This 1988 concept album is widely considered to be Queensrÿche's masterpiece. Before this, they were mildly popular within the section of the heavy metal universe that liked Iron Maiden-esque musical style and fantasy settings; Mindcrime was realistic enough to appeal to people not into "The Prophecy," melodic and emotional enough to appeal to the Poison fans, and both technically skilled and disenchanted enough to appeal to thrash metal fans (at this time when Metallica were too scary for hard rock radio). This album set the stage for the overplayed lullaby "Silent Lucidity" from Empire (as well as the preachiness of the track "Empire.") Frankly, never again would Queensrÿche hit the balance this well.

The band would expand upon the album with the home video Video: Mindcrime, which contained videos for ten of the fifteen tracks, and Operation: Livecrime, the live recording from the Empire tour when most of the album was played in concert. Livecrime seems to have added some more material in its libretto to bridge between tracks, but did not change the story of Nikki, Mary, and Dr. X. (ModernAngel said that the original album never gives Nikki a name. However, the liner notes to Operation: Livecrime do name him, and Skarn pointed out that the 'original album does indeed mention Nikki by name in the song Operation Mindcrime. "Hey Nikki, you know everything that there is to do."')

I Remember Now (1:17) -- The framing device from which the rest of the story is told in flashback. Atmosphere is given with intercom announcements paging doctors and then a bit from a news broadcast announcing that police have a suspect in the murders of several religious and political leaders under observation in a hospital. A hostile nurse gives the patient a shot and calls him a bastard under her breath; after she leaves we hear Nikki's ephiphany:

I remember now.
I remember how it started.
I don't remember yesterday.
I just remember doing what they told me.

Anarchy-X (1:27) -- An instrumental piece, leading into:

Revolution Calling (4:42) -- This is an introduction to Nikki and his ethics:

For a price I'd do about anything
Except pull the trigger
For that I'd need a pretty good cause
as well as his disillusionment with the government, the media, and the United States in general. He calls Dr. X "the man with the cure" and seems to be willing to heed his call to revolution.

Operation: Mindcrime (4:43) -- Dr. X speaks here, comparing Nikki's aimless and drug-addled past to the service he can do for the "underground revolution" as a "one-man death machine."

I know you won't refuse
Because we've got so much to do
And you've go nothing more to lose
So take this number and welcome to
Operation: Mindcrime

Speak (3:42) -- Nikki embraces his new philosophy: "I'm the new messiah / Death angel with a gun," and preaches it in the streets:

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

Spreading the Disease (4:07) -- Nikki meets Mary, a nun who works for Dr. X and seems to be supplying Nikki with drugs to keep him under control. Her history reinforces Nikki's beliefs that "religion and sex are power plays."

Sixteen and on the run from home
Found a job in Times Square working live S&M shows ...
Father William saved her from the streets
She drank the lifeblood from the Savior's feet
She's Sister Mary now, with eyes as cold as ice
He takes her once a week on the altar like a sacrifice.

The Mission (5:46) -- And yet, Mary is also his means to forgiveness for the killing he's done and a love he feels is different from his other feelings:

Waiting for days longer
Till Sister comes to wash my sins away
She is the lady that will ease my sorrow
My love for her
Will help me find my way

Suite Sister Mary (10:41) -- This track (this side of the album for those formats) begins with Dr. X meeting Nikki and telling him they need to cover their tracks:

Dr. X: Kill her. That's all you have to do.
Nikki: Kill Mary?
Dr. X: She's a risk. And get the priest as well.
Nikki's mind is whirling -- his love and his cause at odds. Killing Father William is no problem: "I just watched him bleed." But his feelings about Mary are conflicted: "Just a whore for the underground" and "Your precious cross is gone, it made me wait so long / For what you gave to everyone else." This is the only track where Mary's voice is heard; she's disillusioned and not at ease with herself: "Don't turn your back on my disgrace / The blood of Christ can't heal my wounds." She has a vision of Nikki's face turning into that of Father William while they are having sex. Nikki decides to confront Dr. X and kill him to free himself and Mary.

The Needle Lies (3:08) -- The addiction continues--Nikki is crawling the back alleys, needing a fix, after telling Dr. X that he wants out of the movement. "Wet and raving, the needle keeps calling me back / To bloody my hands forever."

Electric Requiem (1:22) -- Nikki returns to the room where he left Mary, feeling beaten. He finds her body. "Even in death / You still look sad / Don't leave me."

Breaking the Silence (4:23) -- Nikki can't accept Mary's death and runs through the streets as if he could find her out there:

Breaking the silence of the night
Can't you hear me scream?
I look for your face in the neon light
You never answer me

I Don't Believe in Love (4:23) -- Nikki is arrested for this disorderly conduct, and the gun is found on him that matches the weapon used in previous murders. Interrogation can't get any sense out of him; he vaguely references covert operations and dead priests, but mostly talks about the failure of every attempt to make his life better and the attitude he wishes he could take: "I don't believe in love / I'll just pretend she never was real."

Waiting for 22 (1:05) -- Instrumental, setting the stage for:

My Empty Room (1:28) -- Nikki, alone in his room at the mental hospital, is haunted by his crimes and by the memory of Mary:

There's no sleep today, I can't pretend
When all my dreams are crimes
I can't stand facing them

Eyes of a Stranger (6:30) -- "All alone now / except for the memories," Nikki can't blot out the past, the vision of Mary with "your rosary wrapped around your throat," and has nothing to look forward to. The person in the mirror seems to be someone unfamiliar, and Nikki knows his future is either in this hospital or prison: "No happy endings like they always promised." It's also not a Hollywood ending: whether Dr. X killed Mary, she committed suicide, or what is never revealed, nor what Dr. X does now that his tool has been discovered (though Nikki's mental instability does make it seem that any attempt to incriminate Dr. X will probably not be believed). But for the audience, the song is a howl of emotion that even worked pretty well as a stand-alone single and MTV video.

The album ends where it begins, with Nikki's voice repeating: "I remember now."

Credits:

Sources:

  • Operation: Mindcrime album jacket
  • http://www.gerardio.com/queensryche-operation-livecrime.htm
  • http://wwwhome.cs.utwente.nl/~keulen/uk/queensrychelyrics.html
  • http://www.queensryche.com/discography/operation_mindcrime/mccredits.html
  • http://www.users.totalise.co.uk/~bigoleg/queensryche/om/reviews/k238.html
  • http://www.ram.org/music/reviews/queensryche.html
  • http://www.music-reviewer.com/10_01/queensryche.html

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