Queensr che - Empire
One of the last troubadours of Metal in the American mainstream would prove to create one of the 1990's most intriguing records. Released right before the big Seattle grunge explosion (Ironically, Queensryche is also from Seattle) of Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Soundgarden, that was the kiss of death for metal, at least in America, was more than just a last gasp as many people would put it, it actually was a breath of fresh air, shining through the "hair metal" sound with a whole new technical approach to the music, throwing away the gloss and glam for the intricate sound, where the music is king.

Released after their opus Operation:Mindcrime, which was their first true commercial success, after releasing two other records and their debut E.P., the mystical image of the 'Ryche was now in the forefront of popular music, and they did it without selling out.

Beginning with "The Best I Can," the opening dialog of parents leaving a crippled child alone and the boys choir singing about a hidden gun and possible suicide, adds the spookiness of a possibly dark concept album, but yet the song lyrically inspires hope, amazingly for such a moody atmosphere that this song opens up the record on. Rather than being a full-blown concept album, the songs themselves tell stories individually flowing from one to the other without harsh transition. Carrying the same vibe of Mindcrime, but more loosely leaning toward the AOR stance, there was no telling by the band's standpoint what influence Empire might have on music in general, the songs on this record are masterpieces all cuts are complete opuses inn their own right, many songs carrying the heavy vibe, but yet with technicalities that had rarely been heard on a metal record. It carried the same dual guitar attack from Chris DeGarmo and Michael Wilton, shining with their signature chops, complimenting Geoff Tate's unique vocal power.

The title cut was politically charged and had a spooky vibe, especially since the United States and NATO were involved in their first confrontation with Saddam Hussein at the time, the song itself has dialog from Tate speaking of the U.S building its "empire" of weapons (in relation more towards fighting drug lords and the violence on the home front), regardless, this record was the perfect escape from all the political bullshit that was going on at the time, and if you put it on today, it still is that way.

Cuts like the moody ballad "Della Brown," with it's thumping bassline, dark rockers "The Thin Line," "Another Rainy Night," and "Hand on Heart" spelled their own signature stamp on this record.

"Jet City Woman" was the second biggest single, huge rotation on radio, bringing this dark rocker up front with it's absolute power driven riffs and hook laden chorus, but no cut on this album, would be a huge as the main single "Silent Lucidity," 'Ryche's "Comfortably Numb" so to speak. A power ballad lacking all cheesy connotations that would cause metalheads to heave at the sound of, say, Bon Jovi or Poison, giving it life with the orchestration and harmonizing vocals in the chorus. The cut received massive rotation on both rock and top 40 radio, MTV, and cause the sales of the record to soar. Unlike many ballads by band that had a heavy background; think of Extreme ("More than words") and Mr. Big ("To be with You") unfortunately falsely representing those two bands with syrupy pop ballads that would give them a crack at commercial success; "Silent Lucidity" fully represented the band. People were aware that these guys were heavy, and because of that more people who might not have really been into metal, bought the album, and enjoyed it for what it was, knowing what to expect, and a sold out tour followed, bringing metal to the masses once again.

The last cut to be aired heavily on the radio, was "Anybody Listening" a dark ballad that still reigned heavily on the airwaves, regardless of the fact that at this point we were now in the midst of grunge/alternative rock domination.

These days it's rare that an album with tracks can be phenomenal back to front, Empire still stands the test of time with all the hits being played on classic rock radio and still sells several units a year, being newly discovered by a new generation of fans.

What does help the sales however is that this record has been remastered three times!!! The latest version, in a series of all of their EMI releases, coming from the vaults and marketing minds of Capitol Records, has three bonus tracks, the ever so coveted "Scarborough Fair," "Dirt Lil' Secret," (both released as b-sides to singles), and "Last Time In Paris," which originally appeared in the Andrew Dice Clay film, Ford Fairlane. This version has more high end than the original and is compressed sonically for maximum volume cranking, keeping the level even throughout, where the VU meter stays in the red consistently.

DCC Compact Classics actually released the first remasterd version in 2000 on one of their high priced gold discs. Using an ultra high resolution tube AD converter, DCC remasterd this to more sonic perfection, with no compression, leaving more attack for the instrumentation, giving the drums and more spontaneous instruments more "balls," where the VU meter tends to dance, rather than stay at a consistent level, in this case they try to get the exact replication of an unmastered two track analog tape, and they do it well. Strictly for audiophiles (no bonus tracks).

And now the final remasterd version, the DVD Audio edition, offering ultra high resolution sound in both Stereo and 5.1 surround, and to hear it in surround sound is an experience, the stereo mix alone even kills the DCC version, no bonus tracks appear here, however on this version as bonuses you get here are lyrics showing up on the screen, interviews, and the videos for "Silent Lucidity" and "Jet City Woman," now how many times does a fan have to buy this album, well if the record industry wants our money, they found a good way to get it.

Regardless of what version you might have, you still cant' deny it's sound, and sadly this was the last really strong album from these guys, although Promised Land would make sparks in the mid nineties as yet another great album (some of you probably despise of it), the magic of Empire and Mindcrime was not 100% there, and it only got weaker from then on, but when they tour, they play the music like it was just recorded yesterday, still being able to carry the legacy in a live setting, if not on tape/hard drive.

