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