QUEENSRŸCHE — Operation: Mindcrime (review)

QUEENSRŸCHE — Operation: Mindcrime album cover Album · 1988 · Progressive Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
5/5 ·
"Operation: Mindcrime" is the 3rd full-length studio album by US power/heavy/progressive metal act Queensrÿche. The album was released through EMI Records in May 1988. It´s the successor to "Rage For Order" from 1986 and as something new in the band´s repetoire at the time, it´s a concept album/rock opera, telling the story of the recovering drug addict/political activist turned brainwashed hitman Nikki, who becomes involved in a revolutionary group lead by the mysterious Dr. X. It´s a story of questionable morality, political corruption, abuse of religious authority, exploitation of the weak, love and murder. While Queensrÿche were already relatively successful before "Operation: Mindcrime", this was the album which turned them into a highly commercially successful act too...

...and it´s obvious why that is when listening to the material on the 15 track, 59:14 minutes long album. There´s so much quality in all departments of "Operation: Mindcrime", that had the album, and the band, not achieved the high degree of the success that it did, it would have been a near crime.

Stylistically the music is US power/heavy metal with the occasional progressive leanings. It´s predominantly the 10:41 minutes long and highly impressive "Suite Sister Mary" (featuring female vocal contributions from Pamela Moore, a choir, and orchestration), which can be applied the progressive metal label, but there are other sporadic moments throughout the album, where that label also apply. Mostly this is US power/heavy metal though, featuring hard rocking riffs, melodic lead guitar work, a powerful and tight playing rhythm section, and one of the most powerful and skilled vocalists of the era in front. There are no words big enough to describe Geoff Tate´s vocal contributions on the album. Not only does he possess a powerful and distinct sounding voice, he is also an incredibly pathos filled singer. His delivery is commanding and every word of the lyrics are performed with conviction and great passion. He is also quite the versatile singer in the respect that he can sing both deep and really high notes with a natural ease.

The album is structured so there are short interlude samples, effects, or narrative attached to many of the "regular" length tracks, and there are also a couple of shorter atmospheric interludes/intros, which function as individual tracks. "Operation: Mindcrime" features many great rockers like "Revolution Calling", "Speak", "Spreading The Disease", and "The Needle Lies", epic tracks like "The Mission" and "Suite Sister Mary", but also more melodic and accessible material like "Breaking the Silence" and "I Don´t Believe in Love". The heavy title track also deserves a mention as one of the highlights of the album. So the material is relatively varied, although there is a clear stylistic thread throughout the album.

"Operation: Mindcrime" was produced by Peter Collins who had recently produced the two Rush albums "Power Windows (1985)" and "Hold Your Fire (1987)", and he has put his audible mark on the sound of the album (especially the drums feature a very characteristic sound). The sound production is powerful and detailed, and considering that it was recorded in 1987 and released in 1988, this is a very well sounding heavy metal release.

So upon conclusion this is a perfect release by Queensrÿche (and to my ears the peak of their career). The concept story works, the songwriting and the tracklist order are varied and keep the listener intrigued throughout, the musicianship is outstanding, and the sound production is professional and brings out the best in the material. There´s not a single sub par moment on the album and a 5 star (100%) rating is deserved.
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