In the summer of 1990, when “Last Time in Paris” (a soundtrack song included here as a bonus cut) was released to radio, fans of the group wondered if they could repeat the cult success they had with the concept-record, ‘Operation: Mindcrime’ (1988). We were pleasantly suprised a few weeks later when the title track to this commercial breakthrough record hit the airwaves.1. Best I Can. Although the lyrics are a bit on the pedestrian side (i.e., about a wheelchair bound individual seeking inspiration), this is a musically powerful opening track.2. The Thin Line. This is one of the best-sounding tracks the band has ever produced as well as one of their strongest love songs. Why this was not chosen as one of the many singles is beyond me.3. Jet City Woman. Although this is another love song and one of the two mega-successful singles, it has a narrative quality that was (is) unique for its time.4. Della Brown. Over a previously uncharacteristic jazz-like jam, Geoff Tate relates a poignant narrative about a homeless woman.5. Another Rainy Night. Along the same musical/lyrical lines as “Jet City Woman”, this was another semi-successful power ballad.6. Empire. As with all highlights of the rock genre in general, the title track is a musical juggernaut and a lyrical social indictment, and it has remained a mainstay in the live sets for good reason.7. Resistance. The opening track on the supporting tour, this is another call-to-arms social commentary rocker, as with “Empire”.8. Silent Lucidity. If you never heard this highly-orchestrated piece about the lighter side of dreamland (see “Enter Sandman” by Metallica for the darker side), then you have been living under a rock.9. Hand On Heart.10. One and Only. If there is any filler on this record, it is “Hand on Heart” and “One and Only”, which are inferor takes cut from the mould of (and thus, superfluous to) “Jet City Woman” and “Another Rainy Night”.11. Anybody Listening? As was correctly noted above, this tune is, thematically speaking, Queensryche’s “Limelight”, but instrumentally a much lusher picture than the Rush classic and one of the highpoints on the record.Among the b-sides not already mentioned is a rather (over-)dramatic cover of Simon & Garfunkel’s “Scarborough Fair” (actually recorded during the ‘Rage for Order’ (1986) sessions) and another rather forgettable studio track that has not appeared, “Dirty Lil’ Secret”.
Exploring the uncharted territory between heavy metal and progressive rock, Queensryche has always been difficult to categorize. While Operation: Mindcrime is their most highly-praised album, Empire remains their most accessible, with a somewhat more commercial approach that has no negative impact on the quality of the material. Empire produced a string of hit singles, including ”Best I Can,” the title track, ”Jet City Woman,” and ”Silent Lucidity” (probably their best-known song, and ironically unlike most of their other work). At times sounding a great deal like Pink Floyd, Empire is an impressive collection that is all substance, no filler. ”Anybody Listening?”, which closes the album, is probably the best perspective on a life lived on stage since Rush’s ”Limelight”. Highly recommended. –Genevieve Williams
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It is amazing what 24-bit re-mastering has done to this album. It feels incredibly fresh now just as it was back then. Great production, a little bit too radio-friendly but that doesn’t take away from the beauty of the record. Prog-metal at its best, for sure. The bonus tracks are not the greatest, but the original 11 tracks has definitely come alive in an incredible way. Don’t hesitate and pick this one up – yes, it IS worth it if you already own the original copy. You’ll thank me later.Dice
Riding high on the creative wave of “Operation: Mindcrime”, Queensryche returned to the studio to put together “Empire”, what would be their commercial breakthrough.
Unlike most commercial breakthroughs though, this one doesn’t have that feel nor the accusations of sellout– in fact, the band simply kept developing along the lines of their own idiom, but after the massive encompassing storyline on Mindcrime, this was an album of songs, loosely based around themes of society and relationships. Musically, its similar in Mindcrime in that the metal backdrop has become largely a backdrop on which the menagerie of styles and sounds can be overlaid. As a whole, its a bit lighter in tone than Mindcrime was.
The strength of this album lies in its variety, there’s great compulsive rock pieces on here (“Best I Can”, “Jet City Woman”), some superb Queensryche styled metal (the title track), a few really breathtaking ballads (the album’s hit, “Silent Lucidity”, a piece deserving all the accolades it gets, homelessness ballad “Della Brown”), and at least one purely ecstatic love song with some great riffing (“One and Only”). As if that wasn’t enough, album closer “Anybody Listening?” is in many ways the summation of the band’s entire catalog (and history) and is one of the best they’ve ever done. Admittedly the album has its weak moments (“Resistence” is a step backwards and “Hand on Heart” is just awful), but its really quite an effort.
The remaster, again featuring crisp, clean sound as the rest of the series, is augmented by three bonus tracks– the goofy “Last Time in Paris” is a lot of fun but admittedly a throwaway and “Dirty Lil Secret” was a b-side for good reason, but their cover of Simon & Garfunkel’s “Scarborough Fair” is fantastic– haunting, dark, and powerful.
