Review – Operation Mindcrime II (Queensryche)


I own a fair number of Queensryche (yes, I’m missing the umlaut over the y (a sure sign of 1980s metal pretentiousness)) CDs, but the band has never been a favorite of mine, mostly because of the varying quality of their albums. Though they do get a few points for being from Bellevue…


But Operation Mindcrime is an album that I’ve listened to hundreds of times. Looking through my musical choices, I tend to like groups that 1) are complex musically, 2) have vocals that are challenging to sing, and 3) rock.


This album has all of that in spades, especially #2, with the Geoff Tate’s vocals taxing my voice even when I was much younger. There are few guys around who have that kind of range and power. The music shows both a layering and minimalism, with Tate’s vocals playing lead, and the other instruments filling in the breaks between the vocals.


So, that’s all good. And it’s layered around a pretty good story of corruption, drug use, crime, etc. The main character gets involved, bad things happen, and he takes the fall.


So, now it’s 18 years later, and the group decided to do a sequel to the original. And how did they do?


I should preface my answer by saying that I don’t expect bands to stay the same musically over the years. So I expect something different.


If you read the Amazon reviews, they are mostly polarized. Some people love it, some people hate it.


I listened to it a few times, took a week off, and just listened to it again. There are a few decent songs on the album, but overall it falls short.


The first problem is the story. There doesn’t seem to be the same edge as there was in the original – some of it is okay, but we get lines like, “I’ve always been afraid, except in the moments that I loved you”. The character starts out pissed off, and then it just sort of peters out at the end. But what’s really missing is the underlying subtext of the original (“I used to trust the media to tell me the truth… who do you trust when everyone’s a crook?”) What happened to the revolution? The sequel is just about some guy who doesn’t seem to believe in anything any more, so it’s hard to care.


The second problem is the production. The original has a ton of ambient sound, music, and spoken word – the same technique used so well in The Wall – and that serves to tie the various songs together and to do exposition about the story. That’s mostly missing from the sequel.


And finally, the music. Well, to be fair, there are some decent songs here. But the mix isn’t very good – there’s a lot of “wall of sound” approach – and while in the past Tate would have been able to lay vocals over the top of that, now his voice often gets lost in the mix. So, you get a muddy sound, and it’s hard to pick out the lyrics. I also get the feeling that the songs in the album were mixed as individual songs rather than an overall mix – there’s no overall feel to the songs.


The best songs? “I’m American” is pretty good. “The Hands” lifts a riff from the original, and is also okay.


But, please, spare me tracks like “The Chase”, which features Ronnie James Dio in a duet with Tate that could easily be a number from a musical (not that there’s anything wrong with that), with the two of them singing over the top of each other.


Verdict: It’s okay. If you have the original, you might want to buy the sequel. If you don’t have the original, go and buy that one instead.

Comments (17)

  1. adhalejr says:

    Given the 3 characterstics of music you like, you probably know this, but just in case – check out Dream Theater. I’m somewhat of a newcomer to their stuff, but I just can’t get enough  of it. In particular, their most recent studio CD, Octavarium, is unbelievable from top to bottom. "Panic Attack" is worth the price by itself. "Sacrificed Sons" is fantastic, as is the epic title track. Great stuff!

    Donnie

  2. Jason Bock says:

    I agree, OM II just doesn’t cut it overall. I do like "The Chase" and "Murderer" and the album has grown on me over the past few weeks, but it’s no OM.

  3. Niall says:

    Dream Theater sounds up your alley, but do yourself a favour and get the older stuff. Btw, Dream Theater have toured with QR before, so their styles are at least similar enough in that respect.

    Pain of Salvation, on the other hand, is still making good music. They definitely have challenging vocals and complex music… give them a try. You might never go back to QR ;P

  4. Dream Theater’s Octavarium is ok, but you may want to check-them out in the following order of albums:

    1) Images and Words

    2) Awake

    3) Metropolis II

    4) Train of Thought

  5. And here I though no other tech geeks ever heard of Queensryche or Dream Theater! If you want a real blast from the past, check out Queensryche’s debut EP "Queen of the Ryche." The title song used to get a lot of play in my band. If you like Dream Theater, also check out Stratovarius and Kamelot, two other great bands.

  6. Cameron says:

    Varying quality?  Huh?  Queensrÿche’s first four releases& *@#& rocked!  You must be refering to the later stuff like "Empire" and "Y2K" and such.  Anyhoo, I haven’t heard Mindcrime II yet but I probably won’t like it.  They started to get lame with Empire and everything I’ve listened to after that has sounded like mush.

    Dream Theater, the guitarist can really shred but it’s a bit technical sounding.  Rush is that way too.  Both great bands though.  Soulfly and Slayer are two bands with very advanced musicianship.  Try to play, drum or sing along to either of them.  It’s tough!  Oh, and Megadeth too.  If there were an Honors College for rock, those guys would be the professors.

    ps. <a href="http://cactusjuice.blog.asu.edu/2006/05/16/axl-poses/">My take on the Axl Rose Bland</a>.

    cheers,

    Cameron

  7. ericgu says:

    Cameron,

    I own Rage for Order, but I really don’t listen to it that much. I’ve listened to the earlier stuff, but don’t own it.

    I like Empire, though it’s very different than O:M. And Promised Land doesn’t do much for me at all.

  8. Niall says:

    Did someone say Pain of Salvation?

    Pain of Salvation.

    Seriously, do yourself a favour.

    PS: Pain of Salvation.

    PPS: I am not a fanboy.

