Queensryche cites respect for ‘Empire’

By Sean Leary

After producing one of the best albums of the 1980s, “Operation Mindcrime,” Queensryche was faced with the difficult task of following with an LP just as artistically solid. “Mindcrime” was universally praised by critics and musicians alike, but failed to make a huge dent commercially. “Empire,” Queensryche’s latest album, is doing just that, already into “Billboard’s Top Ten Records” in its fourth week of release. However, it fails to meet the lofty artistic plateau of its predecessor.

Despite the fact that it misses that near-impossible goal, “Empire” is still a very good album, much better than most of the metal music released recently, and leagues above the current music scene in general.

The entire album is tightly and brilliantly played. The guitars duel with sharp intertwining clarity. The rhythm section, particularly the bass, is powerfully commanding, and Geoff Tate’s lead vocals are at their best, emotionally towering over the sinister music.

Overall “Empire” seems to be a much more laid-back album than “Operation Mindcrime.” It’s packed with powerful ballads and midtempo songs which fortunately are never lacking in guitar fireworks. The album starts out with “Best I Can,” a song which builds into a rising crescendo of fire musically, but is bogged down a bit by its simplistic lyrics.

The title track, which musically and lyrically most closely resembles “Operation Mindcrime,” is also one of the album’s most intense songs. Tate sings of the rising tide of violence and hopelessness in modern society. The LP’s (and the song’s) title is taken from the rising empires of gang lords and drug pushers among today’s youth.

Some of “Empire’s” best tracks, however, are its ballads, particularly “Silent Lucidity” and “Another Rainy Night Without You.” “Another Rainy Night” is the album’s most satisfying track as a whole, as it’s both musically and lyrically strong. The song starts with an infectious guitar riff ripping through a pounding bassline.

If “Another Rainy Night” is released as a single, Queensryche may finally have an impact upon the pop singles charts as well. The song is head and shoulders above the usual pop “power-ballad” schlock that infects the singles charts.

“Empire” has done very well considering the impossible task it was faced with, being the follow-up to the classic “Mindcrime.” It may not be the best Queensryche album, but it still beats the pants off of the weak radio fodder that passes for “heavy metal” in the mainstream music consciousness. To see such an imaginative and musically daring band finally find the audience it so deserves can only be thought of as a positive step forward in getting metal the respect it deserves.