Shafty points his HATE CANNON at Queensryche's latest offering: Operation Mindcrime 2!
Holy crap, a Pluh.com content update! Do you think that the timing of this update has anything to do with the fact that Psychostick is playing in Houston on Friday night? And because--if I don't have anything to show for my time while they've been gone, Rawrb will kick the ever-loving crap out of me? Well, yes---err, I mean, NO! I'M JUST DOING MY JOB. I LIKE CREATING NEW CONTENT FOR ALL OF YOU PLEBE---ERR, VALUED PLUH.COMRADES!
Where to start? Well, to properly review Operation Mindcrime 2 ("OM2"), I probably need to assure myself that you have at least some familiarity with the awesomeness that was Operation Mindcrime 1 ("OM1"). This was my first Queensryche ("QR") album, although I became such a fanatic that I went back and bought everything that had been released before. Some of which was very doggy, indeed. If you can find one of QR's old music videos online (such as "Queen of the Ryche," from their self-titled EP), or happen to run across it on VH1's Metal Mania or whatever, freaking watch it. Pure comedic gold. I mean, check out one of their old photos:
Yeah, so they went through a few "stages" in their musical development. They wholly subscribed to the "we have to have a visual theme where we all sort of dress and look alike" thing. That sort of lasted more than a few albums: the EP (did I mention that you need to check out their "Queen of the Ryche" video yet?), the first full-length album (The Warning) and, finally, their coup-de-grace of costumed silliness, Rage for Order. (I think, but I'm not sure, that the white frosting in drummer Scott Rockenfield's--seated--hair means that this was a Rage for Order era photo.)
Not that the music on the early albums wasn't great; much of it was, especially when considered in the context of everything else that was being released at about the same time. I'm still guilty of occasionally finding the time to listen to one of their old albums, even if they haven't exactly aged well.
Operation Mindcrime, though--that was different. The band's growth from Rage for Order to OM1 is pretty much off the charts, both visually and musically. It no longer seemed about maintaining a visual image as it did about creating amazing music. OM1, like The Who's Tommy, was a "rock opera," an album in which the songs fit together to tell a story. Nevermind that the plot of the "story" wasn't much better than a B-rate movie from the same decade: druggie junkie ("Nikki") becomes disillusioned with American politics and government, gets brainwashed, carries out political assassinations, meets a prostitute-turned-nun, discovers that the former prostitute has a heart of gold (she reaches a similar conclusion about Nikki despite his rough exterior), etc. She dies, he freaks out, gets arrested, ultimately gets imprisoned for his crimes, etc., etc. The story actually left open-ended one hotly-debated question: Who killed the prostitute (Sister Mary)? Supposedly, that question was to be answered by OM2. (The first of many unfulfilled hopes, it would turn out.)
Anyway, one of the amazing qualities about OM1 was that--although it was a rock opera--each of the songs could basically be lifted from the rest of the others, and enjoyed on an individual level. The songs were that good, and most QR fans consider OM1 to be their best offering ever. Although each fan will probably offer a different opinion, the high point of that album was--for me--the incredible haunting duet "Suite Sister Mary," which topped out at something like 10:31 or so in length and featured a spooky choir singing in Latin in the background. I used to love to turn out the lights and crank that song as loud as my parents would allow, particularly when the rain was pouring outside. Oops, TMI. Anyway...
It's not that OM2 is totally without value. It's just that, in the eighteen years since OM1, the band got... well, they got old. The whole enterprise almost smacks more of their desire to appeal to some of their earlier listeners, as their past three albums (Hear in the Now Frontier, Q2K, and Tribe) have pretty much been commercial and critical bombs. Surely they aren't just selling out, right? Right? The plot finds Nikki just released from an eighteen-year incarceration, still disenchanted with politics but looking forward to a fresh lease on life. He ultimately decides that he needs to take revenge on Dr. X, the fellow responsible for having brainwashing him into doing evil deeds. The first half of the album seems to belabor the task of his chasing after Dr. X.
I have to admit, my opinions of OM2 were not very high after hearing what passed for the first two "songs" on the album: "I'm American," and "One Foot in Hell." My first conclusion: pure anachronisms. Seriously, guys--just because the story is supposed to pick up from an album from eighteen years ago doesn't mean that the songs have to sound like they were written eighteen years ago. Both also seemed like their only purpose was to advance the storyline. Seriously, if the best you can offer is two songs right out of the mid-80s, just use some weak in-between song "filler" to recount the plot, rather than subject us to that crap.
But I actually found myself enjoying all of the next six songs. One ("Speed of Light") actually strongly reminded me of a great B-side they released during the Empire days entitled "Last Night in Paris." The first half of the album culminates in a freaking cool duet ("The Chase") between Geoff Tate and F__KING RONNIE JAMES DIO!!! Seriously, how cool is that? Dio plays the role of the villain--Dr. X--and pulls off the role beautifully. Despite my reservations with much of this album, "The Chase" is just damn cool. Plotwise, this takes us up to Nikki's confronting Dr. X
Unfortunately, "The Chase" is pretty much where the positives of OM2 end. Other than "If I Could Change It All," I thought that the rest of the songs weren't really much more than just filler material to justify the $15.98 price tag or whatever. Plotwise, Nikki finds himself unable to pull the trigger on Dr. X, and spends the rest of the damn album fretting about it. Mary (well, presumably, Ghost/Hallucination Mary) comes back to taunt him for awhile--thanks a lot, lady; like I need this right now--leading Nikki to contemplate suicide but, hell, he can't really accomplish that either. For those of you who might be inclined to complain about the fact that I spoiled pretty much the whole plot... BEWARE. THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS. There, is that better?
Whatever nostalgic goodwill the first half of the album had built up is completely freaking squandered by the concluding song, "All the Promise." Basically, Nikki and Mary sing about how happy they really were before everything got ruined, but they didn't realize how great they had things, etc. It's a cheesy, sappy piece of crap. What's most disturbing is the contrast between the suckiness of OM2's "All the Promise" with the last song on its predecessor: "Eyes of a Stranger." OM1 had concluded with a bang. OM2? I wouldn't know; I had to turn the song off halfway through. With lyrics like:
We had it all, but couldn't see it...
When you said you loved me, it made me feel like I could fly...
Really, who could blame me for turning off this drivel?
If the album reveals who killed Sister Mary, I guess I missed it. *shrugs* I guess I just don't care that much to search through the lyrics page to find the answer. Isn't that a sad commentary? This was supposed to be the reason to buy the album, right?
|Sound/Production||They couldn't find a way how to mix/master out the crappiness.||3.5|
|Presentation||Pretty much re-hashed.||3|
|Originality||How can an album sequel be original?||2|
|Songwriting||Mixed at best. LOVE the Tate/Dio duo.||3.5|
|Deathy/Heavyness||Ehh... "deathy" isn't really Queensryche's bag these days.||2|
|Dashed Hopes||So much potential... THUD.||-5|
|Final Verdict: 1.5|