REVIEW: Queensryche – Empire (20th Anniversary Edition)

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QUEENSRŸCHE – Empire (2010 EMI 20th Anniversay Edition)

20 years?  Wow, they sure flew by for me! When Empire first came out I bought it on cassette, and even back then I thought it was a bit too commercial. That’s not to say Empire is a bad album, but coming off Mindcrime and the killer first single “Empire”, I expected something heavier.

Now with the benefit of hindsight, you can really hear a band coming into their own identity. Empire is kind of the end of the old “heavy metal” Queensryche and the beginning of the newer more diverse Queensryche. The next album, Promised Land was a another stride further away from sheer metal, but more successfully achieved.

This box set, very nice looking and all, would have been better released as an individual live album, because disc one is identical to the previous Queensryche remaster version. The bonus tracks are the same. (“Last Time In Paris” from the Ford Fairlaine soundtrack, “Scarborough Fair” from the “Anybody Listening” single, and “Dirty L’il Secret” from the much later “I Am I” single.  Yes, “Scarborough Fair” is a Simon and Garfunkel cover.  Much more gothic though!)

The live album is from the same tour (but not the same show) as the Operation: Livecrime album. Think of this as representative of Queensryche’s non-Mindcrime live set, so if you have both albums you kind of have one complete show. It’s a good live album, although without the Mindcrime material to balance it, it is way too Empire-heavy. 7 of the 10 tracks are from Empire. That’s not me complaining really, just an observation of the feel of the set, as an album. For non-Empire material, you get the awesome “Walk In The Shadows,” “Roads to Madness”, and “Take Hold Of The Flame”, representing the first couple Queensryche full-lengths.

(As an added note, the Operation: Livecrime reissue also had one additional song not on this, which was “The Lady Wore Black” originally from the first EP.)

The live stuff sounds great, very clear with a good performance by the band. Tate is in peak voice at this point — he nails all the notes in “Take Hold”! The whole band sounds really good, especially in the backing vocals department. It also sounds pretty live and not messed with, which is my preference.  I’m sure there are backing tapes, Queensryche do use them, but the overall feel was one of spontaneity.  The liner notes claim there are no overdubs whatsoever.

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If you’re not familiar with the Empire album and you’re buying it for the first time, you are definitely going to be familiar with most of the album’s six singles:

  • “Empire”, the dark forboding tale of drug trafficking, with killer spoken word-style vocals from Geoff Tate.
  • “Best I Can”, the power pop rock song, with uplifting (but cheesey) lyrics.
  • “Silent Lucidity” one of the three songs that defined the term “power ballad” in the summer of 1991. (The other two were “More Than Words” by Extreme and “To Be With You” by Mr. Big.) A great song with brilliantly sparse-yet-lush arrangement. Still stands up today!
  • “Jet City Woman”, my personal favourite simply for that unstoppable bass groove.
  • “Anybody Listening?”, the epic album closer, and one of the all time best songs Queensryche have ever written.
  • “Another Rainy Night”, not one of the better songs, in my opinion. Kind of repeats the pop rock stylings of “Best I Can” but with lyrics about missing some girl.

There are also buried treasures within the album tracks. “Resistance” feels like a polished-up Mindcrime outtake for sheer tempo and mood. “Della Brown” is unlike anything the band ever attempted before, an atmospheric tale of a homeless woman that foreshadows the direction of Promised Land.

The band were really gelling at this point, and an album like this makes me really wish Chris DeGarmo was still in the band. He wrote or co-wrote almost every song, and his backing vocals really enrich the record. Everybody was playing great, though, and big props to Eddie Jackson for his killer bass sound.

The package includes an Empire poster, booklet, and five postcards featuring stills from the “Empire” music video.

To sum up, there is absolutely nothing wrong musically with this album, or the bonus live album. This is a 5 star album for music, for packaging, for sound, and all that stuff. I have to deduct one star simply because the first disc is just the same Empire I already owned and I think the live disc on its own could have been released alone for the 20th anniversary of Empire.

4/5 stars (5 for music -1 for rebuying the album, again!)

More Queensryche:

Mike Ladano: Exclusive EDDIE JACKSON interview, part I

Mike Ladano: Exclusive EDDIE JACKSON interview, part II

Mike Ladano: Exclusive EDDIE JACKSON interview, part III

Mike Ladano: Exclusive EDDIE JACKSON interview, part IV

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19 comments

  1. This looks like a cool release, although I think I’ll stick with my original CD pressing unless I find this one dirt cheap at some point. I wasn’t into current metal at all during most of the ’80s, so this was the first Queensryche album for me (as a huge Pink Floyd fan, it was hard not to think of “Silent Lucidity” as a modern-rock Floyd). Eventually I went back to the earlier stuff and loved it just as much, but I’ll always have a connection to “Empire” as my first exposure to their music. Do you remember when they were on MTV Unplugged shortly after this album took off? If I remember correctly, it was still only a 1/2-hour show, so there were probably only 3-4 songs broadcast, but they sounded fantastic in that setting, and it’s where I discovered the guitar genius of Chris DeGarmo (they’ve never been the same without him). I might have it on VHS. Note to self: look through old videotapes this week.

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    1. Look through old video tapes Rich!

      Yes, I remember that Unplugged session, and it’s a shame it hasn’t been released officially on a CD or DVD. I think they might have released some tracks as B-sides, I’ll have to go through my Queensryche singles collection. I think some of the live B-sides might also overlap with this live album too. I really can’t remember anymore!

