can make great music if they want to (with one real exception). Well, the answer is yes. It gets even better and even heavier. "A Murderer?" is taking you by surprise with some semi-harsh vocals, some very noisy/numetal-ish riffs and a very thrash/NWOBHM/Motorhead rythm going on. But this is only getting you started, for when the refrain kicks in, you are suddenly left amazed. You just don't know what hit you. Queensryche are heavy metal again, how strange does that sound? Step down on your knees, explain it to me one more time.... I am talking to Wilton of course. Because the time has come for him to once again step in and play another fantastic solo, the stuff that the fans have been longing to listen to for almost 15 long years. And the solo work is once again immaculate, as if it comes out of the hands of Jeff Loomis or Petrucci.

"Circles" is an interlude, which keeps a very sad and unsettling ambience. I can't explain it, but it is a very interesting track that sets the perfect atmosphere for...

...yes, it is finally time for the first ballad of the album. And as you expected...she is back in one of the most wonderful duets ever. A slow jazzy melody that shows the band's vast musical apetites. Tate is proof that is one of the greatest vocalists of all time (just listen to 0:55 until 1:20), with a performance that is simply great. The refrain is amazing and it sounds like taken out of "Promised Land". An amazing track that words cannot describe. An actual chorus sings near the end taking you by surprise and grandeur. This is total majesty and art at its finest. And it all builds up to...

..."The International Confrontation". Probably the most symphonic/progressive metal track of the entire album. And by far another masterpiece that goes beyond words. Any fans of Dream Theater will simply love this. This is the second part of the duet and it is simply magic. "Am I closer?" "Go back" "Go back to your mountain"... and Wilton goes back to the highest mountain to play one of the best solos in his career, as if he didn't already outdone himself in the entire album already.

"A Junkie's Blues" is 100% Promised Land material. With a sound and a riff that seems born from the "Damaged Universal Mind" (let's see whom of you is a real fan to spot the connection here!), and a melody that is really deep and heavy... it all suddenly progresses to... gospel? Yup, it certainly seems that the band loves to tease us by throwing towards us all kinds of genres. The song then gets heavier again, with a fantastic melody similar to "Lady Jane"... and you suddenly feel that we are slowly coming to an end. And it has been a fantastic trip... a trip worth waiting so many years for.

"Fear City Slide" is sort of like, the final thunder before the end of a storm in the desert. "I feel like I'm falling". "Arise"! This is definately one of the songs that sounds the most like old Queensryche, with very obvious NWOBHM guitar work that is mixed with an 80s rendition of the themes in "Hear In The Now Frontier", it is a very clever and deep progressive rock track. The solo that follows, is once again fantastic. Typical Wilton, but the guy's far from your typical guitarist.

So, did Queensryche gave all that they promised? "All Promises" is a slow, strange and ambient outro (that is wonderful), bringing everything to a closure, with one of the saddest and most melancholic solos ever. It all sounds like "Promised Land" all over again. The magic is here again. And this time, it feels like it will never leave. If this can be the last Queensryche song ever, I will be more than happy to see them go now. At the top of the mountain, throwing that huge rock in the ocean. And everyone else, shall take notice.

"We had it all, but couldn't see anything" "The blind leading the blind through the darkest night" "When you said you loved me it made me feel alive"

A fantastic ballad, and an amazing end to a great album. Not another "Eyes Of A Stranger", but that isn't important, as it delivers a fitting end to this second part of the concept story.

Well, O:M II doesn't capture the magic or neither delivers the goosebumb-factor that the first OM part did, specially because there are not such over-the-top epics like "Suite Sister Mary" or "Eyes Of A Stranger" on it or out-standing earworms like "Breaking The Silence" or "I Don't Believe In Love", which made that first one so stellar. Seriously: It was a thing of impossibility after all these years and without the main-songwriter of the first O:M part, Chris DeGarmo. But if you can get past that, that Queensryche's glory prime days are long, long gone, you will be very surprised by this excellent sequel!

Conclusion:

Yes, Queensryche finally kept their promise! Operation Mindcrime II is an album that cannot be described by words. It is the sound of crystal ryche to the veins of the real Queensryche fans. It is simply, by far, and without any shadow of doubt, not only their best album since Promised Land... but also the best sequel it could have ever been to "Operation Mindcrime".

Not by copying it. By completing it. And that's what a real sequel should do. It's more complex and difficult to understand than the first part but it leads the story towards, without sounding reconstructed. It's not a 5 star-sequel to a masterpiece but an excellent surprise of 2006! Let O:M II grow on you and have a nice time!

Album rating: 8.5/10 points = 86 % on MPV scale = 4/5 stars

point-system: 0 - 3 points = 1 star / 3.5 - 5.5 points = 2 stars / 6 - 7 points = 3 stars / 7.5 - 8.5 points = 4 stars / 9 - 10 points = 5 stars

Marc Baum | 4/5 |

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