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Operation: Mindcrime

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  • An immense pleasure I am now experiencing while listening to Queensryche’s stunning “Operation: Mindcrime”, coupled with the surprisingly small number of reviews here have urged me to put digit to keyboard and wax poetic about this incredibly emotive sonic masterpiece. Sadly, this masterwork may have been overshadowed on one side by the predictable poses of the popular “80’s hair metal bands”, and the technically brilliant yet sometimes emotionally chilly “thrash” of the late 80’s; yet Queensryche nevertheless garnered much critical praise and expansion of their core following with a cohesive work that delights on many levels of lyric, melody, and emotional resonance. And today, nearly 15 years after its original release, Mindcrime continues to evoke a passionate listening experience through its well-written compositions of sheer power and emotional catharsis.The core Queensryche “sound” finds its influence in a diverse blend of rock idioms, from the expertly performed art and progressive rock circles to the edgy and incisive sounds of punk rock rebellion. Blend in a pinch of theatrical classic rock in the vein of The Who’s “Quadrophenia” and Pink Floyd’s “The Wall”, and the listener has transcended the run of the mill, stagnant musical forms that occupy a good deal of the record store bins and radio station playlists. Yet Queensryche manages to defy the conveniences of category, presenting an arsenal of sounds and moods that frankly put many of their contemporaries to shame. The vocals of Geoff Tate are inspired and sincere, unlocking the deepest emotional meaning in the passionate lyrics — If Nero carelessly played his fiddle while Rome burned, Geoff Tate is employing his stunningly melodic vocal gift to inspire the fiery insurgency! And what an insurgency it is, with Mr. Tate relating how the mechanized culture of greed and media manipulation “spread the disease” during Mindcrime’s socio-political themed first half, while exposing deepest torment of the soul and it’s heart-wrenching sadness on the album’s latter half, affording us a look through the eyes of a lost stranger who through tragedy no longer believes in love. Noteworthy songs such as “Speak”, “Spreading The Disease” (with a heart-stopping middle break that positively tears asunder the greed and hypocrisy of the dominant 1980’s political culture), “The Mission” and “Eyes Of A Stranger” showcase Tate’s limitless vocal range and keen ability to locate the melodic heart of a lyric through his vocals. Suffice it to say that Operation Mindcrime features brilliance not only in the technque of Geoff Tate’s voice, but also in the songwriting of the “Tri-Ryche” trio of Tate and guitarists extraordinaire Chris DeGarmo and Michael Wilton. Virtuosos Wilton and DeGarmo unleash pummeling power chords, lilting arpeggios, and soaring solos as if their very lives depended on it, forging a sound that grips the listener and fits like a silken hand inside the velvet glove of Tate’s vocals. The fullness and clarity of sound on this 22-bit remaster reveals the excellent rhythm guitar tracks that form the bedrock for technically and melodically gifted solos galore (a common complaint about 80’s metal “shredders” is that they lacked in the rhythm department — definitely not so with the ‘Ryche!) The depth of the layers of melody here are cemented by a persistently rumbling bass courtesy of Eddie Jackson (brilliantly exemplified in the album’s title track), an ever-audible bass that adds a rhythmic foundation to the symphony of guitars (how many 80’s rock albums are marred by a nearly invisible bass? Again, not on Operation: Mindcrime!). Rounding out the rhythm section is drummer Scott Rockenfield’s cymbal crashes and fiery snare work, a combined assault that not only provides a rhythmic pulse but also a melodic compliment with a fine employment of the ride and hi-hat cymbals.Nearly 16 years after it’s initial release (and about 15 since I first listened), Operation: Mindcrime continues to fascinate, perhaps more than ever on this sonically enhanced, remastered edition. Countless trends have come and gone, but art in its most sincere form is able to defy the fickle tastes of those who listen merely for the “hot new sound” or the latest fashion trend shrewdly marketed through the vehicle of a “musical” group. An album that inspires on so many levels (I find myself concurrently singing, air drumming and strumming, and dancing about in sheer abandon in my living room as I listen … not to mention pondering the deeper lyrical meanings!), I offer the highest recommendation possible to Operation: Mindcrime, an album that any lover of music can appreciate for it’s thought-provoking sound, charging forward through the centuries to bare it’s fierce and fiery musical soul to all who venture to listen.

    Posted on February 12, 2010