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So this is apparently Queensryche’s most successful album. Of course, successful doesn’t amount to a good album in the minds of most metalheads. I mean with the release of the title track and "Silent Lucidity” itself as singles prior to the release of the whole album, you can be almost certain that most fans knew about the commercial turn this former progressive metal band would take. In spite of that, you’ve had plenty of fans even now simply dissing it for the fact that it wasn’t really metal at all and that the band sold out. Sure, but why may I ask is that a problem? Just as long as the music still remains good, regardless of the genre. And rest assured it still is, for the most part. Bottom line is: if you listen to this album expecting more of the same prog/power metal of Operation Mindcrime or The Warning, you’ll have nothing but disappointment coming your way. Probably Queensryche realised that they had to change sometime or the other and this was it. I mean c’mon now, for how long can you keep milking the same formula over and over again?
However those (read: open-minded) metalheads willing to get their collective heads out of their asses and enjoy the record simply for what it is - a plain straightforward alternative rock album with a few prog touches here and there, may actually be pleasantly surprised. In fact I’d daresay that it actually beats the other so-called commercial metal albums at the time namely The Black Album and the like, by sheer means of musicality, consistency and songwriting alone. Of course if that doesn’t sound appealing to you in the least, kindly skip over and don’t bother wasting your time here.
The opener “Best I Can” is for sure, one of the best songs the band has written. Listen to that part at 1:41 where he shouts “But I won’t let go!” and try to resist singing along. The main riff of “The Thin Line” just screams good ol’ NWOBHM all the way, which is perfectly up my street. Even the intro bit of “Another Rainy Night” has a great old school heavy metal flavour, that I can help but dig the hell out of. Strangely enough, this is one of the few heavy ballads that actually work. With a few galloping Maiden-esque parts interspersed with the clean sections, this is definitely one of the best songs on the album. Another super catchy chorus by the way.
“Jet City Woman” and “Silent Lucidity” are the two singles that probably everyone, including non-fans of Queensryche know about. The former actually carries over the heavy elements of their previous albums into a hard rock format making way for one heck of a rollicking track. The latter is considered by many to be an overtly sappy ballad, which in all honesty couldn’t be further from the truth. Don’t listen to any of those people seriously; this is a truly heartfelt emotional ballad that almost any fan of music can/should enjoy. Much better than most other ballads out there, in my opinion. Here Tate truly demonstrates the lower range of his vocals.
However I can understand people having a bone of contention about “Della Brown”, but heck I like it. Sure it may drag on a little too long for other peoples liking, but not for mine. At a slower more relaxed pace as compared to the other songs, it actually works wonders for the band to stretch out their feet and try new ideas in the bargain (progressive influences) with a few great lead sections working their way in and out of the song. Works for me folks. One And Only” and “Hand On Heart” are some of the more straightforward rockers on the album. However the last song “Anybody Listening” simply don’t measure up to the rest of the album, using the same stretched out formula as “Della Brown” but with less success this time. Not a bad song per se, just a tad uninspired. Could’ve definitely used some minutes shaved off for sure.
Finally, this album as a whole is just unabashedly fun in every way. Sure it’s not a perfect metal album, but who said it was anyway? A perfect guilty pleasure album if you will, and let’s be honest, after all who doesn’t have at least a few of those floating around? Here, Queensryche really inject a heavy dose of killer pop hooks among the homogeneous mix of hard rock and heavy metal. Needless to say, it works pretty damn well. Honestly tell me with a straight face that you don’t find at least a few of the songs really catchy. If that were to be the case, I’d tell you straight up that you’re an idiot of the highest order who only wants brutality in his music and nothing else. The simple riffs are hard hitting (listen to “Resistance” and “Empire” to see what I mean) and Tate still hasn’t lost any of the gusto and sheer power in his voice. You can take my word for that. If you happen to be one of those people who have already written the album off after 1-2 listens (I was one of them too, initially), I urge you to be patient and give it a few more tries. Even keeping in mind the fact that individual music tastes largely vary, you might just be rewarded with an actually better album that what you initially thought the first time round.
Bottom line; It’s nowhere even close to being as bad as most people make it out to be. In fact, on its own (independent of Queensryche’s earlier works) it’s a pretty damn good album. Do yourself a favour and give this album the second chance it deserves already.
Empire embodies everything that made the early '90s so lame. Cheesy contemporary architecture, businessmen cruising in their Porsches talking on their giant cell phones, and vapid mainstream rock like this. Even the album cover does little to hide this fact, looking akin to a low-resolution, pixelated header image on an old Geocities website.
