Seattle quintet Queensryche has always stood apart from other heavy metal bands through their artful progressive bent and intense observations on the world around them. With their third album, 1988's Grammy-nominated and critically acclaimed Operation: Mindcrime-a concept opus born out of Reagan-era disilllusionment-Queensryche transcended the metal label and sealed their reputation for cerebral music and heady lyrical vision. Set 20 years later, and awash in "rock, revenge, and redemption," this brilliant new sequel was inspired by current political and social climates. Rhino. 2006.
Queensrÿche's sequel to the classic 1998 concept piece Operation: Mindcrime
is not as good as the original. Mindcrime II
lacks the sense of sweeping cinematic awe found on the original and although the quintet has managed to create an album that's equal to or above any studio outing it's done in recent years, there's nothing here that will bolster the band back to its former glory. A distinct lack of standout songs is perhaps the greatest problem. "Revolution Calling," "I Don't Believe In Love," and "Speak" became Queensrÿche classics not because they were part of the grand concept found on O:M,
but because they could be drawn out and held up as fine examples of writing that probed the corrupt spirit of the age. O:M
bled heavy truths from its deepest grooves.
Those familiar with the concept from the first album should note that this second installment focuses on protagonist Nikki and his desire to exact revenge on the corrupt Doctor X, making for a more insular narrative. That's a problem because one of the great thrills of the original Mindcrime was the scope of its scorn; here, the band never reaches beyond the confines of the world it created for this updated fantasy. The urgency that emanated from the earlier affair hasn't become muted, it has simply faded.
Yet, this new record's better than you might first believe and proves difficult to fully dismiss. In the 18 years since the original installment the band has become leaner, often more exacting, possessing a confidence that was less pronounced on earlier recordings. Scott Rockenfield's drumming has grown more interesting with time and the years have done little to lessen vocalist Geoff Tate's multi-octave expertise. The dual guitar attack of Michael Wilton and Mike Stone lacks the depth that the classic Wilton/Chris DeGarmo pairing had, but it proves enamoring on tracks such as "The Chase" (featuring a surprisingly pallid-sounding Ronnie James Dio), the swaggering "Junkie's Blues," and the near return-to-form "Fear City Slide."
No matter its strengths, O:M II ultimately reinforces the idea that while Queensrÿche's greatest moments may still lie ahead, the prospects of that being true become increasingly scant with each passing record. A decent enough stab at rekindling old glory that fails with admirable flair. --Jedd Beaudoin