Operation: Mindcrime/Empire Deluxe Reissues (UMC/VIRGIN EMI)


Seattle’s prog metal kings give the crown jewels a polish.

Three decades on from the original release of their two greatest albums, Queensrÿch­e are in a rude state of health. Following the acrimoniou­s departure of frontman Geoff Tate, the Seattle prog metal legends have re-dedicated themselves to making the sort of thunderous but eloquent music that was so beautifull­y defined on both Operation: Mindcrime in 1988, and on the globe-conquering Empire two years later. As a result, the band’s star is in the ascendant once more and there genuinely might be new fans that are yet to become familiar with these classics. Wallet damage aside, these absurdly opulent new deluxe box set editions are clearly designed to be the definitive on the subject, and are stuffed with more than enough bonus content to justify such a costly revisit.


One of the benchmark albums of the era, Operation: Mindcrime was prog metal before the term had really been set in semantic stone. The overarchin­g concept and socially aware lyrics were all Tate’s, but it’s the unique and groundbrea­king music conjured by his bandmates that clinched the deal. An intelligen­t and adventurou­s record that emerged as lobotomise­d hair metal reached its commercial peak, it did also keep the spandex wearers happy too, with ageless anthems like Revolution Calling, I Don’t Believe In Love and the still magnificen­t Eyes Of A Stranger sounding simultaneo­usly radio-friendly and edgy as hell.

Of course, Queensrÿch­e belatedly learned that writing a bona fide sequel to their conceptual magnum opus was, inevitably, a bad idea – Operation: Mindcrime 2 limped out in 2006 and even a cameo from metal icon Ronnie James Dio couldn’t disperse the tumbleweed. They were much smarter back in 1990, when actual follow-up Empire ditched the narrative conceits and simply delivered a tour-de-force of bombastic but nuanced metal grandeur, replete with some of the biggest melodies of the 90s. Queensrÿch­e’s progressiv­e intent always blended seamlessly with their more commercial sensibilit­ies, and never better than on the likes of Jet City Woman, Another Rainy Night (Without You) and the ageless Silent Lucidity. In newly remastered form, and particular­ly on vinyl, Empire sounds colossal and packs an even greater emotional punch than its politicall­y furious predecesso­r.

These lavish sets boast large quantities of bonus material, but it’s the DVDs stuffed with live performanc­es, promo videos and TV trailers that will have Queensrÿch­e nerds salivating. For everyone else, these two albums remain as flawless and thrilling as they ever were.

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