As such, it remains something of a shame that Queensrÿche fell victim to the commercial trappings of the time. While I still consider The Warning their best record, the two following it had their moments. Even at its best, Empire comes off as a poor man's Rage for Order minus the buzzing, futuristic soundscape. The Milli Vanilli keyboards that open up "Best I Can" immediately throw any fan of classic Queensrÿche into uneasy territory. Thankfully this one manages to keep its head above water thanks to Tate's still potent delivery, despite the cringe-inducing inspirational lyrics. "The Thin Line" is also passable, featuring a catchy and potent main riff; although it is around this point that you realize the guitars are sonically inert. This kind of approach on the six-strings was Rage for Order's biggest fault and it is replicated here in earnest, naturally.
Empire begins crumbling under the weight of it's unnecessary ballads at this point. "Another Rainy Night (Without You)" is the only one I can stomach, and only by virtue of the killer chorus and infectious melodies. The title track is decent, but the chorus isn't as effective as it should be. I also always found the line "Selling crack to the people who pay" redundant, although that is obviously just a personal nitpick. The second half of Empire falls almost entirely flat. "Silent Lucidity" is passable for what it is, but interrupts the flow of the album and doesn't fit with the more rocking numbers that bookend it. Tate surely tries here, and if anything is a highlight it is his voice. The band aims for another "Take Hold of the Flame" with the closer "Anybody Listening?", but very little sticks.
DeGarmo is still here though, so we get some decent solos, and I do enjoy some of the riffs in isolation. Many of these songs feature individual moments that while enjoyable on their own, fall short once combined with everything else. Jackson's bass is prominent, as per most of the band's earlier material. He gets a decent groove going during "Best I Can" during the passage around the three-minute mark, joined effectively by surging synths and Rockenfield's typical performance on the kit.
Empire wants to be catchy and harmless, but Tate's inflection is generally too somber for this approach to ever fulfill its potential from a commercial standpoint. The masses ate Empire up anyway, starting the downward slide that eventually brought us debacles like Dedicated to Chaos and American Soldier. So what do I know?
Queensryche’s fourth studio release is essentially their equivalent of the Black Album in their discography. It achieved a great deal of commercial success thanks to a combination of strong hit singles and an even more accessible sound. But whether you see Empire as the last good Queensryche album or the beginning of the end, it’s definitely not the sellout that some have made it out to be.
Aside from the obvious lack of story elements, Empire only differ from Operation: Mindcrime in that its production job is more polished and the speed metal influence is completely absent. Fortunately, nothing sounds dumbed down as the band’s kept their tricky rhythms and sophisticated air. If anything, the album has a lot more in common with the stuff that Rush was putting out in the early 80s than anything that was going in 1990.
The polished production job also has the added benefit of accentuating what just might be the band’s tightest and most balanced performance to date. Like Mindcrime before it, every member stands out as the bass frequently drives songs like “Jet City Woman” and “Della Brown” while the vocals opt for a lower range on “The Thin Line” and “Hand On Heart.” In addition, the guitars have a nice shine to them, the drums have a few nifty patterns, and a few dated keyboard effects shake things up on the super motivational “Best I Can.”
And despite that lack of a grand concept, the lyrics are still pretty well written. Most of the songs on here are about relationships but rise above your typical butt rock fare thanks to their focus on a mix of passion, longing, and nostalgia. A few political remnants pop up on the title track and “Resistance” while “Della Brown” predicts the next album with its discussion on fleeting stardom and “Silent Lucidity” matches “Comfortably Numb” worship with the topic of lucid dreaming.
Like Moving Pictures before it, Queensryche’s fourth studio album opts for a more accessible sound while still keeping a good head on their shoulders. The singles may not hit as hard as some of the Mindcrime staples but they carry themselves well and much smarter than their Lowest Common Denominator recognition would have you believe. I’d still recommend one of their older albums to a seasoned prog or metal fan, but I think your mom will love it.
“Best I Can”
“Jet City Woman”
“Another Rainy Night (Without You)”
Originally published at http://psychicshorts.blogspot.com
I'm not sure whether Queensrÿche's members were caving into the pressure that their own mounting success might have constructed, or if outside forces like their record label and management team asserted themselves a bit strongly on the group's decision going forward from Operation: Mindcrime; but Empire, the fourth full-length, was the first of their albums which didn't feel as if it were a step forward. Rather, this was some horizontal maneuver into a more friendly and secure realm of radio-targeted hard rock, and I can recall an immediate disappointment, as I was hoping they would take the level of ambition wrought for their 1988 magnum opus into an even more magnified, complex direction which elevated their musical chops and perhaps even retro-evolved with some more aggressive content redolent of their earlier records, fused to the glorious songwriting and chorus strength of Mindcrime.
