Thursday, July 27, 2006

Operation: Nostalgia Crime

By Kanrei

When we last left Nikki, he was sentenced to a home for the criminally insane for the murders of several high profile public figures. Nikki was also deep in self-inflicted torture over the death of Sister Mary, the woman he loved. Most tragic of all, Dr. X, the man behind “Operation: Mindcrime” had gotten away with it all.

Released in 1988, Seattle rock band Queensrÿche released what many to be their defining album, Operation: Mindcrime. It was a concept album telling the story of a drug addict named Nikki who is duped into becoming a pawn of the sinister Dr. X in his plan to overthrow the government.

Every song on Operation: Mindcrime is amazing; with lyrics that both advance the story and reflect the political atmosphere of 1988 America. It was a rare feat for a concept album to have songs that could advance the story as well as be strong enough to stand alone. In 1989, “Eyes of a Stranger” peaked at 35.

Queensrÿche released many albums after Operation: Mindcrime, but were never able to recapture the magic of Nikki, Mary, and Dr. X. It was only a matter of time before they decided to revisit their iconic characters and, 18 years later, they did just that.

Released in 2006, Operation: Mindcrime II picks up the story the day Nikki is released from prison. His thoughts are stuck bouncing between two compelling forces: mourning Mary and killing Dr. X. Do not worry; I never give “spoilers”.

The story is hard to follow and harder to believe. While the first Mindcrime followed a certain realistic logic with its story, the fact that Nikki is even released after killing numerous politicians and priests is just a large suspension of disbelief to ask for.

This is an album though, not a movie so enough about story, let’s just get to the music. Having not heard Queensrÿche since Empire, I must say I was pleasantly shocked that they have not mellowed after the success of “Silent Lucidity”, but rather got heavier. This is actually both a plus and a minus.

The album, I mean CD (I’m old) starts off very strong with a great instrumental called "Freiheit Ouvertüre" which is very reminiscent of the first album. It continues strong with "I'm American”,” One Foot in Hell”, and "Hostage”, but then the problems arise. The songs become redundant in both music and story. Nikki spends seven songs debating whether or not to kill Dr. X. Also, while Pamela Moore does return in the role of Sister Mary, there is also another female singer, Miranda Tate, that causes confusion in “The Hands” as to which one is Mary. The guest singer playing Dr. X was a nice surprise to me when I listen, so I am going to assume you do not know and not tell you here, but it is really great and the duet between the mystery singer and Geoff Tate is amazing.

The alb…CD ends with a cliché big chorus number that is over done and just plain annoying. It is really a shame. Queensrÿche took a great story, one that every Mindcrime fan has been waiting for almost twenty years, and they release what sounds like a quickly pumped out story for some cash. The saga of Nikki, Mary, and Dr. X was so epic that it deserved something better than Operation: Mindcrime II. This CD is to the first one what Phantom Menace is to A New Hope.

Grade: B-
The good songs are great and the weak songs are not totally bad, just redundant. Anyone who is a fan of the first album must buy this if you have not already. If you have never heard the first one, do not buy this one. It is not a strong enough album to stand on its own.

1 comment:

RexZeitgiest said...

Great review Kanrei, and I concur....I liked most of the songs and found it to be solid throughout, but it lacked the real political punch that the first album had....

The 1st Operation Mindcrime had songs that would grab you by the throat and not let you go, every word, every syntax, had meaning....the latest effort, though valient, lacked the substance of the old Queensryche..

That being said, when they tour I AM THERE!!!