A Rock Opera by progressive metal band Queensrÿche, released in 1988, focusing on a drug-addicted street kid who, brainwashed by a charismatic demagogue, becomes the assassin for an underground revolutionary movement. The sequel, released in 2006, continues to follow him as he attempts to deal with the demons that have been haunting him.
The story explores such topics as governmental and religious hypocrisy, love and sex (and the differences between them), and personal responsibility for one's own actions and one's lot in life. All of this is placed in a believable, Next Sunday A.D.-esque world which is very overtly modeled on the sociopolitical climate of each album's time.
Warning! Spoilers ahead!
Nikki, just an urchin living under the streets, is fed up with what he sees as corruption and hypocrisy in every level of society. Fortunately for him (or so it seems), he comes across charismatic revolutionary leader Doctor X, who recruits Nikki to his cause. Nikki becomes a political assassin, murdering anyone who stands in Dr. X's way; but soon his conscience begins to torture him and he starts to doubt the cause he's fighting for. Then things get complicated.
Nikki is in love with Sister Mary, a prostitute-turned-nun, and decides to leave the revolution and clean up his life. But then it gets worse: Dr. X, for reasons all his own, orders Nikki to kill Mary. Nikki tries to comply, but his love for Mary prevails and he decides instead to confront Dr. X. However, Dr. X holds Nikki's heroin addiction over his head; Nikki is trapped.
And then it gets worse again: Nikki finds Mary dead. Police on the scene quickly arrest Nikki for the murder, but he insists he didn't do the deed... but if not, then who did?
The loss of Mary sends Nikki into a catatonic state, and he is committed to a mental institution.
A detailed synopsis and song-by-song analysis can be found here.
Note: Operation: Mindcrime is deliberately sparse on details of Mary's death, especially pertaining to the identity of her killer. The video compilation Video: Mindcrime included several possible interpretations; and a Queensrÿche concert show from the late 90s provided further extrapolation, while a 2004 concert show explained it outright; however, for purposes of this page, only the original album is being considered canon.
Operation: Mindcrime II
(Again, although efforts have been made to keep this summary spoiler-free, some factoids will inevitably slip through, so tread carefully.)
Nearly twenty years after being incarcerated at the end of OM1, Nikki is summarily released, with little or no attempt to help him integrate into civilian life. Naturally he finds himself on the wrong side of the law again, which only serves to fuel his still-extant hatred for the governmental authorities.
Ultimately, Nikki decides to confront and kill Dr. X, whom he continues to blame for all the problems that have plagued him his entire life. But will killing his nemesis really solve his problems, or bring Nikki any comfort over the loss of Mary?
- "I Remember Now" (1:17)
- "Anarchy-X" (1:27)
- "Revolution Calling" (4:42)
- "Operation: Mindcrime" (4:43)
- "Speak" (3:42)
- "Spreading the Disease" (4:07)
- "The Mission" (5:45)
- "Suite Sister Mary" (10:41)
- "The Needle Lies" (3:08)
- "Electric Requiem" (1:22)
- "Breaking the Silence" (4:34)
- "I Don't Believe in Love" (4:23)
- "Waiting for 22" (1:05)
- "My Empty Room" (1:25)
- "Eyes of a Stranger" (6:39)
Tropes of a Stranger:
- Anti-Hero/Anti-Villain: Nikki overall presumably qualifies as one or the other; he may have been an assassin, but he was motivated by a desire to cleanse a corrupt system and, to be fair, he was brainwashed into carrying out the assassinations.
- Author Tract: The lyrics are pretty explicit about identifying what the band sees as political problems (particularly income inequality, religious hypocrisy, and political corruption), but this will fall into Some Anvils Need to Be Dropped for listeners who are inclined to agree.
- Big Bad: Dr. X.
- Big "NO!": Used at the end of "Breaking the Silence" in OM1. Nikki is accused of her death by the voices in his head, causing him to scream this.
- Book-Ends: "I Remember Now" and "Eyes of a Stranger" both end with the phrase "I remember now".
- Call-Back: The precursor of OM1, Rage for Order ended with the song "I Will Remember". OM1 begins with "I Remember Now".
- Dark Messiah: Nikki recognizes himself as this in Speak
- Death by Sex: Shortly after consummating with Nikki (in OM1), Sister Mary dies.