That's not to imply that Empire is the worst note in the strident and disheveled legacy band has built unto the 21st century, but it's a clear downturn from its impressive predecessor, and even at best, it seems like it was attuned to same the Gold and Platinum defining hard rock audience obsessed with Def Leppard, Bon Jovi, the Scorpions, and other arena-packing leviathans of the late 80s, more so than the prog nerds who enjoyed the two albums prior, or the leather savages lusting after The Warning Pt. II. Queensrÿche had taken a taste of the bubbly with hits like "Eyes of a Stranger" and "I Don't Believe in Love", and now they wanted a larger slice of the vineyard, which they certainly acquired with this album. I'm not going to lay this all at the feet of the frustratingly catchy sissy-ballad "Silent Lucidity", a song that infested my high school years and the ensuing decade through countless overplay on imagination-lacking video and radio channels, High School proms, and music lessons for aspiring vocalists who were tired of aping "Stairway to Heaven". No, really the whole of Empire is ridden with flimsy rock songs, and it seems to lack the unified themes threaded through the earlier full-lengths, not that I mind Queensrÿche decision to step away from the concept album, I only wish they had made it...well, a little more metal than this. Translation: a lot more.
As soon as "Best I Can" rolled out of my speakers as a teen, I was stranded in some sort of nebulous cross-worlds of Rush and Van Halen, the one distinguished difference being Tate's familiar cries. I've got no problem with those bands at their prime, but compared to the emotional and inspired gauntlet the 'ryche had run me through just a couple years prior, this seems like vapid audio vaporware, posi-cock-rock wearing a great big happy face. There are still some muscles to DeGarmo and Wilton's guitars, this isn't a complete 180 from Mindcrime in terms of tone and style, but until at least the bridge vocals and their pulsing undertow, there isn't much of interest to this song, no dramatic and mind spiking chorus despite the crystalline, clean delivery of the vocals and guitar melodies. More successful is "Another Rainy Night (Without You)", with its woozy, driving chorus, bumping Eddie Jackson bass-lines and strong note progressions; and the title track "Empire" itself which is the heaviest song on this album with its gang, race and corruption related lyrics and an exquisite chorus harmony that has Tate stretching his pipes to appreciable ends; but even the latter is goofed up a little with the lower pitched speaking the man disperses through the more majestic moments.
Otherwise, there aren't many tunes in place here that stir any response from me whatsoever, which was a real shock considering what an earection (apologies in advance) I sport for its predecessor. "Della Brown" is wimpy overpolished cubicle rock. "Anybody Listening?" is like a weaker back-up power ballad for the more fetching "Silent Lucidity", with a ballsier, electrified chord chorus; and other tunes like "Hand on Heart", "One and Only" and "The Thin Line" were entirely forgettable. "Jet City Woman" and "Resistance" had a few classy components, but they're just not strong enough to singe themselves deep into my conscience. This was a hot, hot record upon its release, and I couldn't escape it through anything less than a complete suspension from my teenage academics, but so much of it seemed watered down for mass consumption, and frankly it's become their most dated sounding record, even more so than the synthy, divisive sophomore Rage for Order. Clearly there was some strong composition still coursing through the band's veins. You don't come up with something so sugary sweet and catchy as the clean guitars or orchestration for "...Lucidity" by sleeping on the job...
...but unlike Operation: Mindcrime, on which I never felt a single note was out of place or less effective than the next, this material seems inconsistent in its ability to stick. The production is spiffy, clean and safe for the whole family, with a lot of glimmer to the clean notes dancing alongside Tate's melodies, but the rhythm guitars never pack that much of a punch, even in "Empire". Rockenfield is still hitting hard, but he just sounds so clean on this album that you could have almost replaced him with a primitive drum machine and gotten a comparable result. Guitar melodies are strong, as in "Another Rainy Night" or the intro to "Resistance", yet there aren't enough of them that burrow themselves inside my cranial meat and lay their parasitic progeny. Hell, even the cover art seems bland this time, the band's icon against a black backdrop with yet another indecisive 'logo' and some chic, corporate block-text that would have been better served in Janet Jackson's Rhythm Nation. Granted, Empire wasn't the first Queensrÿche album to flirt with a then-modern, sleek safe for work rock sensibility, but Rage for Order was far stranger, with better lyrics, more compelling subject matter and quirkier choices of instrumentation; it had a looser, more experimental appeal than this.
Empire doesn't suck. It's got a few strong songs, and the music and lyrics do exhibit a modicum of effort, but this was clearly the first symptom of the Washingtonians' slide into creative poverty that would define the next few decades of their continued careers. There are about 15-20 minutes here which I'd consider to approach par with the earlier Queensrÿche. The remainder is a mild and mediocre kowtow to the grazing masses while they waited for the next Hall & Oates record. Letdown central. Naturally, it's gone triple platinum (at least) and is their most financially successful venture.
First off, this is a good album. Secondly however, it's nothing like the Queensryche seen on earlier material such as 'Rage For Order' and 'Operation: Mindcrime.' Despite being labelled as a progressive metal band, Queensryche has released an album that is much better described as hard rock as opposed to full out metal, and only has a faint smattering of progressive influences. However, if you look past the seemingly commercial feeling this album has for the most part, you'll find an album with an absolutely smashing first side, and a compilation of some great rockers.
