Queensryche – Empire (20th anniversary) (CD review)

Queensryche – Empire (20th Anniversary Edition) (Capitol) – CD review

By the early Nineties, rock fans had grown tired of the non-stop party attitude of heavy metal.  The Grunge movement, led by Nirvana, Pearl Jam, etc, signaled an end to hair bands.  Yet, Queensryche seemed immune to the extermination (for proof that Queensryche WAS indeed a “hair” band, one need only look to the back cover of Warning as evidence).

Was it because they were from Seattle?  Nah.  Really, the Queensryche guys were always more about the music than the partying and scoring chicks.   Plus, what other mainstream metal band cited Pink Floyd as a major influence?  However, just like Floyd, Queensryche had a penchant for producing concept albums, long on narrative.  Operation: Mindcrime may have been their magnum opus, but very few tracks can be enjoyed individually; you have to ingest it as a whole, and who has time for that???

That’s what makes Empire so great: you can throw away the booklet, because you don’t need it to enjoy these tracks.  Listening to the album two decades later, there are some holdovers from the glam metal late-eighties: the drums are full of bombast and there is the occasional over-emphasized keyboard.

Otherwise, this disc still sounds fresh.  “Jet City Woman” has a chugging, fat bassline, “Another Rainy Night” has a tasty double-tracked guitar lead.  Even when they’re dealing with heady material, as in poverty or the environment (“Della Brown” and “Resistance,” respectively), they still keep things concise and tuneful.  And “Silent Lucidity” is the thinking-man’s power ballad:  there’s strings, but not a hint of sappiness.

Disc one of the 20th Anniversary Edition of Empire is fleshed out with several hard to find tracks, including the great “Last Time in Paris,” heretofore only available on the Andrew Dice Clay clunker “Ford Fairlane” soundtrack.  Disc two features the band on the Empire tour, live at London’s legendary Hammersmith Odeon.  The amazing thing here is how, despite all the layering of guitars & background vocals, Queensryche were still able to pull this off live.  Even 20 years later, Empire still stands as an incredibly enjoyable metal record. . — Tony Peters