Album Reviews: Operation: Mindcrime II by QueensrÿcheAfter 18 years, Queensryche revisits the dark and angry milieu of their 1988 signature metal concept album. Nikki, the political assassin at the heart of the original Operation: Mindcrime, is now out of the slammer and back on the streets, and he's got some questions and a six-pack of Whupass for the man responsible for his downward spiral, not to mention a bone to pick over the death of the sympathetic prostitute, Sister Mary.
What made the original Mindcrime an instant '80s metal classic was its combination of musical drama with provocative, politically savvy lyrics and raw human emotion. Queensryche took a big risk in trying to recapture that combination, and for the most part, they nailed it. Operation: Mindcrime II is easily Queensryche's best and heaviest album since 1994's Promised Land, and while the songwriting is not as consistent as the 1988 effort, it is a worthy follow-up.
The band's sound is mostly faithful to the original record, and it still sounds fresh by today's standards. Rockenfield's snare drum doesn't have the distinctive, percussive crack of the original, and the rhythm guitars are slightly heavier in the low end. Otherwise, many of these tracks could easily be mistaken as tracks recorded in the 1988 sessions. Guitarists Michael Wilton and Mike Stone provide the requisite big riffs and staccato twin guitar leads that sear across the brooding and angry landscapes. As always for Queensryche, the use of space is key in their arrangements, and the group does just about the right amount of borrowing themes from the first Mindcrime to provide continuity without giving you the feeling that they're just recycling old material.
Geoff Tate still has a large vocal range and distinctive style, and he is in good voice as an older-and-wiser Nikki. Stepping into the role of Dr. X is no other than Ronnie James Dio, and the interplay between Dio and Tate in "The Chase" is one of the highlights of the album. Pamela Moore reprises her role as Sister Mary (wait, didn't she get killed off the last time around?) and adds an edgy and soulful counterpoint to Tate on several tracks.
If there are any weaknesses with Mindcrime II, it would be that the energy level drops toward the end of the album. Also, although the final song, "All the Promises," does a good job wrapping up the album lyrically, it is not as effective a closer musically as the anthemic "Eyes of a Stranger" from the first Mindcrime. Nevertheless, with OM II, Queenryche beat most expectations in delivering a satisfying return to the scene of the Mindcrime. -- Chris Allen
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