Like most commercial albums, there is little focus on the album as a whole, but instead a plight to squeeze out a few really memorable songs. In that respect, 'Empire' certainly acheives it's initial goal. 'Silent Lucidity' is the song that the world outside of progressive music knows Queensryche for. It's one of the most beautiful songs in modern rock, and everything fits in perfectly. Each note is accounted for, and blends in heart melting harmony.
The only real prog-song on here is 'Della Brown' which is a great song, although I'd rather listen to a dose of 'Mindcrime' anyday. Despite the album's feeling of only being a 'group of songs,' there seems to be a common lyrical theme of sorts, about the state of the streets (homelessness, crime, drugs) which is quite profound for hard rock music.
As far as song quality goes, the songs are all very good and memorable, with the exception of 'Resistance,' 'Hand On Heart,' and 'One And Only' which aren't necessarily bad songs persay, but they're utterly forgettable and kiss any chance goodbye this album might have had in terms of 'flow.' The first half of 'Empire' is pristine, though.
'Empire' is not an album for a hardcore metal-roots fan; and some may be very dissapointed by the route Queensryche chose to take with this, but while it's essentially nothing more than hard rock, it's honestly better than 95% of the hard rock that's out there to begin with.
Empire, according to a lot of Queensrÿche fans one of the best albums in their career. “One of the best metal albums ever.” I guess they have a different Empire than I have. The music on this album is more commercial pop-rock than progressive metal, or anything decent. Happy glam synthesizers, typical poppy choir vocals, cheesy ‘goodwill’ lyrics, Empire has got it all! Luckily, there is also good stuff on this album. This was my second Queensrÿche album, the first was Operation: Mindcrime, and after hearing Empire, I almost gave up on buying more Rÿche music. I was glad that I didn’t, since other albums are all better.
As we are welcomed into the album by a happy piano-tune, followed by a decent guitar riff, spoiled by the awful synths, we take a quick look at the track list, which tells us we are listening to “Best I Can”. Apparently, the lyrics are about a boy who is in a wheelchair and still tries the best he can. How touching. That indeed will sell and crawl up the charts. The song is decent, but nothing more. “The Thin Line” has an okay-ish guitar riff, again spoiled by the arrangements. This time the rest of the song is quite a nuisance as well. “Jet City Woman” is more of the same, yet is a lot more pleasant to hear, although it’s still just a pop song with wannabe-metal arrangements. The seven minute abomination “Della Brown” will make you fall asleep. The stupid poppy beat that continues along all the song with the lame chorus contains some of the worst nineties pop tunes ever. The only good thing about that song is the inspiring guitar solo.
Getting tired of my negativity? I am. Therefore, it’s time to look at a brighter side of the album. “Another Rainy Night” and “Empire” are two amazing tracks. Trademark Queensrÿche as we all love it. The first of the two might sound a little bit poppy as well, but has stunning guitar-oriented arrangements, while the latter has the best guitar riff on the album.
Then I will skip all the other terrible songs, for the sake of the Rÿche. “Silent Lucidity” will come to your attention immediately. The mellow acoustic guitars playing a poppy, catchy tune combined with the lower register of Tate’s vocals does not actually sound bad, yet the song totally does not fit on the album. We all know that around this time Tate’s voice is starting to change, and that results in weird contrast among the songs. Especially in “Silent Lucidity”, which apparently is the bands biggest hit. Well, the song is okay, but certainly not that great.
Ah... “Anybody’s Listening?” is the album closer, and is definitely worth a listen. You might say it’s “the classic Rÿche closing ballad”. This power ballad starts out very gentle, but bit by bit it gains more “weight”, in terms of speaking. This is the song that reminds you that you were listening to Queensrÿche, and not some half-assed Bon Jovi wannabes, which gives the bad part of the album an even worse title.
To come to the conclusion, Empire pretty well sucks. At least, if you don’t like a metal band going commercial, like me. With only three songs worth listening, I might as well say this album is the worst in the Queensrÿche history. Yes, even worse than Q2k.
I will never recommend this album to anyone. It almost made me abandon Queensrÿche, and that would be the most foolish thing to do. They have made better stuff than this.
A waste of money.
Strongest... I mean, the only strong songs: Another Rainy Night, Empire and Anybody’s Listening?
Did the title of my review make you gasp? Have you collapsed onto the floor and commenced experiencing a seizure? Or perhaps you have closed your eyes and opened them expecting "best" to change to "worst". Well, folks, I'm dead serious when I say this is Queensryche's best album, and I've heard all of them.
This disc is underrated and while it may break no new ground, it treads over previously broken ground quite nicely. By now Queensryche had achieved quite a bit and successfully converted from a heavy metal band to a progressive metal band to a hard rock band, still keeping the same sound the band started with. I agree that this album does not excel by being the most technically brilliant, the best produced, the most creative, or even because it has the best performance by the band. What it does have in it's favor is songwriting.
