Date: October 2008
Release Year: 1988, Wikipedia Link
How can you be a progressive music fan and do not love concept albums ? I believe the first one I heard was the legendary The Wall, and I remember being quite amused about how the songs were linked to each other and how several key melodies/phrases were repeated throughout the album. I had listened to quite a lot of concept albums since then, and I maintain my personal list for top concept albums of all time like anybody else. If I had to choose a single best concept album based on musical delivery and arrangements of the songs, I would easily choose Dream Theater’s Scenes From A Memory. However if the criteria is the amount of emotions that the band conveys to the listener, it would be a close tie between this album and Marillion’s Brave. Without the shadow of a doubt, Operation Mindcrime is a pinnacle in progressive metal music and the peak of Queensrÿche’s discography.
I guess it is kind a pointless to discuss the concept of the album, which had already been analyzed to death over the years. To cut it short, main power of the story lies in how it intervenes a love story within an anti-government propaganda. There are a variety of feelings and themes scattered throughout the album, and I think this is why everybody ends up having a different favorite track. On the one hand, we have very powerful anti-capitalist anthems like “Revolution Calling” and “Speak”, and on the other hand we have sorrowful love songs like “I Don’t Believe in Love” and “Breaking The Silence”. My personal favorites are the songs that deal with inner conflicts of the main character; such as “The Mission” and “Eyes of A Stranger”. Actually, the latter is one of my all time favorite tracks.
Instrumentally, every member of the band is at the peak of their performance. In particular Tate’s vocals steal the show. His pitch is in the super-high range most of the time, yet somehow he successes in conveying emotions ranging from love, anger, rage and regret. To be honest, I can’t recall many albums where the technicality of the vocals match the emotional delivery at this level. If there is anything such as “legendary vocal performance” this album definitely has it. The rest of the band rocks as well; especially De Garmo lays down a number of memorable guitar solos that compliment the emotional delivery of Tate’s vocals.
I would like to conclude with a personal anecdote about the album. I first listened to it when I was going to high school and my English was at the beginner level. Naturally I didn’t understand most of the lyrics. However, just hearing the instruments and the emotion in Tate’s voice, I was able to imagine a version of the story in my head. When I finally learned the true plot of the album, I was totally shocked at how similar it was to the version I had in my head. You know how good a concept album is, when you can feel the story even without understanding the lyrics.
Definitive Moments: Wow there are simply too many… The chorus of “Revolution Calling”, Bass riffs in the title track, Lead guitars of “Speak”, the amazing vocals in the chorus of “Spreading The Disease”, spoken parts of the same track. The emotional delivery in “The Mission” is simply stunning, definitely one of Tate’s best. The duet between Moore and Tate in “Suite Sister Mary”. And finally, the whole “Eyes of A Stranger”.. It closes the album with so much power and epicness, you end up wanting more.