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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.