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Queensrÿche - Operation: Mindcrime II
Release Date: April 4, 2006
Label: Rhino Records

Rating:
****
out of
*****

In 1988, Queensrÿche released their third full-length studio album, Operation: Mindcrime, an ambitious concept tale of sex, murder, drugs and politics that captured the imagination of heavy metal fans. Telling the story of Nikki, an aimless junkie, who is brainwashed by Dr. X, a shadowy figure bent on throwing the world into revolution by assassinating its leaders. Now, 18 years later, Queensrÿche has released the long-awaited sequel, the aptly titled Operation: Mindcrime II, which finds Nikki being released from prison and fixated on getting revenge against the manipulative Dr. X.

The original Mindcrime was a masterful bit of storytelling and songwriting combined with lyrical content that was as thought-provoking as it was crucial in moving the story along. Operation: Mindcrime II may revisit the original's characters but there's precious little of the epic feel of the first episode to be found here. That's not to say that Mindcrime II is a bad or misguided work. It's simply missing most of the elements that made the original such a monumental metal album.

Things get off to a great start with "I'm American", a song that finds the band revisiting the anti-Republican mindset that spawned the original album. It also shows Queensrÿche regrowing the testicles that they'd seemed to have lost on their last few albums. But as soon as the momentum builds, the mediocre "One Foot in Hell" derails things and the album never regains the almost cinematic quality that the first had acheived almost effortlessly.

The storyline's more narrowly focused interest in Nikki's quest for revenge doesn't give the songs the ability to make the grandiose observations that those found on the original album were allowed to do. The original Mindcrime featured songs that -- even when taken out of the context of the storyline -- made sense and conveyed a disillusioned attitude towards love, life, and the government. Mindcrime II's songs are more or less tied together and, other than "I'm American", don't fare so well on their own.

Together, though, the songs that are featured on Operation: Mindcrime II do tell a cohesive and interesting story and the musicianship on display is the strongest Queensrÿche has wheeled out since 1994's Promised Land, if not 1990's Empire. Geoff Tate's vocal abilities are still as superb as ever and most of the songs should work well in a live setting. Of particular note is a duet of sorts with Ronnie James Dio, playing the role of Dr. X, on "The Chase." Tate and Dio's vocal interplay is a particular highlight of the album.

Operation: Mindcrime II might not be the satisfying blast of intelligent, politically charged metal that I'd hoped it'd be but it is a solid album from a band that's been in need of a shot-in-the-arm for awhile. With the encouraging sales numbers Mindcrime II has been racking up, let's hope that Queensrÿche lets loose next time with a concept-free release that allows their creativity to shine as much as the original Mindcrime did in 1988.

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