- Did They or Didn't They?: There are differing opinions on whether Nikki and Sister Mary had sex regularly or only once, both sides holding up equally well under scrutiny.
- Downer Ending: At the end of OM1, Nikki pretty much loses his mind and has to live in the horrible memories of his past day after day. The end of OM2 could be considered bittersweet since Nikki and Mary meet in the afterlife.
- Dress Rehearsal Video: "Breaking the Silence".
- Driven to Suicide: Nikki in OM2.
- Drugs Are Bad: It's pretty unlikely anyone who listens to the album's lyrics will have any desire to try heroin after that, to put it mildly.
- The '80s provided the necessary socio-political backdrop for OM1.
- And the 2000s provide an appropriate setting for OM2.
- Expanded Universe: Many of the live performance of the albums use videos to expand upon the story.
- From Bad to Worse: Basically the whole story.
- Gender-Blender Name: Nikki.
- Government Conspiracy: Nikki blames this for society's woes, also roping in the media, religion and the upper class while he's at it.
- Grief Song: "I Don't Believe in Love". See Heroic BSoD right below.
- Heroic BSoD: Mary's death causes Nikki to almost completely shut down, as it would be later detailed in "I Don't Believe in Love".
- Hooker with a Heart of Gold: Mary was a prostitute before she became a nun.
- How We Got Here: OM1 is told in flashback form; we first meet Nikki in hospital as a background news broadcast fills us in on backstory; then, after Nikki's little monologue ("I remember now... I remember how it started..."), the instrumental "Anarchy-X" marks the transition into the flashback proper. (Similarly, the later instrumental "Waiting for 22" marks the transition out of the flashback.)
- Karma Houdini: Dr. X (until "The Chase" in OM2).
- Kill Em All: Regarding all the named cast. In OM1, Sister Mary is murdered ("Suite Sister Mary"); in OM2, Dr. X is killed by Nikki, ("The Chase") and Nikki commits suicide ("Fear City Slide"). To take it a step farther, the priest in OM1, an important though unnamed supporting character, is also killed by Nikki.
- Last Note Nightmare: "Eyes of a Stranger" on OM1 ends with a one-two punch: a heavily distorted, demonic voice screaming REVOLUTION! and a reprise of "I Remember Now".
- Longest Song Goes Last: Operation: Mindcrime II closes with "All The Promises" (5:10).
- Madness Montage: the coda to "Eyes of a Stranger".
- Manipulative Bastard: Dr. X, who uses More Than Mind Control on his minions.
- Morally Ambiguous Doctorate: Dr. X.
- More Than Mind Control: Dr. X uses a combination of heroin and hypnosis to control Nikki.
- Ominous Latin Chanting: Used in OM1 in "Suite Sister Mary". It also includes some Bilingual Bonus. Voiceless Latin chanting is also used when Nikki begins to break down in OM2.
- One-Word Title: "Speak".
- Protest Song: "Revolution Calling", "Speak", and "Spreading the Disease".
- Rebellious Spirit: Nikki.
- Religion Rant Song: Type 3, as the album attacks the corruption of religious officials in several places.
- Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: A street beggar living in a Crapsack World, wrongly accused of the murder of his girlfriend, and then wanting to confront the evil goverment head-on? Yeah, this is a very cynical work.
- Sinister Minister: Some of the songs mention a corrupt televangelist who sleeps with nuns.
- Something Blues: "A Junkie's Blues" on OM2.
- Stock Sound Effects: The "Dr. Blair, Dr. Blair, Dr. J. Hamilton, Dr. J. Hamilton" sample that appears in the album's intro and towards the end of the album can be heard all over the place in television shows. If there's a hospital scene, expect to hear it.
- Sword over Head: In OM2, Nikki holds Dr. X at gunpoint.
- Together in Death: The end of OM2 had Nikki's and Mary's spirits meeting up.
- Trigger Phrase: "Mindcrime..."
- Villain Protagonist: Nikki, at first.
- Villain Song: "Operation: Mindcrime" on OM1 is sung completely from Dr. X's perspective.
- "The Villain Sucks" Song: "The Needle Lies" on OM1. Refers both to Dr. X and to Nikki's drug addiction.