Others tend to disagree with me, but I feel this album has the best set of Queensryche songs yet. It's probably their only album without filler, and I know with each passing sentence I'm sending more of you to the emergency room from trauma, but really I like all of the songs on here. I can't say that about Mindcrime. Even still, some songs are still better than others. Highlights on this album include "Jet City Woman" a classic tune that you've most likely heard several times. Next is "Another Rainy Night", a song that's actually quite sappy and pathetic but has some excellent guitar melodies and a catchy as AIDS chorus. "Empire" is one of the heaviest tracks, featuring some vocals which bring back the band's earlier albums. "Silent Lucidity" is a song that you've almost certainly heard and wheter you hate it or love it, it is a classic.
But it is the album's closing track which is the best of the bunch. Topping in at number one on the list of my favorite Queensryche songs is "Anybody Listening?" a song which defies that tone set by every other song on the album and decides that if it wants to be a lengthy progressive rock element then it damn well can. I don't want to explain this song and give it away but it sounds similar to "Suite Sister Mary" from Mindcrime, but much, much better.
The album isn't mindblowing, except for maybe two cuts, and it isn't a breakthrough, but at this point should I even really care? Being a creative, unique, masterpiece is great, but every once in a while I just want an album I can pop in and just listen to, say "That's a good album.", then put away until next time. And that's what kind of album this is. Enjoy it for what it is, because if you over-analyze it then of course it's going to sound pathetic.
If you're a Queensryche fan then you need to own this album. If you aren't a fan of the group, then I suggest this is a good place to start.
Before I start to go off in to sad bash about this album let me mention that it is not so bad. It is just not an “A” effort . First off , this is no Operation Mindcrime. You are not getting the musical genius of the album that proceeded . What you are getting is a mediocre album that you will listen to but, it will be nowhere near your top of your stack . You will find some of Queensryche’s most superlative songs constructed but I would not recommend this album to anyone who has no heard them yet .
I must state that this album is not a concept album . Songs do not follow a sequence ; however you will still find that each individual song does have its own storyline . What also knocks down the rating of this album is the amount of fillers. When you speak to other metalheads on the best songs on the album you will find the same answers but when those “second tier tracks” are mentioned answers will not be congruent . At this point every opinion will be completely different except everyone will agree that the non-hit songs are forgotten . Lyrics are a little less atypical of Queensryche . You will find tracks about the classic defiant against government words as well as some songs about inner sanctuary and revival ala “Best I Can” and “Silent Lucidity” . Musically Queensryche uses a lot more synthetic sounds as a supplement to there acoustics and clean sounds (not that you won’t find lighter sounds) . I mean hey they are partly prog-metal so this is expected . In fact this is one of the strongest aspects of the record. Speed and heaviness are parallel to the previous albums, so do hesitate to buy this because of change of style album .
One of the things that I find about Queensryche is that they are the type of band that is great to listen to while you are relaxing and can really analyze the music. This album does not fail at all in that department . You will still get your full dosage of classic Queensryche . Maybe this is why they are progressive .
Overall just not a great follow up album to its predecessor because of augmented expectations . (You see I am already bashing this album a little too much) . Well to prove that this album has not faded away I was at an amusement park the other day and I heard “Jet City Woman” blasting on one of the rides . Me and my buddy turned to each other and said “What do you know they are playing Queensryche while people are just having a good time and liking the song , not having a clue who it is” . Then I thought to myself that 18 years after the original release a few random kids are appreciating true metal . Then I instantly thought the exact way to sum up the album . This album goes forgotten because unfortunately is not an over the top effort . Only the best of the best songs on the album survive and not by much .
Sickest Songs “Best I Can” “Jet City Woman” “Another Rainy Night (Without You)” “Silent Lucidity”
Going down the road of Progressive Metal will often introduce you to some rather sizable potholes, some being insignificant caprices of random thought that won’t have much impact, others being so well processed in their disorganization that they catch on and sell big despite lacking any musical coherence. Somewhere between the varied approach and expansive array of studio devices on this, Queensyrche’s 4th LP, the thing that truly gave their Progressive sound its metal edge was scuttled.
“Empire” is what one could call a stealth disease, a bit harder to catch than such obvious commercial fits of pandering as Metallica’s Load and Dokken’s Dysfunctional. It is presented in the same fashion as Mindcrime was, as a socially conscious opus with an interesting spoken intro, a collection of Progressive Metal Fanfares such as the title track and “Best I can”, and a good amount of experimentation. However, in the riff and production department, the balls of this former metal beast have been cut clean off.
The principle problem is the guitar sound, which has been processed and tweaked so much that the heavy aspect has been eliminated. A good analogy would be the overtly clean and high end distortion that Def Leppard began employing on Hysteria. Likewise, the drums have been boxed up nicely and sound so mechanical that I can’t tell if I’m listening to Scott Rockenfield or a drum machine. Geoff Tate’s voice is still pretty much on point, although he intentionally avoids getting a dirty sound out of his pipes of even flirting with the Halford range that he pulled off so masterfully on “The Warning”.