Written by Hashman
Thursday, February 5, 2004
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Hashman: 9.5/10

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Profile picturenotrap

Rating: 9.5/10
Queensryche's most successful work. Full of good&easy listening songs. The title track i... · Read more ·
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Rating: 8/10
Outstanding release. However there were a few tracks the that left me feeling indifferent.... · Read more ·

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RevelationZ Comments

Comment by Steen (Staff) - Thursday, February 5, 2004
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Comments: 518
Excellent review Hashman! I agree completely. A fantastic album.

Posted by Steen (Staff)
Thursday, February 5, 2004

Comment by Mads J. (Anonymous) - Thursday, February 5, 2004
Yeah, great review, great album! I personally prefer Operation: Mindcrime, but Empire is almost up there next to it. A classic!

Comment by Christopher (Anonymous) - Sunday, February 8, 2004
IMHO, Queensryche peaked with Operation: Mindcrime and has been on a downward spiral ever since. I just down like the direction they've taken their music. They're not nearly as heavy as they used to be in their earlier albums. They could have become an American version of Judas Priest, but instead they chose to be more of a Dream Theater type of band. Empire's two most popular songs, Jet City Woman and Silent Lucidity, are representative of this. To me, those songs are almost unlistenable. Which begs the question: who has fallen further - Queensryche or Metallica?

Comment by Empire a true classic (Anonymous) - Monday, February 16, 2004
Brilliant. My long lasting memory of this album is that a friend of mine and I played this 5 times in a row at his brothers 21st birtday party. And they were nearly all singing along by the end. A combination of melody and great songwriting that they have rarely achieved since. Brilliant stuff.For me a superor album to Mindcrime in nearly all respects.
I mean I don't feel like slitting my wrists after listening to this.
The perfect metal/hard rock tradition reached its peak with theis release. Of course there is Images and Words. But Queensryche never played thrash rhythms. So for me I consider that a slightly diffrent genre. Hey shoot me.

Comment by Ben (Anonymous) - Sunday, November 7, 2004
In all honesty, any album following Operation: Mindcrime will be overscrutinized, and while Empire is a great album, it is not the musical masterpiece Operation: Mindcrime is. Queensrych nearly abandons their dark, gloomy sound for more upbeat rockers, and while this is not an entirely bad thing, Queensryche were masters of the dark and gloomy sound that dominated their earlier releases. In addition, while no one seems brave enough to admit it, Geoff Tate's voice lost it's agressive "bite" that made it sound so powerful on their earlier discs, and he no longer possessed what seemed like unparalleled control of notes in eerily high octaves. He seemed to struggle to maintain his old vocal range on Empire, and his trademark operatic vibrato was noticeably less powerful. Granted, no one can expect Geoff to sing the same way he did on the band's first four releases forever, but after his voice lost it's power, I lost interest. If you can get past his noticeably weaker vocal performance, this is a classic album, and "Anybody Listening?" the album's closer, is haunting and evokes powerful emotion from anyone who listens to it, while the other highlight, "Silent Lucidity" is the song that made this album experience meteoric success.

Comment by Metalite (Anonymous) - Sunday, October 9, 2005
Empire is a masterpeice - no questions asked. As for queensryche becoming "weaker" - i think thats not true. It's admirable they chose to evolve rather than stagnate like most heavy metal bands - very few established bands are willing to evolve - maiden evolved smoothly to what it is today -polished aggression, with queensryche their evolution is more drastic. So one can't say they've "fallen" or anything.

Comment by ThraX (Member) - Wednesday, November 12, 2008
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10/10 I love every song on this album "Della Brown" is chilling it's so good!....Although I do disagree about the "Promised Land" which to me is there last solid effort that album is a 10/10 for me and Mindcrime is more than a 10/10 brilliant!!!

Posted by ThraX
Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Review by notrap (Member) - Tuesday, August 11, 2009
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Queensryche's most successful work.
Full of good&easy listening songs.
The title track is definitely one of their best songs ever

Queensryche's golden era.

Rating: 9.5/10

Posted by notrap
Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Review by Little Drummer Boy (Member) - Wednesday, December 8, 2010
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Comments: 166
Ratings: 46
Outstanding release. However there were a few tracks the that left me feeling indifferent.

My personal favorites: The Best I Can (a masterpiece), Empire, Resistance, Silent Lucidity Hand on Heart and The Thin Line.

I know I did not mention Jet City Woman but there was something about the song that left me some days liking it and others bored of of. I could never put my finger on it as to why the mixed feelings on the song.

This was in my opinion that last great release by Queensryche. The albums to follow seemed stale after Empire.

In my opinion Operation Mind Crime is still their best and is absolutely brilliant.

Rating: 8/10

Posted by Little Drummer Boy
Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Review by Hashman

Released by
Capitol/EMI Records - 2003

1- Best I Can
2- The Thin Line
3- Jet City Woman
4- Della Brown
5- Another Rainy Night (Without You)
6- Empire
7- Resistance
8- Silent Lucidity
9- Hand on Heart
10- One and Only
11- Anybody Listening
Bonus (2003 Remaster Only)
12- Last Time in Paris
13- Scarborough Fair
14- Dirty Lil' Secret

Originally Released in 1990 on EMI records

Queensr che

Related links
Visit the band page

Queensr che - Official Website

Other articles
Operation: Mindcrime - Remastered and Expanded - (Hashman)

Rage for order - (Steen)

Tribe - (Steen)

Tribe - (Hashman)

The Art of Live - (Hashman)

The Warning - (Steen)

American Soldier - (Brian)

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