Yesterday was the 28th anniversary of a very influential album for me. 28 Years ago yesterday, Empire was released by Queensryche.
It was the follow up to my #2 album of all time, Operation: Mindcrime and really was the first time I really got to hear what this band could do. I was big into “mind metal” at the time and this was a good break from the thrash stuff I had to listen to in order to get that. Empire was a completely different path for the band, especially given its direct predecessor and the previous few. It was definitely more commercial.
This was probably due to the fact that Mindcrime was such a hit. It gave them a boost that let them experiment and evolve their sound and focus. While still somewhat present, gone was the focus on political statements and social issues and more on life and dreams. Sure, “Best I Can,” “Resistance,” “Empire,” “Della Brown” were all social statements, but songs like “The Thin Line,” “Another Rainy Night (Without You),” “Anybody Listening?” “Jet City Woman,” and “Hand on Heart” are more romantic or loss thereof.
The album’s signature song (and probably the best known among non-Queensryche fans) is “Silent Lucidity.” It’s not my favorite on the album, by any means, but it certainly isn’t the least. I think it is still a fantastic song that still holds up. It is well-written and well-versed in the whole “lucid dreaming” phenomenon. Lucid dreaming is where the dreamer is aware that they’re dreaming. I still shudder when I hear the woman’s voice say, “Help me.” Did you know that was sampled from Hellraiser II? It was. And, Michael Kamen’s orchestration adds a lot of depth to the entire song, but especially the end which is from Johannes Brahms’ “Lullaby” which you’d certainly know as soon as you heard it. There’s just a lot of cool things about the song. It reminds me of having my Sony Discman® in freshman Algebra I in college, listening to it while the professor went on about a bunch of numbers and letters in which I had no clue what she was talking about, before or after listening to the CD.
My faves on this album are “The Thin Line,” “Jet City Woman” (I am a bass player, ya know?), “Empire,” “Anybody Listening?” and “Silent Lucidity.” The production on this album is amazing and Peter Collins, who also produced Mindcrime is a great producer.
The tour for this, “The Building Empires Tour,” was the first time I had seen them live and it was the first time that they had performed Mindcrime in its entirety. We were front row on the second level right over the stage and it was so much fun watching them. For a “mind metal” band, they put on a great, and at times theatrical, show. Suicidal Tendencies opened for them.
The dual guitar force of Michael Wilton and Chris DeGarmo (who was the main music-writer of this album and most of Queensryche’s earlier stuff) was unmatched at the time. Sure there were metal bands that did the same thing, but to me, there was no matching the smooth velvet leads of DeGarmo with Wilton’s blazing riffs. It was like adding spicy Ro-Tel to Velveeta only better (and better for you).
Scott Rockenfield is still one of my all-time favorite drummers. What he does with a set both large (then) and small (now) is just fun to watch. He’s technical but with feeling and he bashes the crap out of those skins. I’m always amazed by his hi-hat work, too, which is one of my favorite things from drummers who know what they’re doing.
Eddie Jackson is one of the steadiest, most solid and in-pocket bass players around. He now handles most of the backup vocals since DeGarmo left the band and even though I’m not a big fan of bass players who play with their fingers as opposed to a pick, generally, he does both very, very well. Plus, he’s got some seriously awesome hair.
Then, there’s Geoff Tate. I think this album was the start of a transition for him. Yes, he’s demonstrating his multi-octave virtuosity but he also started to go low a little bit. Not as much as he did on the next album, Promised Land and especially Now in the Hear Frontier on, but some. He’s still my favorite lead vocalist in rock. I should clarify that he’s my favorite lead vocalist in rock from this era of the band and before. After Promised Land, he started losing me, at least from the newer songs. He was still hitting the good notes live; mostly.
Some say this was the band’s last great album. Again, I go with Promised Land on that, but even PL isn’t this and neither are Mindcrime. And, I must say if you’ve not heard the last two Queensryche albums with Todd La Torre, you’re missing out. La Torre sounds like younger Tate but he also brings his own personality to the songs. His versions of the older ‘Ryche stuff is really good, too.
So, happy anniversary Empire. You mean a lot to me and darn it! I hope to have you on vinyl, soon. There’s so much awesomeness on this album. I think I’m going to go give it a spin, now (or stream it, as the case probably is).
Until tomorrow, same blog channel…
“In the fiscal year 1986 to ’87, local, state and federal governments spent a combined total of $60.6M on law enforcement. Federal law enforcement expenditures ranked last in absolute dollars and accounted for only 6% of all federal spending. By way of comparison, the federal government spent $24M more on space exploration and 43 times more on national defense and international relations than the law enforcement.” – “Empire” (Tate/Wilton)