When we’re talking about Progressive Metal, our minds elaborate on very specific bands – landmarks for the genre; Fates Warning, Dream Theater and in this case Queensrÿche, among others. As the record celebrates its 35th birthday this year, I took the liberty and gathered some thoughts about their most successful album, “Operation: Mindcrime”, an album that put Queensrÿche in one of the most prominent positions among the pantheon of Progressive Metal bands.

We could say that Queensrÿche marched along with the formation and the development of the Progressive Metal genre, and if we were to speak even more boldly, Queensrÿche and Prog Metal went actually hand in hand, affecting each other as interdependent and integral parts of one another. While the burst of this specific genre began in the mid-80s, when Queensrÿche released “The Warning” and “Rage For Order”, the real growth – horizontally and vertically – for Prog Metal came at the end of that decade, when Queensrÿche released “Operation: Mindcrime”, a album that has been described by many as one of the greatest concept albums of all time.

“Operation: Mindcrime” is the third full-length album of the Americans and was originally released on May 3rd, 1988. The album is consisted of and actually refines all of the (most) classic parts of Prog Metal. In almost every piece we find the blending of traditional Heavy Metal structures with the peculiarity of the Progressive Rock forms, making the final result sound more “offensive” and aggressive than the Heavy Metal sounds we were accustomed to, while adorning it with a “pseudo-classical” experimental character, with the most typical example of that being is the extraordinary track “Suite Sister Mary”. The need to demonstrate the extreme technical ability of the band’s musicians, often utilizing unorthodox harmonies and intricate rhythms with frequent changes in measures and intense sudden interruptions to seemingly harmonious harmonies is/was probably the band’s main goal.

I Don’t Believe In Love

Aside from the particularity of its musical element and orientation, “Operation: Mindcrime” is surprising for yet another reason, as it is essentially a concept album with the expanded sense of Rock Opera as the notorious band Queen had introduced it with “A Night At The Opera ” in 1975.

The story follows Nikki, a recovering drug-addict who, while recovering, is increasingly frustrated by the collapse of our society, and decides to join a “revolutionary” movement as an executioner of political figures. More specifically, the album opens with our protagonist Nikki in the hospital, in a nearly catatonic state and with a memory loss, when he is suddenly overwhelmed by memories of the past, in which he remembers being a heroin addict. His revolutionary tendencies and the easily manipulation of his mind due to his addictions led him to become a member of a secret organization (“Anarchy — X”, “Revolution Calling”). The head of this “cult” known as Dr X plays with Nikki’s mind. He manipulates Nikki through a combination of heroin addiction techniques and brainwashing to become a murderer. Whenever Dr X uses the word “Mindcrime”, Nikki becomes his obedient puppet, doing whatever the Dr wants him to do (“Operation: Mindcrime”). As Dr X’s position in the organization grows, so does Nikki, clinging to the vision of his master (“Speak”). Through one of Dr. X’s associates, a corrupt priest named Father William, Nikki is offered the services of a child 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 he is an addict, and that he is the one who can provide him with his daily fix (“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 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 recognise who he is and what he has become (“Eyes of a Stranger”).

Eyes Of A Stranger

** The completion of our story came as a sequel entitled “Operation: Mindcrime II” in April 2006, with Ronnie James Dio taking over the role of Dr X. The ensuing tour included the full presentation of both albums back – to – back, with actors, stage sets and a huge screen. On this tour, they also presented Mary’s death for the first time.

In January 1989, the album reached number 34 on Kerrang Magazine’s “100 Greatest Heavy Metal Discs of All Time” list, and in the 67th for Rolling Stone magazine. The album was certified “Gold” by the RIAA. The honorary “Platinum” certification came in 1991.

During the 1990 tour of “Empire”, Queensrÿche presented “Operation: Mindcrime” in its entirety. During the presentation, the band used videos, animations as well as Pamela Moore as a guest in the role of Sister Mary. The show was released on videotape as well as on CD to provide both a visual and audio experience as a boxset, entitled “Operation: Livecrime”.

The success of “Operation: Mindcrime” has been undoubtedly huge since the first days of its release. Highlights of the praise from fans and the press centered around the band’s technical skills, Geoff Tate’s vocal performance, the interesting storytelling and Peter Collins’ production. On point, don’t you think? This album continues to provide excitement and has subsequently influenced those who wanted to devote themselves to this particular genre of music.