Title: “Operation Mindcrime II”
Label: Rhino Records
Release Date: 4/4/2006
Genre: Progressive Rock
Do you remember how it started? Do you remember that he was only doing what they told him? Well a full 18 years have passed and Nikki has returned to give us the second chapter to his tale which began in the classic “Operation: Mindcrime”. A lot of their original fans might lambaste Queensryche for choosing to revisit the themes of their most popular release but since so many years have gone by there is an entirely new audience available to their music. I admit at first I was one of the detractors who screamed “How could they do this”, fearing that the original release and its premise would suffer as a result but after a couple of listens I am happy to report that I was wrong. “Operation: Mindcrime II” picks up almost two decades later as Nikki now out of prison goes seeking revenge on the man who both put him there and was the cause of all his problems in the first place. The mysterious Doctor X. appears on the album in the form of the legendary Ronnie James Dio but his talents are sorely under utilized. He appears in only one song and could have been effective at least in dialogue in other areas of the album. Pamela Moore returns as Sister Mary (whether in his mind or in spirit I have not determined yet) and she shines on a number of tracks. After so many listens to Ms. Moore as this character I am interested in hearing her solo work. Tate is once again on top of his game proving that his pipes are still able to deliver even after over 20 years in the business. I also found the band to be above par and playing the best that I have heard them do in a number of years. Guitarist Mike Stone seems to have really stepped up for this release and is no longer relegated to the shadows left by Chris DeGarmo who left the band a number of years ago. As one might expect, members Rockenfield, Wilton and Jackson do not disappoint at all.
As you listen to the album you will find a very mature Queensryche delivering a very mature piece of music. It is by no means the Prog-Metal record that the original was yet is more a Progressive Rock piece with subtlety and creative edges at numerous corners. While touring with Judas Priest in 2005 the band teased fans with “I’m American”, and this track appealed to me now in its finished form more than its teaser did for those shows. I expect this to be a fan favorite as well. “One Foot In Hell” has a classic Queensryche big vocal to it and shows some tastes from the original however there is not a lot of similarity to the first Mindcrime anywhere if you ask me. However, this is not a problem for the record stands strong on its own with the use of the characterization alone as they introduce new music based on a familiar back story. “The Chase” is where we find Mr. Dio and Mr. Tate coming head to head while “If I Could Change It All” finds the central character reflecting on the whole situation. The listener is treated to an enormous booklet with the story lined out for you to better absorb. The duet closer of “All The Promises” with Geoff and Pamela makes for a very powerful end based on its lyrical content.
So is this album on a par with or better than the original? It certainly is not better than the first chapter but that was released in a different time and a different world of music altogether. Queensryche as well as most of us were far different back then and today we find the band as elder statesman to the form who no longer needs to prove anything. They can prove to listeners new and old that they are far from dated and are still very relevant. I can safely recommend this album for people who want a solid rock album that has a lot of thought placed into it but recommend that for Operation: Mindcrime II that you give it two or three listens in order to appreciate it better. Fans of Queensryche in general will be pleased in the aspect that this is perhaps their best work in several years, and perhaps since “Promised Land”.
So does Nikki get his revenge? Well, that would be telling wouldn’t it? Maybe you should find out for yourself.
1. Freiheit Ouverture
3. I’m American
4. One Foot In Hell
6. The Hands
7. Speed Of Light
8. Signs Say Go
9. Re-Arrange You
13. If I Could Change It All
14. An Intentional Confrontation
15. A Junkie’s Blues
16. Fear City Slide
17. All The Promises
Official Web site: www.queensryche.com