  9. tod hilton says:

    I’m more of an Empire fan than O:M, but then I’m also a product of the 80s. 🙂

    Everyone is right about Dream Theater…very similar style. Images and Words is the best, IMO. You should give them a listen.

  10. Andy V. says:

    We started off reviewing OM-II and ended up on two other bands. Put the blunt down, you guys can’t focus.

    OM-II is not even a decent stab at the original. The first reviewer summed it up well. I think I might like it more than Gunnerson, but he’s right on all points. Last year I worked a string of Queensryche rehearsals and then two show days of their Staged Operation MindCrime Show Living in Seattle still has it’s perks) and at that time Geoff Tate was working with a composer on songs. Two buddies of mine went out on tour with them and have similar stories. One was recently fired for essentially saying he didn;t think the album was as strong as it could have been. So, the point of this is to say that in November of 2005 the band announced a spring release with songs still being workedout. I think Geoff Tate pushed the album through production to meet a deadline for RAT. And in doing so, missed the mark.

    Lastly, those of you who noticed the diference inthe bands sound seemed to mention post-EMPIRE albums. The band lost Chris DeGarmo after that (he wrote some on later albums) and he was the primary song writer of Operation MindCrime.

    Recently the band fired their manager and took on Geoff’s wife Susan(?). Well, let me tell you, she is no Yoko Ono because Yoko’s a genious in comparison. If the band can pull off their Staged versions of both OM and OM-II together in their upocoming national tour, scheduled to start in Seattle this fall, then I think they’ll receive a lot of apologies for bad album revies on OM-II. We’ll see? At least they are taking this concept album a lot farther and staging it.

  11. Rich says:

    Honestly I hated this disc for about three weeks. Depised it. The mix is bad, Tate’s vocals are buried, the tracks with multiple vocals (Dio on The Chase, Tate & ‘Sister Mary’ on All the Promises) are so obviously affected by a limited budget, it’s annoying. Thought it was the same old post-EMI ‘Ryche with drudging songs going nowhere. Then I remembered now (ha!) I greatly disliked Opertaion:Mindcrime after I listened to it on the day of its release when I walked into a now defunct Musicland and they thought I was asking for some new Queen album. But it became one of my favorite discs of all time…. eventually. After a three week break I brought it out again. And I have been unable to listen to anything else since. The disc is in my car. I bring my MP3 player into my office and play it non-stop. I sit on my front porch with my MP3-er and listen over and over and over. Yeah, there are production limitations driven by budget. But, if anyone really thinks this story is nothing more than a guy gets out of prison and kills his antagonizer, and that’s it, you’re just not tryng. I thought – at first – this story was missing the epic side of Mindcrime. Then I realized how much I – and every other Net wannabe hater – was missing. Look deeper. You’re not there yet. Go back to your mountain. If you stop wanting a sequel that sucks (and be realistic, most people are expecting a sequel to suck and are looking to be proven wrong) and look at what is here, it’s EASILY the best ‘Ryche album since Empire, and personally, I think it’s more interesting and intriguing (note: I didn’t say sonically better) than Empire. And, really this album is written for a theatrical performance, which is what the band has been doing for two years. It’s not a prog-fest, but almost a rock play soundtrack. And I CANNOT wait for the live performance.

  12. Matt says:

    Dude, sounds like you felt bad for Queensryche and fooled yourself into falling in love with this piece of garbage.  You’re right, most of us weren’t expecting a very good album from QR this time out.  That’s probably because they last 5 albums they gave us weren’t very good.  Count it up, we now have more BAD albums from this once great band than good ones.  Chris DeGarmo knew the band was on its way out.  He must feel more confident in his departure everytime a new QR album is released.

    If you want to surprise yourself, go back an listen to Promised Land and think of that as the proper sequel to Mindcrime.  Sure it’s not the same story at all, but it has all the pieces that you said Mindcrime II is missing.  Ambience, story, good production.  And they actually had something to say.  There is clearly no feeling behind the songs on MC II, but you can cut the tension and torment these guys were going through on Promised Land with a knife.  Sure it’s a departure from their typical cockrock, but it’s also their most brilliant work.  When this album came out, I felt a glimmer of hope that QR might continue growing in new directions which ‘Hear…’ quickly extinguished.  Nothing they’ve done since has interested me (and seriously, it hasn’t interested any of you either).

  13. MV says:

    The more I listened to OMII the less I liked it and I am ryche-head. I don’t know why everyone thinks GT’s vocals are so strong on this record – they are terrible. He sounds awful on Signs Say Go. The lyrics are weak – "X marks the spot"? c’mon man, thats weak as hell. Tate was one of the best, if not the best, singer of the genre – his voice on the first 4 cd’s rival even the greatest vocalists – has anyone listened to Art of Live? Horrible – it seems his gift is gone. The music on OMII is pretty good and there seems to be a focus on technical playing for once, but it all fall’s short – I can’t even listen to the tune with the spoken part – "I’ve lived a violent life…etc..". Just terrible.

  14. duber says:

    I wasn’t too impressed with OMII at first but after a few weeks of listening and reading, it is not too bad. I think it is a decent album. I am still partial to Promised Land (the first 3 song intro is earth shattering) and OMI. I guess I was still expecting the same gutwrenching feeling and emotion from the first one but we must concede that Nikki is older and is a changed man(???).  What do I know, I liked "Last Time in Paris" and "Real World"!

  15. Audio says:

    I own a fair number of Queensryche (yes, I’m missing the umlaut over the y (a sure sign of 1980s metal pretentiousness)) CDs, but the band has never been a favorite of mine, mostly because of the varying quality of their albums. Though they do get a fe