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  2. Great album… I toyed with buying this but I decided it was a reissue too far. The remasters weren’t out long before they were already reissuing this and OM. I agree the live could easily have been a standalone release and I’d probably grab this if I saw it really cheap… the track listing does look great and if the Building Empires DVD footage is anything to go by I’m sure the performances are great.

    As far as the actual album… really love it but I rarely go back to it. Strangely, my most listened to QR albums of recent years have been American Soldier and OM:II!

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    1. Unlike yourself, I haven’t gotten into anything post Q2K. I actually have a review of Q2K coming. I thought it would be nice to have a positive field in the field of negative shouts against that album.

      Empire is one I rarely come back to as well, it’s a little more commercial than one came before and after, and as you know I LOVE Promised Land. That and Rage For Order are my two that I always play.

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      1. I quite liked Hear… but Q2K and Tribe just lost me. I’m sure Q2K would probably grow on me if I listened to it some more.

        I rarely listen to anything pre-Promised Land and, if you look back over my Noise-some Notes you’ll see it’s a long time since I’ve listened to QR at all!

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        1. Well just for you (OK, not really just for you, but work with me here) I have an awesome Q2k review coming soon. I actually listened to again yesterday, and there’s some kind of spark there. I still like it. The magic was still there.

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  3. Great album that has stood the test of time very well. Just like every Queensrÿche album before it. But I rememeber that I was a bit disappointed when it come out. The sound was too polished and there are too many songs that comes a cross like some kind of pop metal. I still think that, but now it doesn’t bother me one bit as the songs are so awesome.
    It couldn’t have been easy to follow up a masterpiece like Operation Mindcrime, but I believe the made right the right choice in doing something completely different to Mindcrime. As i said, the album has aged really well and it has really grown on me throughout the years.

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    1. Queensryche definitely created a hard act to follow with Mindcrime. It was my first QR album actually. I remember falling for it very quickly. Then I went back and bought the past albums and Rage For Order grew on me a lot.

      For Empire, I was just glad they were getting the success they deserved. I didn’t worry that it wasn’t as progressive, I was just happy that a band I supported was finally being recognized. I was maybe a little worried about them straying too far away from heavy rock on Promised Land. Promised Land is my favourite from them, but the trend appeared to one towards a softer sound.

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      1. Agreed completely and there has been a few mentions of Mindcrime in here so im gonna squeeze something mindcrime related here if knowone minds. Obviously and everyone knows about all the controversy with the split and I think its safe to say with the split we have two sides supporting the side of the split of there choosing which its safe to say is normal human behavior for the fact we all interpret what we hear and see differently. With much skepticism because I did not want any change in the Queensryche lineup we purchased 2 tickets for the 25th anniversary Operation Mindcrime show in Orlando Florida here’s my review but keep in mind the only reason I passed english classes in high school which by the way I really failed is because I played football and basketball! Lmao!

        We pull into the parking lot and find a spot immediately (bad sign) its a small venue called Plaza live I had acquired previously 933 seats. We look around buy a t shirt we are waiting for another couple friends of ours and exactly as scheduled 7:30 we hear the music. We have decent seats i dont want to be to close about 15 rows back i think and there is to my suprise what looks like a full house we find our seats i remain standing most are sitting . With recent info that Tates version does not use any sound track or click track because the other half of the splits drummer Rockenfield produced them and apparently owns them. I believe Anarchy x was shortened slightly. Tate arrives on the scene with Revelution Calling with his standard issue strut twirling the mic in his fingers and tells everyone “get up on your feet” . When the music started any reservation i had for attending this show vanished ,nobody that i saw ever sat down again during any of the songs , none. Tate was annimated throughout feeding it seemed off the crowd who were definately fully engaged as i was throughout with the clinching fist raised high singing every song as loud as we could same as most of the crowd. Yes as reported the music sounded different slightly and my interpetation of the differnce was in the rythm section driving bass and drums i could feel the sound hit my chest ,Simon suprised me and Rudy amazed me. This was a truly amazing show truly . Ive seen Queensryche do Operation Mindcrime 3 times previously this was without doubt the most energetic, powerful version ive seen. Finishing with a powerful Eyes of a Stranger the show concluded everyone knowing theyd come back out. Not disapointing Best i can and lil Sarzo announces it Tates 57 birthday, we the crowd sing happy bday and Tate says you can catch me at Denny’s after the show ,ive been waiting 57 years for my senior discount. Silent Lucidity which was driving with bass and a powerful Empire the show ends i look around and the crowd is cheering clapping and yelling as me and my girl are doing the same. Tate thanks the crowd for being loyal friends and mentions the troubles hes had and the feeling of being down and how the tour had brought him back to life . This was an amazing show and the best version of Operation Mindcrime ive heard with the most energy in the air with the crowd. Truly amazing anyone with reservations like me put them aside this is a awesome lineup and show. Could be one of the last which is sad Tate has never in any of the 15 Queensryche shows ive seen left anything on the field. World class amazing performance. Keep it alive! QUEENSRYCHE!-

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        1. Nice review. You’re a good writer, I must admit.
          And when I’m on the subject, I have a confession to make. I burned the Freq. Unkomn on CD and played it in my car and that song, Weight Of The World, that you have been talking about so much, is bloody awesome. Probably the best song Tate has sung on since Promised Land. It really sounds like a classic Queensrÿche tune.

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        2. Thanks, yeah killer song Weight of the World, takes a couple listens, after that the louder its played the better! All the classics have this, the louder you play em the better the music is! Thanks Mike! Truce bro man.

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