Starting with an odd story, Queensryche have put together a concept album at least equal to greats like 'The Wall' in terms of music, storytelling, and identity with the characters.
Nikki is a disillusiuoned street punk drawn into an underground movements that murders religious figures. He falls in love with a nun-whore also embroiled with the movement and is drawn in too far. Yeah, sounds TOO odd? Doesn't once you go into the album.
The main way it works is through the way vocals (Geoff Tate) and lead guitar (Chris DeGarmo) create atmospheric, tense, melancholy and chaotic emotions through their music. They take you through Nikki's contempt for society, love, tension in the terrorist group and his ultimate loss. This is one long journey and they make you take every step with them.
High points include the opening instrumnental 'Anarchy X', 'Suite Sister Mary' with its latin choristers and utter confusion of the characters. Then there's the single 'I don't Believe in Love' and the masterpiece 'Eyes of a Stranger', a non-ballad lament.
There's great music, but the album demands attention, its not just background music. One of those albums that once discovered, it's raved about - and with good reason. Very few albums have the ability to immerse the listener to this degree, and other bands must have listened to this when it came out and wished they'd had the skill, idea, and one of those times where it all went right - and created this masterpiece.
This is easily in my top three albums of all times, and I also think it's one of the top five most complete, absorbing, entertaining and brilliant rock albums ever written. A classic that deserves at least six stars.