Queensryche, the progressive heavy-metal rock band that plays the Stranahan Theater Sunday, has been busy investigating a 17-year-old "cold case" called "Operation: Mindcrime."
A concept album by the band from Bellevue, Wash., "Operation: Mindcrime" was released in 1988 as a heavy-metal musical. It told the story of Nikki, a dysfunctional rocker who was manipulated by a mysterious "Dr. X" into performing political and religious assassinations.
Now Queensryche is working on a sequel, "Operation: Mindcrime II," that picks up the story of Nikki, using pulverizing guitars and lyrics laden with social commentary.
Lead singer Geoff Tate, guitarists Michael Wilton and Mike Stone, drummer Scott Rockenfeld, and bassist Eddie Jackson have been working diligently on the new disc, even canceling three October shows in Mexico so they can meet the deadline for "O:M2."
Long before the group began working on the sequel, however, Queensryche first had to take a new look at the original album, which sold more than 3 million copies and earned a Grammy nomination.
The five musicians took "Operation: Mindcrime" on a national tour, turning the album into a theatrical presentation with actors and props.
That tour helped the musicians "get familiar with it again and sort of understand it" before attempting a follow-up, Tate said in a radio interview.
The new album, set for release in early 2006, will be the first Queensryche disc for Rhino Records, a label that is well known for reinventing rock classics.
"The Original 'Operation: Mindcrime' still resonates today and we are looking forward to releasing its sequel," said Scott Pasucci, president of Rhino Entertainment.
Queensryche was formed in 1981 and influenced heavily by British metal bands such as Judas Priest and Iron Maiden. The group has sold 10 million albums over its career, with the most successful being 1990's "Empire." That CD produced the Top 5 single "Silent Lucidity" and such hits as "Jet City Woman" and "Another Rainy Night (Without You)."
Tate said he began thinking about a sequel to "Mindcrime" when he was asked to write a screenplay for the original album.
There was so much to the story, he said, that a follow-up album seemed logical.
"We found it challenging to take the theme ideas and move them into the 21st century with new production ideas and a more mature approach to the music," Tate said.
Jackson said on the band's Web site that when the group created the original "Mindcrime," there was no talk of a sequel.
The new project has been daunting in some ways, he added.
"The pressure is on," Jackson said. "There's more pressure now because we've created something and now we're trying to expand on it. Before, we were just writing what we felt."
One thing that encouraged him, he said, is that Queensryche has always followed its creative spirit without concern over radio programming or other industry influences.
"I don't know what to expect, but I hope our fans are open-minded," Jackson said. "I think we've been very fortunate to have a fan base like that so we can evolve and experiment with our music. They allow us to do what we want to do."
Queensryche will be in concert at 8 p.m. Sunday in the Stranahan Theater, 4645 Heatherdowns Blvd. Tickets are $26.50 and $34 from Ticketmaster, 419-474-1333 or www.ticketmaster.com.