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Queensryche Operation Mindcrime II

By Mick Stingley, Contributor
Wednesday, April 12, 2006 @ 7:21 AM

On Rhino Records

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By the time this review is displayed, it is likely that “Operation: Mindcrime, II” will have debuted in the Billboard Top 20 if not higher. So- the question remains- how good is it really?

For starters, the artwork is similar to the first “Operation: Mindcrime” and that notwithstanding, the opening makes one terribly excited about what is to come…

However, to understand MC2 one must also understand MC1. There was this kid Nikki who was duped into performing assassinations for a certain “Doctor X.” This scheme led him to commit crimes among which may or may not have included the love/lust of his life, “Sister Mary.” (Mary, was an ex-whore who became a nun.) And then Nikki was put away in jail for some time, it seems, for killing Mary. Now its 18 years later, and Nikki is out of jail…

The differences on MC2 are many and it is argumentative as to whether it ought to be compared to its predecessor, but such comparisons are inevitable, if unfortunate. For starters, the first record was song-driven, with the story a secondary aspect of the music. Songs on MC1 could be taken out of context and enjoyed without benefit of following the backstory. MC2 is story-driven… and features only one or two songs which might be taken out of context.

As such, “I’m American” is the new “Revolution Calling” and for anyone who waited two decades for this thing… “I’m American” is everything they wanted. “Revolution Calling” offered this one magnificent line: “Who do you trust when everyone’s a crook?” which offered the listener an opportunity to view the world through Nikki’s eyes, but stood alone as an incredibly powerful song. The frustration of the Nikki character is felt on a relatively low level. “I’m American” is as close to “Revolution Calling” as this sequel gets on any level; and that is the key. Where many fans might expect the out-of-the-box singles there is now a greater concentration on the plot. The music takes a back seat…. and that’s where “Operation: Mindcrime II” fails.

“I’m American” is an amazing song, however; and if it was the only good thing about this disc, it would still be worth buying. The lyrics, “I’m a man of the people in the home of the brave… and I deserve everything I can get – I’m American, I’m American!” are easily the best lyrics Geoff Tate has written in years and he should be sainted for this song alone. It clocks in at a brisk three minutes – you could boil an egg to this song. But no sequel can stand on any three minutes.

And the disc goes on… and on. And therein lies the problem. Certainly Geoff Tate has never sounded better, no question; the band sounds like it was ripped out of some time-capsule. The rhythm section is perfection; the guitars, notably on “Fear City Slide,” are impeccable. It’s just that the record gets bogged down in the story. “One Foot In Hell” is an excellent song, but it requires that the listener know the story; for those who aren’t following the tale, the song is meaningless. Referencing Mary and Dr. X is fine, but it doesn’t hold up because the everyman quality is obfuscated with Nikki’s agenda. On MC1 the song “I Don’t Believe In Love” translated well from the story because of the vagueness of the lyrics, rather than the specifics, which made it accessible to anyone. This is the fundamental problem with MC2.

There is one impeccable, noteworthy standout, and that is: “The Chase” which features Ronnie James Dio as “Dr. X.” If it was anyone else, it would be easily overlooked, no doubt. But because it is Ronnie James Dio it is noteworthy. Dio is the absolute perfect singer to portray this character because there are so few who could match Geoff Tate vocally. (This is metal history.) However, if it wasn’t Dio it would be lackluster. This character, “Dr. X” demands a larger-than-life personna to embody the voice and Dio is it.

Regarding the story: Nikki is out and looking to take revenge on Dr. X. That’s pretty much it. There are diversions, of course; and some of them are interesting but not interesting enough to entertain the casual listener. The standouts here are few: "An International Confrontation" is entertaining, and the Pink Floyd "Thin Ice" grandeur is exciting, but lyrically the song stalls. “Murderer?” is the last best song on the record, truly.

This band is still quite amazing, though it will take the enlightened listener to appreciate this and the die-hards to foment a rebellion. Does “Operation: Mindcrime II” live up to the hype? Not really. Mostly, this is the record with which the band can go out on a high note. Something the die-hards can tell their grand-kids about because, ultimately, this record’s success depends on the ones who believe in the Ryche.

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