The best song on here is the title track, as it tends towards the dramatic yet steady approach that made “Breaking the Silence” and “Revolution Calling” from the last LP so exceptional. “Best that I can” and “Jet City Woman” are simple in their approach, but are cut from the same tree as the title track and rock quite hard. “Another Rainy Night” is obviously a radio friendly pop metal track, but it’s pulled off quite well and isn’t offensive to the ears. The closing track “Anybody Listening?” sounds a bit like a rehash of “Suite Sister Mary”, though without the theatrics and the powerful vocal performance to keep it interesting for 7 plus minutes.
Everything else on here enjoys an artful utilization of the once innovative feature of CD players known as the skip button. “The Thin Line”, “Resistance” and “Hand on Heart” are mediocre rock tracks that induce nothing but pure boredom, the riffs were interesting years before when Def Leppard presented them in a more contrapuntal fashion, but here its just redundancies galore. “Silent Lucidity” is a comical ballad that somehow tries to marry Rush’s sound with “I am the Walrus”. “One and Only” is another snoozer with a Def Leppard edge and one of the most annoying guitar drones I’ve heard featured during the verses.
However, despite the glowing gems of pop/rock mediocrity on full display in the lion’s share of this album, the true bomb that blows everything apart is the 7 minute Progressive blunder “Della Brown”. Aside from the pseudo-journalistic lyrics, which probably inspired every literary naturalist abomination Eddie Vedder ever put to verse, we’ve got the makings of a coffee house jam session. The same damned bass drone played for 7 minutes with little variation, no change in tempo, and some occasional spurts in dynamics due to some vocal effects. This could put a full blown crack addict to sleep in a single listen.
Empires come and go, so they say, and hopefully this one will soon be forgotten as it is musically quite forgettable. Killing heavy metal was a collective effort and Queensryche did their part 1 year before the Black Album came out. If you like over-processed pop/rock with some occasional fits of brilliance that don’t quite meet with the standard set by this band previously, I could maybe rationalize picking up a copy for $7. But if you want something by this band that really shines and doesn’t come up short in the metal department, their 80s catalog has a good deal more to offer.
Few Metal albums have exceeded the limits of the genre, reaching, at the same time, a massive success and a singular high musical quality. This album is a good example of it.
In 1990, two years after surprise both critics and fans with the impressive conceptual album "Operation: Mindcrime", Queensrÿche edited its fourth awaited album. Some time later, "Empire" had sold millions of copies and gained a place in the worldwide music mainstream. Most of this success is related to “Silent lucidity", hit Power Ballad that reached the top of the charts in radio and music TV. Nevertheless, the whole album is a real masterpiece.
Musically, "Empire" turns out to be brilliant. The guitars of Chris DeGarmo and Michael Wilton combine the classic melodies of Heavy Metal with rhythmic lines full of semitones, hypnotizing arrangements, acoustic passages and expressive solos. The rhythmic section is equally admirable; Eddie Jackson's work in bass is just perfect, achieving a sophisticated atmosphere. Scott Rockenfield’s style in drums was innovative and a key factor in the band’s sound. Finally, Geoff Tate's peculiar and powerful voice, fill with great melodies and modulations every song.
"Empire" includes compositions of diverse styles, from beautiful ballads, to classic Heavy songs, always with the progressive touch of the band. About the lyrics, the album still includes some songs about political and social issues, as in previous materials of the band, but mainly, follows a more intimate line. We can find songs as "Resistance", which speaks about environmental problems and the poor response of the political and economical leaders towards the matter, or "Empire" which speaks about drug trafficking, mafia and violence, referring to some of their social and economic reasons.
Also, there are stories about common people’s issues like in "Best I can", "Della Brown" and "Another rainy night (without you) ", songs full of realism and sensibility. Finally, there are also some love stories, but written in an intelligent and unpretentious way, as "Jet city woman", "Hand on hearth" and "Silent lucidity". In conclusion, if you like Heavy Metal in its more sophisticated and expressive side, "Empire" undoubtedly will catch you. Anyway, I like more “Operation: Mindcrime”, because the conceptual and complex story line, I guess.
Alright where to begin on this review. I guess I could do a song by song review, but I don't wish to do that. Queensryche is one of those bands that I remember hearing on the radio as a child and enjoying their music. Perhaps this review is a bit of nostalgia. The best songs on this album are the ones that they play on the radio. Empire, Jet City Woman, Another Rainy Night (Without You), Anyone Listening?, and Silent Lucidity. Yeah I put Silent Lucidity down as one of the better songs of this album.
First of all I'm sick and tired of everyone thinking that this is a love ballad. I mean hell, throw in violens into a melodic song and all the sudden it's a "love ballad". The lyrics could have read "And lord Satan will crush your skull, and rape your ass, and your God can't save you, so suck the devil's cock etc" but add in violens and the effects and people would still say it's a fucking love ballad. Maybe I think highly of this song, because recently the radio station that does play this song does not play it that often. Seriously they've played it twice in a span of two months, both times I caught it at 3am. So the over saturation hasn't effected me.