This may not be the best thing Queensryche has ever done, but its awfully good, and its a great place to start with the band. Recommended.
To this day, a staggering number of people insist that to entertain is to sell out and surrender growth and innovation. Granted, the frequncy of the stars aligning just right is about as often as a snowball forming in that dark place down below, but it HAS happened, it STILL happens, but never more noticably than in the all-around musical masterpiece “Empire,” from the “progressive” “metal” band, Queensryche.Those quotations are there because Queensryche deserves more than routine catagorization. Their music is at times heavy, and often intelligent, and that’s about all the description you should need. If you realize that the past 10 years of mainstream music has been a case of record companies shooting themselves in the foot, this review shall serve to educate you that this album was one of the last appearances of greatness to strike mainstream popularity – it’s a good thing Queensryche got this album in before it all went down hill!The album; dashes of Pink Floyd/Rush/Bon Jovi/Def Leppard/Wagner!One of my favorite songs ever is the closing track “Anybody Listening?” Epic emotion, powerful vocals, sustained guitar landscapes `a la David Gilmour, operatic theatrics `a la Les Miserables. The song is an adventure, a journey, with changing keys, moods and sections. Everything that a best-song-ever should be is in this unique composition.Then there’s the song that “broke them”, despite a very successful prior album (“Operation: MindCrime”). If you only know Queensryche for one song, it’s “Silent Lucidity.” Granted, it’s a bit simpler than much of their work, but just as with “Anybody Listening?”, it is a wonderful journey of the mind, “trying to explain to someone the unexplainable,” in the words of vocalist Geoff Tate. It is a highly emotional ballad that fits in just fine with the rest of the band’s repertoire.Most of the album is very strong with no filler, but the other big highlights are the songs “Empire,” and “Another Rainy Night.” These songs deserve some of the highest praise ever, because they adhere to this intelligent-meets-popularity formula better than almost any other song. They deserve even MORE praise, because they are not ballads. They are hard rocking songs, and the former (the title track) was actually quite the popular ‘hit.’ Can you believe, thinking of a ‘hit’ as actual good music? It IS possible. These songs are in the normal verse-chorus format, with amazing solos and guitar harmonies, intelligent lyrics, creative chords, and pure heart and soul. They rock like nobody’s business, but also allow many people to relate to the music, who normally would be satisfied with bands that only make 10% the amount of effort. It just doesn’t get much better than this.The hardcore fans want their “…MindCrime”, but I am going to cave in here – “Empire” is my [just barely]favorite Queensryche album, and the fact that it was very popular doesn’t change the fact that it deserved what it got and more. MindCrime is also great – but for once in music history, selling less records doesn’t mean it must be better music! “Empire” is the epitome of “exception to the rule.” Commercial music hasn’t allowed for this much creativity since.
Queensryche began to receiver financial success with their album “Operation: Mindcrime”, which came out two years before this. To follow it up, they made an album full of commercially acceptable songs, yet they didn’t sacrifice and quality or originality in doing so. This is probably my favorite Queensryche album, because it’s so easy to listen to. Every song is great, and a few are exceptionally great.Most people laugh at me when I tell them Queensryche is one of my favorite bands. I get the usual “Don’t only people with mullets listen to them?” or “Weren’t they some one-hit wonder hair band?”. NO. Queensryche is far more skilled (technically and otherwise) and serious musically and lyrically than your average hair band. I think of them as Iron Maiden meets Rush and Pink Floyd, and of course very original as well. They did, however, have the hair. “Best I Can” is one of my favorite `Ryche songs (they’ve closed with it both times I’ve seen them live, it kicks ass), with the inspired lyrics and catchy guitar riffs and vocals. The bridge in 7/8 has a serious groove, and the solo (DeGarmo, I should think) is just so tasty. “Jet City Woman” is a rocking song, with some great guitar harmonies and solos. “Silent Lucidity” is the one everyone’s surely heard, the Pink Floyd-ish ballad was a huge hit. It’s still a beautiful song. “Anybody Listening?” is my personal favorite, and some of the guitar riffs remind me off Rush. 70’s Rush, that is. The solo is so powerful (even more-so live). The lyrics are very good too, as some have called it the best song about the effects of fame since Rush’s “Limelight”. The rest of the songs are far from filler. Every song is great, and this is one of the best overall albums I own.So, you don’t need to be a fan of 80’s metal or hair-metal at all to enjoy this album, in fact, you’ll probably enjoy it more if you’re not. If you love catchy, well-written hard rock, look no further. This is one of the best.By the way, if you like this, check out “Operation: Mindcrime” next. Then check out their earlier stuff, and “Promised Land” is quite excellent too (though in a much different way).