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.