This was inevitable. In 2006, Seattle's proto-'80s and '90s metal rockers Queensrÿche released a sequel to their critical and commercial classic Operation: Mindcrime, entitled, appropriately enough, Operation: Mindcrime II, recorded by using the same technology they'd used to do the original in 1988. Far from being cheesy, the experiment worked: the story picked up where the original left off, with Nikki out of prison and seeking revenge for the killing of his beloved former prostitute turned nun, Sister Mary. There were screaming guitars, Geoff Tate's disciplined roaring vocals filled with drama and conviction, and a guest spot by Ronnie James Dio as Dr. X. During the same year, the band brought both volumes -- i.e., the entire saga -- out to the Moore Theater in Seattle for three nights and recorded everything with a slew of guests, and the results cover the two discs here. Pamela Moore returned as Sister Mary, and the host of backing vocalists as the jury include Miranda and Susan Tate. The other big surprise is the inclusion of the entire Seattle Seahawks drumline! The recording is pristine and flawless, the performance is truly inspired, and the interaction with the audience pushes the energy level over the top. It is pointless to go into this track by track. The reason? This is the true culmination of a rock & roll classic that gives the name "heavy metal" a great name. Guitarist Mike Stone, who joined the band as a permanent member in 2005, is fully integrated with his counterpart, guitarist Michael Wilton. The rhythm section, both original members in bassist Eddie Jackson and drummer Scott Rockenfield, simply gels and pushes Tate to the very height of his ability as a lead vocalist.
The drama in this set, which is nearly three hours long, is all there -- especially given the fact that people in the U.S. are faced with living in a country at war and a media perception of their government trying Draconian measures in their dealings with prisoners, and in matters of secrecy. The rage, dynamic, texture, and sheer professionalism on display here actually serve to bring that home -- all one needs to do is listen to the crowd in all the poignant moments. This is theater at its best; it takes a particularly creative and disciplined band to pull off any concept record, an enduringly creative group to pull off two of them some 18 years apart, and a band that transcends its era -- the '80s in Queensrÿche's case -- to be able to present that material as relevant, immediate, and urgent in a new epoch. In rock, those trends change every year or two. That Queensrÿche can maintain their identity and remain a vitally important and driven heavy metal band in the 21st century is accomplishment enough; that they can perform this work so passionately and convincingly, and with such focus -- by making the familiar sound new -- is the mark of legend. This is the way to send the Operation: Mindcrime epic off into rock & roll history -- even if nobody quite gets that for another 20 years -- in one's hometown in front of the audience that made you. This is the definitive end to Mindcrime, and no one would blame Queensrÿche if they called it a day after this. That said, it seems by the energy and ideas at work in this collective that their resurrection and closing of Mindcrime may indeed be the beginning of a whole new creative era for them as a band. We can hope.