Now granted this song isn't actually metal in the strictest of terms. Fuck that, even the bassist stated in an interview that this album was hardrock with only two metal songs. Of course I think him somewhat wrong, because I hear more than two metal songs. Back to Silent Lucidity...
Everyone on God/Allah/Satan/Odin/Samael/etc's green earth knows that song is a very slow melodic song with violens, effects, and a spoken word passage. I'm not going to write a note by note review of the songs; especially this one. The most effective meaning of the song that I've heard and agree with after listening to the song numerous times is this one. It's a song about dream control, but more accurately it's a song about a girl whose father has died. The song is essentially him singing this song to her, telling her that she can control her dreams and be safe. Then he sings that he'll be watching over always.
Oh yeah, this is really a love ballad.
Granted this song should have never been touched by MTV, I have never seen the video, but I imagine they totally butchered the meaning of the song.
Alright now for the other songs.
The songs Jet City Woman, Empire, and The Thin line seem to be the heaviest songs on this album. All three contain moderately fast tempoed riffing, and the least slow parts of all the songs. Ironically it's Jet City Woman that should be classified as the love ballad. Oh wait, it's actually at a moderately fast tempo, so it can't be about love. :roll: The anti political song Empire is another highlight of this album. Nice guitar riffs layed over excellent bass lines and drums. Added with Tate's vocals make this song the thinking mans song of the album.
Then we have the songs with the atmosphere in them. Another Rainy night (without you) and is Anybody Listening?" the best way I can describe the songs is to take the atmosphere from Silent Lucidity and mix it with the heaviness of Empire and the melody of Donna Brown and Jet City Woman. Both songs are also excellent with the band's progressive moments showing in Anybody Listening?. Tate's vocal range in this song is also amazing.
Another hint of irony, Another Rainy Night is the albums sappy love ballad (in a good way) but no one seems to bitch about it. For fucks sake the lyrics spell it out "I'm waiting for you and my take out got cold, and I'm so depressed with out you." Sheesh people learn to read the lyrics too.
Other songs such as Best I Can, Last Time in Paris, Dirty Little Secret, and Della Brown are also very well played songs.
Basically this album has songs that everyone can enjoy, but it also contains songs that people will hate.
89/100 and 60 of those points are for Silent Lucidity.
After the enormous success of Queensryche's 1988 magnum opus, Operation: Mindcrime. It was probably no suprise they would follow it up with an even more commercial sounding album. I like the comparison of Empire to the Black Album, it's not bad music, but it's not the Queensryche of former days. But what we have is some good, catchy heavy metal/hard rock.
The production as you might expect is crystal clear, I can't really fault the album in this department, except that it's too polished. Geoff Tate still sounds amazing, his voice is a bit lower on this release, he still hits some high shrieks occasionally. The music is a bit dumbed down, nothing really new or innovative, but the songwriting is still strong.
The album has it's fair share of filler, but there are also some good tracks to be found. The album opener "Best I Can" is really catchy, though light and poppy and sounds a bit like a Motley Crue song, but not bad. "Jet City Woman" was one of the albums hit songs, and it definetly kicks ass. The intro reminds me of "Revolution Calling" with some godly vocals from Tate, try to sing a long during he verses and you'll see what I mean. His voice shifts from low to high so effortlessly you barely notice it untill you try to do it yourself.
"Another Rainy Night" is a decent ballad-like song, it's got a poppy sound to it, but it's incredibly catchy. The title track has some decent verses, but then some really cheesey over-dubbed vocals ruin the song. And the lyrics are kinda childish, I mean I like the message the song conveys, but I think they could have done it better than this. "Silent Lucidity" gets bashed alot, this always seems to happen to the most popular song on an album. Trust me, it's not bad. Very soft and emotional, no doubt it's inspired by Pink Floyd. Tate even gives his best Roger Waters impersonation.
The album closer, "Anybody Listening?" is probably the best song on here. Very atmospheric, Tate makes great use of layered vocals, especially in the chorus. The best guitar solo on the album is found at the 2:55 mark, good stuff. Also to note are the lyrics, they are actually pretty decent on this song as opposed to the rest of the album. I have always loved the line "There's a cold wind from the south, hoist the sail and we'll be gone, by morning this will all seem like a dream"
This is a solid effort by Queensryche, while it has lots of filler, there are enough good songs to justify buying this album.
The first thing I noticed when I bought this record at the used CD store was how much the name of the album on the cover looked so much like the EMI logo. "I guess the label musta loved that" is what I thought upon seeing that; a thought that would return a few times upon listening to Empire (Sweet Lucidity, yuck!). I suppose that this shouldn't have come as a surprise, as Empire was definitely the band's most commercial release to that point. Of course, Empire is a lot better than anything the band has put out since, as their pursuit of commercial success has has led to several mediocre efforts.
