Revisiting a Life of Crime
In 1988, a relatively
obscure progressive metal band from Seattle called Queensrÿche released
Operation: Mindcrime, a monumental concept album immediately compared to Pink
Floyds The Wall, The Whos Quadrophenia, and Rushs 2112.
commercial and critical success launched the quintet into the forefront of artistic
metal and the bands mainstream popularity culminated in the ubiquitous
hit from the Empire record, Silent Lucidity. After nearly two decades,
the band decided to revisit the story that put them on the musical map.
To complete an idea after an 18-year hiatus could be challenging on a number
of levels. Geoff Tate, Queensrÿches lead vocalist and primary songwriter,
was conscious of trying to reclaim the original mood of the first Mindcrime,
but reveals that the second act has a different theme. He explains, I
wrote a story and then out of the storyline, realized certain subjects that
I wanted to write about. Mostly the record is about a study of revenge: what
that does to the character in the story, Nikki, who is jailed for 20 years.
He sits in that prison and just stews on his life. He thinks about the path
he could have taken in a different direction. The more he thinks about it, the
more angry he gets and the more focused he gets on exacting revenge for his
Once Tate had a story outline in place, the band labored for 18 months in creating
the appropriate music for the epic tale. He recalls, We wanted the listener
to be able to listen to them [the Mindcrime CDs] and have a familiar experience
because the music is really the engine of the story. We wanted that feeling
to be somewhat familiar to the audience so they felt they were coming back into
the story with the second part. We took musical themes from the first one and
wove them into the second. We followed a very similar way of writing and recording
this record as the first one.
After writing the material, another daunting task was to recreate the atmosphere
and tone of the first installment. Since recording technology had changed radically
in the time since the original Mindcrime, Tate admits that the band made tremendous
effort to study the equipment and recording techniques of the original CD. He
elaborates, Jason Slater [Operation: Mindcrime IIs producer] spent
a lot of time analyzing the first Mindcrime. We actually went and got the master
tapes and listened to them in the studio track by track to hear how things were
recorded. One thing about the original Mindcrime is that it was one of the first
digital recordings ever issued on a major label. It was the infancy of digital
recording. In fact, when we recorded the album and the label heard it, they
made us remaster it because it was too harsh to their ears because everyone
had grown up on analog tape recording, which is a much softer, mellow kind of
sound. The digital recording was considered brittle and harsh and nobody could
listen to it (laughs). Jason Slater and I listened to the master tapes and went
so far as to find a rental company that specializes in really old, antique recording
equipment. We rented a roomful of stuff that was state-of-the-art stuff back
in the late 80s. We brought that into the studio for this album and recorded
a lot of the album through that.
The climax of the albums conceptual storyline occurs when Nikki finally
locates and confronts the menacing Dr. X, whose character is performed on the
recording by Ronnie James Dio. The Chase opens aggressively with
a condescending Dr. X scorning Nikkis efforts to seek revenge. The interplay
between the two powerful vocalists perfectly captures the sound of a mentor
and protégé relationship because Dios and Tates voices
resemble a father and son violently arguing. When asked about the former Black
Sabbath singers participation, Tate beams, In my mind, the sound
of Dr. X was always Ronnies voice. He has this unusual, unique sound and
its very commanding. The character of Dr. X is very demanding and controlling.
Hes your elder and Ronnie is definitely one of the elder statesman and
pioneers of metal. I was very pleased and honored when he agreed to be involved
in the project.
Sequels are often crass attempts at recapturing the financial rewards of a previous
success, but Queensrÿches Operation: Mindcrime II was clearly a labor
of love that completes the story arc of an astounding rock opera.
Operation: mindcrime II