What a saga! For years I’ve listened to my brother-in-law tell me how good these guys are. So when I saw Mindcrime II was up for review I jumped at the chance to hear for myself. And I must say that they do indeed rock and have something to say as well. I did my homework for this one, reaching into said brother-in-law’s CD collection for “research” material, so that I could get the whole effect of Operation: Mindcrime.
I began with Mindcrime I and gave it a solid listen, reading the lyrics as I bopped my head to the music, which rocks a little harder than the second album. Queensryche has also put out a box set of Mindcrime I to help aid the story along. The box comes with a complete lyrics book, a video of the live performance and a live CD. Very helpful for those new to Queensryche and just plain awesome for fans. I was taken into Queensryche’s world of drugs and sinister beings, as I followed our hero Nikki as he began to remember exactly how he came to be in a mental institution.
The story of Nikki, a junkie who becomes the puppet of Dr. X, doing his bidding and killing a good number of people along the way, is long and fascinating, so I’ve got to try to condense it here, so as not to go off on some tangent about politics and government crooks. Nikki has an epiphany about the wrongness of his actions after killing a prominent individual who was connected to his beloved Mary. He turns on Dr. X, but fails to stop him, which results in the death of Mary. Nikki winds up being captured and tried for his crimes, thus landing in the loony bin and bringing us to the beginning of…( drum roll please).
Operation: Mindcrime II stars off with “Freiheit Ouverture”, which sets the mood of the album with its slow, dark opening and killer strings section. From there we hear the release of Nikki and launch right in to the first full track on the album and one of its most rocking, “I’m American”. It is fuelled by killer guitar solos and Geoff Tates’ rapid-fire vocals, which hit hard in their portrayal of politicians and the government; there are some key lines that pretty much sum it all up. “If you voted for the man, you’re wasting your time. / He’s got his fingers dipped in everyone’s pie” sounds kind of familiar and recent, doesn’t it? Sorry moving on, I said I wouldn’t get into it.
We continue to follow Nikki on his personal mission of revenge. “One Foot In Hell” puts him back on the streets, where he further formulates his plan of attack against Dr.X. “Speed of Light” finds our hero pondering life and his current situation, with a nice little Led Zeppelin “Kashmir”-sounding guitar backdrop. This is also where he comes to the final solution for the good doctor, “Don’t Worry, I’ll Kill The Bastard”.
“Signs Say Go” jumps and pushes Nikki even closer to his target. The confrontation between the two takes place through the songs: “Re-arrange you”, “The Chase” and “Murderer?” “The Chase” is cool because of the dialog between Nikki and Dr.X. — very reminiscent of the scene in Batman where Joker and Batman argue over who “made” who. “Murderer?” has more awesome guitar work and Nikki, who has now overcome Dr.X, thinking over what he has just done.
Nikki continues to struggle and confront himself, falling back into “A Junkie’s Blues”, thinking about the women he loved and who is waiting for him on the other side of the dawn in the dark halls and passages of his mind. “Fear City Slide” and “All The Promises” deal with Nikki contemplating suicide and reflecting more on the love he has lost. Here is where I get kind of lost. One can interpret the end in a few different ways, but I feel that Nikki offed himself; the way he talks of love and how he felt in the presence of his loved one, Mary. It seems he had nothing else to live for and how would he spend the rest of his days anyway? That’s unless he disappears and becomes some kind of odd junkie figure of justice or a hit man of some sort, perhaps the new junkie version of “The Foolkiller”.
Here is where you decide and take from the story what you will; what did you yourself bring to the lyrics and take from them? Hopefully, people can see this entire concept as more than just heavy guitar-driven albums. Don’t get me wrong, this band and the Mindcrime albums are solid rockers which help, but the lyrics are passionate and meaningful. The first Mindcrime has more political lyrics that still ring true and make just as much sense today as they did in the Reagan era; take a look around and you’ll see truth in them. The same truth is found in Mindcrime II, except in this one we deal more with love and the consequences of our actions. Each album stands alone, yet played together you get the full effect and can visualize the story more clearly.
So all in all, Queensryche’s Operation: Mindcrime II, go get it. If you don’t have the first one, get that too, listen to it and hold on for the ride it takes you on. For fans, part two should deliver what you’ve been waiting all these years to hear. And while you’re shopping, look for Fear Factory’s Obsolete. It should be right up your alley. It too contains a good look at an Orwell/Huxley-esque world with heavy guitars.
Written by Fantasma el Rey