A Timeless Classic: 30 Years of Queensrÿche’s ‘Operation: Mindcrime’

The genre of heavy metal as we know it today, began to take shape in the 1970s and early ’80s, but one band that formed in 1982, took inspiration from their heroes and created something undoubtedly groundbreaking, is Queensrÿche. Their self-titled debut EP and the first two full-length releases ‘The Warning’ (’84) and ‘Rage For Order’ (’86) clearly showed what they were capable of. But they brought about a storm with their third album, ‘Operation: Mindcrime’, released on May 3 1988, exactly 30 years ago to this day. The world of heavy metal, and that of progressive metal, was never the same again. Obviously, a lot of praise has been heaped on this album over the past three decades and rightly so, but I still feel the need to once again stress the importance and sheer magnificence of what is and will always be one of the greatest metal albums of all time.

Queensrÿche circa 1988 – (L to R) Eddie Jackson, Chris DeGarmo, Geoff Tate, Scott Rockenfield & Michael Wilton

The concept behind ‘Operation: Mindcrime’ is well-documented, yet it still holds its own, three decades after the release of the album, and even after countless concept albums have surfaced. This is truly a concept album like no other, well ahead of its time in every manner imaginable. The marriage of traditional metal and concept-driven prog lends this one its timeless quality that still makes you raise your fist, sing along to every word, and sends a chill down your spine. From the moment you hit Play, ‘Operation: Mindcrime’ takes you in its own world, as if you were watching a thriller movie, except that the movie is only in your head.  Such is the power of this album.

As the album progresses and the story plays out, it only grips you tighter. A great album of the past is often perceived as the closest thing to a real-life time machine, but the pleasantly strange trait of ‘Operation: Mindcrime’ is that although its sonic nature is akin to that of its contemporaries, the storytelling and songwriting is so ahead of its time that it would not sound “dated” even if it were to be released today. The genius of the five gentlemen that comprised Queenrsÿche during this time cannot be overstated. While the band did go on to release many more studio albums and still does so in two different incarnations existing simultaneously, even they themselves cannot deny that this will go down in history as their most memorable piece of work.

The most striking aspect of the songwriting is the catchiness of the music that shines throughout, in spite of the dark concept. The album boasts not one but several songs that rapidly went on to become “hits” in the truest sense of the word. This is where most other subsequent concept albums fall short of ‘Operation: Mindcrime’, and by a vast margin at that. It is simply mindboggling to even think that the twenty-somethings in Queensrÿche managed to succeed in creating a greatest hits collection of brand new songs, all of which are strongly linked to an underlying story which is just as compelling and fascinating as the music itself.

At least for today, let’s forget that he stands apart from his then bandmates and is carrying on with his own moniker and version of the band, because what Geoff Tate did as a singer on this album was, is and will always be absolutely unmatchable, untouchable and unsurpassable (and coming from an Iron Maiden fanatic, you know this is a massive statement). Even the current singer of Queensrÿche would admit that, no questions asked. Hands down, the best vocal performance on a metal album, ever. If this singing voice does not induce goosebumps on your skin, probably no other will.

And let’s not forget, guitarist Chris DeGarmo was just as strong of a songwriting influence on this album as Tate himself, with fellow axeman Michael Wilton contributing on several songs as well. The rhythm section of Eddie Jackson and drummer Scott Rockenfield was also at its peak here.

In no uncertain terms, this will simply be one of those albums that people will never stop or get tired of listening to and talking about. Any mention of all-time great metal albums is incomplete without the inclusion of this one. Sometimes, only sometimes, human beings do or create things far beyond the norm and realm of expected possibility, and are deemed superhuman. Queensÿche’s ‘Operation: Mindcrime’ may well be one such man-made creation. Blast it loud, and feel 30 years of pure greatness blowing your mind.

– by Andrew Bansal

Track Listing:
01. I Remember Now (1:17)
02. Anarchy—X (1:27)
03. Revolution Calling (4:42)
04. Operation: Mindcrime (4:43)
05. Speak (3:42)
06. Spreading the Disease (4:07)
07. The Mission (5:45)
08. Suite Sister Mary (10:41)
09. The Needle Lies (3:08)
10. Electric Requiem (1:22)
11. Breaking the Silence (4:34)
12. I Don’t Believe in Love (4:23)
13. Waiting for 22 (1:05)
14. My Empty Room (1:25)
15. Eyes of a Stranger (6:39)

Total Duration: 59:02