August 01, 1988 12:00 PM


Hard rock groups like KISS, Poison and Bon Jovi get by on the themes of wine, women and song (or some variation thereof). With heavy metal, believe it or not, there are usually more weighty matters going on in the lyrics. Fans expect their headbanger heroes to be saying something deep—or at least, deeply confusing. The charlatans like Ozzy Osbourne pass off a bunch of sanguinary mumbo jumbo. The best in the genre, like Metallica, try to put a substantial message in their demolition-ball music—even if they need a thesaurus to do it. Queensrÿche joins the classy, polished metal set with this attractively ambitious concept album. The story, which evolves over a number of songs, is set in a totalitarian future (or, check it out, dude, could it be happening, like, right now?). It concerns a young man, an ex-skinhead and junkie, who is injected with a psychotropic drug and becomes an assassin for a revolutionary cadre. He’s then forced to betray his comrades. (Hey, this kind of thing happens on soap operas every day.) There’s also murky religious iconography strewn around. It all gets fairly tangled, but when Chris DeGarmo and Michael Wilton get through cranking up their guitars, Queensrÿche has tenderized your brain so much that the cartoonish scenario seems logical, indeed inevitable. The musical arrangements on Mindcrime are much more clever and elaborate than the norm, evoking such obscure but meritorious British metal bands as Blossom Toes and Diamond Head. The dialogue, taped speeches and sound effects that tie the songs together make clear that this young band from Bellevue, Wash., spent some time listening to late-period Pink Floyd. Some people—all right, most people—will find Mindcrime doubly repugnant, both loud and pretentious. For metal fans of discerning tastes, it’s one of the year’s bright spots. (EMI-Manhattan)

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