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Source Material: Queensryche, Operation: Mindcrime

by Chuck Eddy

Source Material: Queensryche, Operation: Mindcrime


Queensryche's Operation: Mindcrime occupies a singular niche in the history of heavy metal. In 1988 — at the outset of that strange little window between the MTV reigns of hair metal and grunge — a band who on its previous album had totally looked like new-romantic fops decides to trade in the cross-dressing for deep thinking. So they make a complicated, convoluted concept album about, well, all sorts of important stuff, but the sinister side effects of changing technology (almost a decade before OK Computer by their fellow Pink Floyd fans Radiohead) certainly figures in big-time. As, apparently, do conspiracies of the wealthy, brain control, prostitutes disguised as nuns, and revolutionaries setting fire to the White House.

Queensryche presented themselves as too brainy to be a hair band, but they could sorta pass as one, even though they were also weighty and pompous enough to pass muster as real metal for non-false headbangers. And they also came from Seattle, which -- as we'd soon learn -- made them almost alternative by definition. They had all the bases covered!

Metal critics immediately fell for the album. In 1989, Kerrang named it metal's 34th best ever. And though with 1990's Empire, Queensyrche would wind up with an actual Top 10 album, Mindcrime remained their masterwork whose legacy refuses to die -- eventually inspiring, in 2006, both an expanded deluxe box set version and a sequel called Operation: Mindcrime II, co-starring Ronnie James Dio. There's long been mind-boggling talk of film and Broadway adaptations, as well. So it's only appropriate to explore what previous music might have inspired Queensyrche's minds in the first place. Below, a few educated guesses.