I guess you could say that Empire was Queensryche's Black Album; the record where they adopted a more commercialized sound on the heels of their past mainstream successes. Like the Black Album, this record is listenable, and even good at times, but it's no Operation Mindcrime... Wait, in comparing Queensryche to Metallica, does that make Tribe the equivalent of St Anger!?
Anyways, let me just say that I am a huge fan of Operation Mindcrime. It blew me away the first time I heard it, and even now makes for an enjoyable listening experience. In fact, had I not thought so highly of OM, there woulda been no chance of me picking this one up. However, Empire is definitely inferior to its predecessor, and isn't something that I would give too many listens to.
Unlike Mindcrime, Empire doesn't seem to have any concept related to it. Granted, most of the songs here are about love, but so were most of Poison's songs, and they never released any concept albums. Mind you, Queensryche has done some of the best love ballads I have ever heard, (I Don't Believe In Love off of Operation Mindcrime is a personal fav.) and Jet City Woman and Another Rainy Night (Without You) on this record are great.
The title track, Empire, is another one of the hilights on this release, and it doesn't deal with romance or anything, either. Of course, it seems that governmental corruption is another favourite subject of Geoff Tate, as Operation Mindcrime dealt with it as this song does. Still, I'd say that the title track is probably the best of the bunch on this one.
From there, however, the album goes downhill. Seventh track Resistance is nothing to write home about, and the eighth track, Silent Lucidity, well, let's just say that it's easy to see how it was a hit at a time when melodic love ballads ruled the pop charts. The following track, Hand On Heart, is, while heavier than Silent Lucidity, another lame 80's love song, and while album closer Anybody Listening? isn't bad, at 7:40, it's definitely a bit too long.
In conclusion, the first half of this record is really quite good, but the second half isn't anything special. If I had Empire on vinyl, I probably wouldn't listen to side two...
So. This is Queensrÿche walking that Thin Line (*rimshot*) between very catchy heavy metal and straight up pop-hard rock, and doing a pretty good job of it. The production job is excellent, and I'd assume even better on the remaster. The guitars are plenty loud, the bass has the signature Queensrÿche impact, the drums are solid, the vocals are in the forefront as they should be, and the synths are tastefully used.
The individual performances of the band members are quite good, but not virtuosic as on previous albums - the solos are generally melodic interludes instead of high-speed shredding, and Geoff Tate's voice generally stays in his impressive middle range, only rarely climbing to the higher registers. It's clear that Queensrÿche focussed more on songwriting that performance for this album, partly explaining its massive commercial success.
Ah yes, the songwriting. Ths top track on this album is, without a doubt, closer "Anybody Listening?," a balladic kind of song with an incredibly powerful chorus. This song is Tate's one major foray into the vocal areas of the 80s, with his patended brand of non-falsetto, yet still amazingly high notes spotlighting the melodic verse sections. An extremely emotional tune with great lead melodies and, as mentioned, just a masterfully done chorus. Tate leads with the double-tracked line "Is there anybody listening?" and then the riff kicks in with incredible heaviness, grooving under brilliant harmonized vocals. This is one of those songs you need to listen to at night, with headphones, preferably while in a deeply emo state.
The other high points of the album pop up at tracks 2, 3 and 6. "The Thin Line" is a multi-faceted lament about falling in lust, and despite a completely and utterly useless horn section, still manages to rock with bass-heavy verses and a great harmonized riff. Yeah, they use a lot of harmony on here, and it kicks ass. "Jet City Woman" is along the same lines and just as good, with awesome soloing throughout, a very good chorus riff, and powerful vocal delivery. The title track is, by contrast, a relatively simple but very heavy piece with epic-sounding verses and an immortal singalong chorus, marred only by one of those silly spoken political interludes. We know, Geoff, America is fucked. Write songs about it - don't lecture us.
The other good tunes are synth-heavy but undeniably catchy opener "Best I Can," harmony-heavy single "Another Rainy Night (Without You),"and fast-paced rocker "Resistance." "Hand On Heart" and "One And Only" are pretty much filler, and "Della Brown"is a boring extended jam notable for well-done bass and some decent vocals. The lead single "Silent Lucidity" is utterly ranicd - a Cliff-Notes rewrite of Pink Floyd's classic "Comfortably Numb," with schmaltz in place of soul, and a patently stupid spoken overword. Why they still play this turkey live, I don't know - it may have been a hit in 1990, but it certainly didn't age well.
So, that's Empire for you - a very solid affair with moments of brilliance; the effects of Queensrÿche as a group largely putting aside their massive individual talents and settling down to write some good, catchy songs. It was inevitable that anything following the amazing Operation: Mindcrime would be a bit of a disappointment, but this is a strong if unspectacular record that would prove to be Queensrÿche's last moment of relevance in the metal scene.