PC - I rank PL right behind Mindcrime. Look at things this way:
I tend to view Queensryche as the natural "middle ground" between Iron Maiden and Pink Floyd. If Mindcrime was Queensryche embracing its inner metal and Maiden-sound, then Promised Land is them giving Pink Floyd a bear hug.
The record had a much more atmospheric sound to it. The polar opposite of what Mindcrime was in sound. In fact, while the record is my second favorite Queensryche album, it took me awhile before I "got it." I was expecting another Mindcrime or Empire, and when I got hit with PL, other than "Damaged," I really didn't get it.
Then one day, I just said I'm going to relax, read the lyrics and listen to the album from end to end...and it hit me. The magnitude of what they were doing. It's almost autobiographical and in parts, it absolutely is, if you ask Tate. And the music just perfectly suits the emotion of what was going on in Tate's life (and some of the others) back then.
The song "Promised Land" is just a masterpiece, and is the crux of the theme. It starts with life and self-awakening, hits the middle age with the title track, and then at the end, one looks back over life not even believing that was him. Incredible record.
It gets better with time. But once it hits you, you'll sing its praises.
Some of the older metalheads (notice I said SOME) don't get it, and I can understand to a degree. Until that point, the lightest thing QR had done was Empire (the album). They were all metal, all the time until that record. So Promised Land ramps DOWN the aggressiveness (except on a few tracks) completely, so it can throw a fan who likes the aggressive QR material for a loop.
In the words of Geoff Tate (when he was still cool and not a parody of himself):
"My friends, the road to the promised land is a long one. Shall we...continue?"