7. Queensryche – Operation: Mindcrime
Seattle prog stars Queensryche's Operation: Mindcrime's includes several anthems, a thrash number ("The Needle Lies"), a prog epic ("Suite Sister Mary"), and a B-side stuffed with dinosaur-sized ballads that only the '80s could produce. In lesser hands it would have been a mound of senseless cheese.
But Queensryche delivered something quite accomplished and profound. The band excelled at concept more than anything else. Most rock operas present their stories and characters as sketches serving the music, and rely on artwork to sell the rest. Operation: Mindcrime needs no crutches to tell a story. Its characters are well-defined entities with clear goals and motivations. What Nikki's progression from heroin addict to political assassin to amnesiac invalid lacks in emotional sincerity it makes up for with intrigue. Queensryche blended political thriller with star-crossed romance and social criticism into the most complex story on this list, but not he most convoluted -- Operation: Mindcrime strikes deeper chords now, after 9/11 and Occupy Wall Street, than it did in the '80s.
People have been trying to adapt Operation: Mindcrime for the silver screen since immediately after its release, but to no avail. And now that Geoff Tate has left Queensryche, it's unlikely the band will ever perform the album in its entirety again. The stage would make a better fit -- there's no fat to cut and no room to add, but plenty of space for dance breaks.