Queensrÿche – Operation: Mindcrime (1988) – Review

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At first, we got confused with Operation: Mindcrime of Queensrÿche. How come a record sounds so ’80s when the label says that it is made in 2003?

Okay, our bad, the researcher somehow did not connect the dots correctly. This was when the remaster happened. But the original record indeed dates back to 1988. So, all’s well in metal universe again.

Yet confusion does suit this band well. It snugly goes together with the hullabaloo around Geoff Tate in 2012, a time when the band fired him along with his wife and others of family and friends. They probably had a problem with rampant nepotism and stuff. A fight that would only find settlement later in 2014, once they finished feeding the greedy mouths of the legal eagles.

But back to those early days of mind crimes.

The thing that struck me first with Operation: Mindcrime is the storyline. A relatively early Heavy Metal record with a true theme or concept, actors and all? Well then, how peculiar – and how stellar at the same time. The band really put the pedal to the metal with all that gallivanting about dark back alleys mob-style, murder, and catatonic prisoners.

But – I daresay – Queensrÿche knew how to weave a story of madness and terrible asylums. A theme that over time served as a backdrop to many a band all over the music industry. Indeed, the band itself created a pretty close sibling in Condition Hüman many years later. Just sayin’.

Whilst at first the record sounds eerily straight like Iron Maiden‘s little brother, it moves swiftly into Progressive Metal territory. Yet their tune will not serve the djent heavy crowd, but a progressive brand with a much more metallic taste to boot. The real, sturdy metal of the sound and feel Nevermore occupied decades later.

Yet sometimes, the band went a bit too far with their quest to imitate the folks from Iron Maiden, at least for the speedy parts. Like The Needle Lies that has got the smell of Maiden’s Aces High all over it.

The charts?

The fate of many a complex album is to be misunderstood at first. And this clearly shows in the somewhat mixed charts of that time.

Albeit that Operation: Mindcrime appeared to be more to the taste of the American public. Already the numbers on the Billboard 200 were impressive for a relatively unknown band. But the record made it to Platinum by 1991 on the North American market. And that is truly remarkable.

The album got some redemption, though, when due reflection given revealed the many hidden qualities of this album. Or big magazines like Kerrang! would not have graced Queensrÿche‘s latest with rank #2 for album of the year in 1988. For instance.

And true metal spews from Operation: Mindcrime!

A slab of juicy metal that delivers the way NWoBHM meant to play it. On one hand, you get Geoff Tate‘s soaring vocals. Right up there with the biggies of this genre like Dio or – again – an early version of Bruce Dickinson. On the other hand, the extremely loud and trademark riffing really blew us away. So bare-bones at times that sometimes you start to wish for some synth-laden sounds in there. The pretty cool solos and sturdy bass just add to the allure of it all.

And I truly got a kick out of the raspy monologue that always eerily resembles Charles Manson telling the world that he doesn’t know what sorry means. It speaks to the quality of the record that even the spoken intros, intermezzos and outros are on their best behavior. Neither cheesy nor otherwise cringe-worthy. But just plain good.

Of course, this is old-style metal. So, those looking for the heavy chug of modern metal will not be satisfied. However, Queensrÿche pretty much jumped the norms and saddled us with this somewhat bizarre medley of Heavy and – for sure – Progressive Metal.

But as always, not all is perfect in Heavy Metal land.

Their tune is so treble-heavy, it almost drove me to tears. Or maybe the remastering effort screwed this up something terrible. But even so, this is so evilly turned up to the high-end spectrum that even the drums try to destroy your ears with high-energy bursts.

But that is about the only complaint the mix and master must endure this time. Because otherwise, Queensrÿche produced an album of almost analog quality. Which – thinking back again – does not come as a real surprise, as CDs really were up-and-coming during the late ’80s. And nothing of an established force yet that was to sweep the market like a tsunami later.

Got any cherries on mindcrime?

The RMR deck crew really took a liking to Suite Sister Mary, an unusually lengthy piece of beyond 10 minutes. But the mid-tempo delivery and Pamela Moore’s performance really made us vote for a 10/10.

Or the somewhat dramatic Eyes of a Stranger that finally gets us some of that much-needed meat onto those bare metal bones. And this at a time when the album went full-tilt Progressive Metal on us. Yet again, I get these Maiden-isms that are endearing for a while. But have a tendency to tire you after a while.

And finally…

Operation: Mindcrime proved to be one of the most iconic Heavy and Progressive Metal albums of their time. Indeed, it allowed Queensrÿche to launch a stellar career that endures to this day.

As is often the case, the consistent theme together with metal that holds its water pulls this ship ahead. You’ll find no bad track, no filler material, and a few negligible flaws that don’t carry much weight.

And – I daresay – whilst others tried to match their work later, none really came close to Operation: Mindcrime. In other words, the record provides some ground-breaking ideas and currents that bands still use as inspiration to this day.

‘I remember now!’

Ed’s note: And congratulations – the record made it onto the Intermittent Digest – Tome IX and the newest Old’n’Tasty series.

Record Rating: 9/10 | Label: EMI / Manhattan Records | Web: Official Site
Release date: 2 May 1988

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