Review Summary: Queensrÿche's Empire is the first of it's kind, representing a commercial ace in the hole and an immense achievement for the progressive metal genre.
It always was ironic that Queensryche released Empire
at the peak of their career. Rage for Order
had placed them on the Billboard, but it wasOperation: Mindcrime
that took progressive metal and shaped it into their image, placing Queensrÿche at the throats of mainstream rock and metal with accessible songwriting and creative musicality. The attention of countless casual listeners and mass pop culture through Entertainment Weekly was unheard of for progressive metal. They dominated conventional radio with nearly half an album and their reputation suffered as a result of it's commercial success, and compared to the consistently growing success of Operation: Mindcrime
was no more than a regime cursed to exist in the shadow of it's predecessor, and yet it still stands as one of Queensrÿche’s most impressive achievements.
While fans immediately and secretly were anxious for Operation: Mindcrime
Part II, Empire
is only a silhouette of a concept album, and not much of a story at all. To this day, the love interest tearing between the hit songs ‘Jet City Woman’ and ‘The Thin Line’ remains an easy method for those looking to start exploring the band's music, but the underlying features drive the true momentum. The consecutive ‘empire’ theme starts up with the operatic blues inclined experiments on ‘Della Brown,’ the operatic rocker "Resistance," and the centerpiece title track where the band calls for justice in a dishonest society. While they question and denigrate the effectiveness of American law enforcement, they aren't wrong in their contemplations. Think of the commonplace story where a man broke into a house through a kitchen's ceiling window and falls onto a knife, cuts his leg, sues the house owner and won. Whether the accuracy of the actual original event is valid, numerous accounts of unfathomable police activities and unusual verdicts renders the same question where the band leaves the song at: “Can't someone here stop it?!” Sadly Empire
doesn't attempt to form a solution to the problem and instead avoids a storyline with characters, morals and a heartbroken love story. Rather than pushing forth their boundaries obtained from their previous albums, Queensrÿche finally succumbs to shrugging off the progressive metal influence of their unmistakable logo in lieu of melodic and commercial accessibility.
As an off-note topic, I find it strange how few have mentioned the album art. The ‘tri-ryche’ pierces the pillar appearing to form ‘EMI,’ their record label. Whether or not this was intentional or a fluke due to the pronunciation of “em-pire,” it is amusing and worth noting as a jab at their own label.
's direction gets repetitive if viewed in terms of it's hits, but it represents a successful effort for Queensrÿche. Geoff Tate’s vocals personalize the unmentioned moments like "Anybody Listening?" and "One and Only" with unrivaled clarity, boasting his powerful four-octave range without any painful effort. The track ‘Resistance’ acts as a vehicle for his progressive aspects alongside the building vocals of 'Silent Lucidity.' The beauty of Empire
is that it grows with every listen, and it distinctively grows with increased definition. Two decades later, Geoff Tate’s marriage to band manager and ex-dancer Mrs. Tate will prove difficult to holding the charade that ‘Jet City Woman’ was written about her and not his previous wife who was actually a flight attendant from The Jet City. For that matter: it's not hard to respect Empire
, it's just easier to criticize it.