Top 20 Albums #19: Operation Mindcrime

10 months ago | posted: 06-14-2023 5:53 AM

Queensryche's epic concept album "Operation Mindcrime" is often called a "Rock Opera" and fair enough. Lead singer Geoff Tate can be considered one of the best rock singers of the 1980's and arguably one of the best of all time. His vocal range is nearly four octaves and he can perform as a bass, baritone, and tenor. In "Mindcrime" as it was affectionately known by metalheads of the 1980's, was a cardio exercise worthy album that takes you through the story of the radical revolutionary and assassin Nikki as he tries to remember why he is locked down to a hospital bed by police.


The album was introduced to me by a skateboarding friend in 1990 when we were discussing the Megadeth "Rust in Peace" album while sitting on a curb in a parking lot in southern Louisiana. He mentioned that Queensryche was not like other bands. He told me there was a revolution coming and this album was a secret message to the revolutionaries. Not sure if this was an ingenious marketing ploy or a made-up story by sixteen-year-old skaters. Regardless of the story, he handed me his Walkman with the cassette tape in it. I put the headphones on my head and hit play.

This is the live version of the first song I heard.

I remember thinking, "what is this?!".


They've given me a mission

I don't really know the game yet

I'm bent on submission

Religion is to blame

I'm the new messiah

Death Angel with a gun

Dangerous in my silence

Deadly to my cause

Speak to me the pain you feel

Speak the word

The word is all of us

I've given my life to become what I am

To preach the new beginning

To make you understand

To reach some point of order

Utopia in mind, you've got to learn

To sacrifice, to leave what's now behind

Speak to me the pain you feel

Speak the word

The word is all of us

Speak the word

The word is all of us

Seven years of power

The corporation claw

The rich control the government, the media the law

To make some kind of difference

Then everyone must know

Eradicate the fascists, revolution will grow

The system we learn says we're equal under law

But the streets are reality, the weak and poor will fall

Let's tip the power balance and tear down their crown

Educate the masses, We'll burn the White House down

Speak to me the pain you feel

Speak to me the pain you feel

Speak the word The word is all of us

Speak the word The word is all of us

Speak the word

The word is all of us

Speak the Word

The word is all of us



In the Louder article published in 2020, Tate was reported saying,


"I wasn't part of their organization, but I was sorta guilty by association. I knew some people who were part of it all, and they talked a lot – especially over a few drinks. It's funny, when you're a musician people sometimes converse with you more freely than they would to other professions."


The organization is speculated to be the Militant Quebec Separatist movement. Despite the casual political dealings of Tate, it would inspire him to create one of the greatest metal albums in history.


Here is the Wiki excerpt that does a very good job of explaining the plot of the album,


"The album begins with the protagonist, Nikki, in a hospital. He lies in a near catatonic state, unable to remember anything but snippets from his past. Suddenly, Nikki's memories come flooding back in a torrent ('I Remember Now'). He remembers how, as a heroin addict and would-be political radical frustrated with contemporary society due to the economic inequality, corruption and hypocrisy around him, he was manipulated into joining a supposed secret organization dedicated to revolution ('Anarchy—X', "Revolution Calling"). At the head of this organization is a mysterious political and religious demagogue known only as Dr. X, who manipulates Nikki through a combination of his heroin addiction and brainwashing techniques to become an assassin. Whenever Dr. X uses the word 'mindcrime', Nikki becomes his docile puppet, a state which Dr. X uses to command Nikki to undertake any murder that the Doctor wishes ('Operation: Mindcrime')."


As his position within Dr. X's organization grows, so does Nikki's ego and adherence to his master's vision of the future ('Speak'). Through one of Dr. X's associates, a corrupt priest named Father William, Nikki is offered the services of a teenage prostitute-turned-nun named Sister Mary ('Spreading the Disease'). Through his friendship and growing affection toward Sister Mary, Nikki begins to question the nature of what he is doing, seeing that Dr. X has his own nefarious agenda ('The Mission'). Dr. X takes notice and, seeing a potential threat in Mary to his cult of personality, orders Nikki to kill both her and the priest. Nikki goes to Mary's church and kills the priest, but, after confronting Mary, he fails to comply with the command to murder her ('Suite Sister Mary'). He loves Mary and decides to leave the organization with her, so Nikki goes to Dr. X to tell him that they are out. Dr. X, however, reminds Nikki that the alternative is to go back to his bleak life as a self-loathing but helpless addict ('The Needle Lies'). Nikki leaves, conflicted and uncertain, and he returns to Mary only to find her dead ('Electric Requiem').


Nikki cannot cope with the loss, as well as the possibility that he himself may have killed her without knowing it (it was later revealed on the Mindcrime at the Moore DVD that Mary killed herself after Dr. X threatened to kill Nikki) and he begins to succumb to insanity. He runs through the streets calling her name ("Breaking the Silence"). The police arrive and attempt to subdue him. A gun is found on Nikki, and they take him into custody under suspicion of Mary's murder and the murders he committed for Dr. X ('I Don't Believe in Love'). Suffering from an almost complete loss of memory, Nikki is put into a mental hospital, where he retraces in his mind his last moments with Mary ('Waiting for 22', 'My Empty Room'). Back in the present in the hospital room at the beginning of the story Nikki has regained his memory, but now stares at his image in a mirror, unable to recognize who he is and what he has become ('Eyes of a Stranger')."


If you didn't grow up in the 1980s or were insulated from the evils of heavy metal (laughing as I type) you may be wondering who the hell is Queensryche. Watch this video of their biggest hit "Silent Lucidity".


Okay. If you have not heard this song before, exit stage left. "Silent Lucidity" was released in 1991 which seemed to be the end of the "Hair Band" era. Despite some bad 80's hair dos and chest hair revealing outfits, Queensryche was hardly a Hair Band. They could be considered a heavy metal band but really fit well in Progressive Metal.


At the time of Operation Mindcrime's release in 1988, there was only Dream Theater and Fates Warning. This is generally why Queensryche can be considered the founder or at least one of the founders of Progressive Heavy Metal. This is why it is interesting that they are not ranked higher on the charts for best metal bands of all time. Loudwire has ranked them 28th.


Ranker, which takes votes from visitors, currently shows them 30th. Okay. Maybe they shouldn't be in the top ten but they should be close to it.


If you have never listened to Queensryche or may have been more familiar with their Album "Empire" with popular hits like "Jet City Woman" and "Anybody Listening", I would recommend putting on some headphones and hitting play on the album "Operation Mindcrime".



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