The lyrics and sound effects on the album tell the story of the protagonist Nikki from the first Operation:Mindcrime album 18 years later, after having being released from prison. They discuss the state of the country now (modernizing `Revolution Calling’), how he fails to adjust to life outside prison, his decision to get revenge and his feelings for the late Sister Mary. It may sound like a cheesy or silly story to an outsider but it is actually remarkably tasteful, intelligent and well done.
It is easy to be cynical about this record. A lot of people feel that it should never have been made and that following up on a beloved classic album is a bad idea. Some things just don’t need sequels after all. It is also easy to be cynical about it when considering it was an oasis in the sea of diminishing returns that bucked the trend of reduced sales for the band.
Considering that the album actually was made however, and judging it on its own merits and not just on the idea of its existence, I feel that Operation:Mindcrime II is not only better than the last few Queensrÿche albums which preceded it, but also a damn good album, straight up. Its not as if it is just good for a late-era Queensrÿche album, it is a good album with no caveat.
Musically, the album is very strong indeed. It isn’t just a rehashing of the original with new lyrics or an unnecessary re-recording of old songs. There are tasteful nods here and there, such as choral chants reminiscent of `Suite Sister Mary’ and similar dialogue/sound effects segments, but so much more as well. The direction of the album is varied, mixing Alternative moments (`The Hostage’ `Speed Of Light’) Metal moments (`Murderer?’ `Sign Says Go’ `The Chase’ `Fear City Slide’) and quiet moments (`Circles’ `If I Could Change It All’ `All The Promises’). The music is slightly arty and progressive but still relatively instant and accessible. The concept drives the album a lot, but still at least half of the tracks would work well as stand alone tracks.
There are interesting moments here and there where you think, “That would fit on Tribe” “That riff is a little reminiscent of Rage For Order” “That’s the fastest song they’ve written in four whole albums” or “Geoff hasn’t used that style since Promised Land.” It does a good job overall of taking bits and pieces from the band’s entire career and tying them together into a cohesive whole.
Importantly however, It would still be a good album even if it had most of the same music but no link to Mindcrime. It is admittedly especially good when little bits are reminiscent of the original Mindcrime album, such as when Pamela Moore sings as Sister Mary, but these elements are icing on the cake, rather than the only thing it has going for it like you may expect if you were feeling cynical.
The only problems I can find with the album are small niggles. It is slightly overlong and could have done with loosing two or three tracks so as to come across as a tighter affair, the mix could have been a bit sharper and a few more guitar solos wouldn’t have hurt.
Excluding those niggles however; I really, really like the album. I think it is the most varied, vital and energetic album they have made in a while, the songs are mostly memorable and entertaining and it just grabs me in a way their earlier work did and Q2K didn’t. Its a grower and the more you listen to it, the more you get out of it. Tracks like `The Chase’ featuring Ronnie James Dio, the single `I’m American’ and the ridiculously catchy rhythmic number `Murderer?’ are great and make the album a real worthy addition to your collection.
Overall, as long as you can get over the fact that the album has been made in the first place, as long as you don’t mind it containing parts of the styles of other less popular Queensrÿche albums too and not just totally sounding like Mindcrime, and as long as you can give it a fair enough chance to allow it to grow on you properly, then I absolutely and whole-heartedly recommend this album to you. I like it an awful lot.