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Queensr˙che - Empire CD (album) cover




Progressive Metal

3.77 | 377 ratings

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4 stars Labor Day, September 3, 1990. I've spent the holiday weekend in New York city, my first visit to the Big Apple. While I visited the Twin Towers, dined in some wonderful restaurants and tried (unsuccessfully) to sneak into the U.S. Open tennis tournament, the highlight of the weekend was the knowledge that on Monday, Queensryche's latest effort would be released. Thus it was that in some small town off the New Jersey turnpike I stopped to purchase the tape version of Empire. I loaded that puppy into the car stereo and the ride home was blissful.

My first reaction, admittedly, was not real positive. This was not the band I had expected to hear. But then again, I had learned to expect the unexpected from QR. Each album had been a brave departure from the previous effort and even though the band had developed a signature sound, none of the albums really sounded like any of the other albums. So, while the pop sound of Empire was a bit of a turnoff, I knew to give the disc (tape, whatever) enough listens to really get an idea of what they were trying to achieve. There was one thing VERY different about this release that previous QR albums had not enjoyed: promotion, radio airplay and video support. So even if I hadn't been popping Empire into the tape deck at least once a day I wouldn't have been able to escape it's Big Record Company presence. Within days of the release, Silent Lucidity was on the radio seemingly everywhere. I caught the video at a friend's house and knew this had Big Hit all over it. Suddenly this "cult" band had become popular overnight. After six years of slugging it out and growing a small but dedicated group of hardcore fans Queensryche had hit the bigtime..

Didn't matter to me. I loved them before and this album grew on me. But this was not the ambitious, daring release I had expected. It certainly wasn't Operation:Mindcrime II (which would have been a major mistake). Instead it was a collection of 11 well-crafted, fairly unique, pop-tinged, metal songs. Nice in and of itself but not quite the revolution Rage For Order had been and not the sprawling, outspoken musical masterpiece of Operation:Mindcrime. This was a nice album, a safe album but not the greatness I had come to expect of the band.

Della Brown is the only song that really stands out with the unique QR signature originality. While it has a light sound to it, it doesn't suffer from the syrupy pop sound like Jet City, Rainy Night and Hand on Heart. The song really shines with the middle guitar solo and the even better concluding solo...very subtle work that perfectly fits the tone of the song. One consistency to be found on Empire is, like previous QR releases, the album concludes with a classic signature song, Anybody Listening. The song encourages listeners to question what the media is feeding, "read between the lines, criticize the words their selling." Kind of ironic when this was the first QR release to really benefit from the Music Biz machine which propelled Empire to highest-selling 'Ryche release ever.

Other highlights to the album are Best I Can, The Thin Line and the title track. All have classic QR melodies, guitar work and the usual stellar vocals from Geoff Tate. Empire and Best I can join Della Brown, Resistance and Anybody Listening as songs commenting on society. Empire deals with drug usage in America, Best I Can tells of a paraplegic overcoming his disability, Della Brown addresses homelessness. It seems to me these more serious themes resulted in more intense music. The traditional "love" songs (Jet City, Rainy, Hand on Heart, One and Only) all have a very pop sound to them with repeating chorus, guitar hooks....all very accessible and comparatively shallow to the heavier songs.

On RFO, QR addressed a lot of things that concerned them and created a revolutionary album. On O:M QR was PISSED and created a masterpiece. On Empire, the band had grown and perhaps lost some of that youthful energy. While they still sing of questioning authority and anger at government and media they also sing of more personal issues like love and relationships. While The Thin Line has the dark tones of previous love songs like I Dream in Infrared and Gonna Get Close to You, Hand on Heart and One and Only sound like typical radio songs.

Warning, RFO and O:M have all fared well over time and so too has Empire. Basically, the songs I liked when the disc first came out are songs I still like and those that left me a little wanting still don't do much for me. Not the band's greatest effort but still a damn good album.

MrMan2000 | 4/5 |


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