Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Queensryche - Empire (1990)

This is Seattle band Queensryche's fourth album, and this is the album that brought them to the mainstream. Mainly because of one song - you probably know it. But we'll get there in a minute. First off - the packaging.

 Here we have the tri-ryche again, this time in pixelated glory, it soars over the word "Empire" designed like a tower. In terms of graphic design, it is very basic and kinda rubbishy. They could have done better. Let's hope the music makes up for it!

The album opens with the melodic progressive chords of "Best I Can". A radio-friendly song with decent rhythm and the occasional triumphant soaring of keyboards. A little anaemic, however, sanitised and sterile.

We blast into "The Thin Line" in which Geoff Tate starts with his lower, (slightly) deeper vocals. Low tenor, perchance? Some nice guitar interludes and a gentle bridge into the rockier chorus.

A distant shadow of "Revolution: Calling" - "Jet City Woman" starts with similar chords, but fades into a somewhat bland, exsanguinated number. Entirely too accessible and rather lacking in passion.

"Della Brown" is another gentle number. The vocals are quite nice, soothing, good rhythm.

Finally, something with a bit of spirit to it. "Another Rainy Night", the second single, starts with a more dramatic flourish. The vocals have a little more emotion, touched with pain and building to a powerful chorus. Bittersweet lyrics:
"...Strange how laughing looks like crying with no sound..."
 Starting with an answerphone message, we have "Empire", one of the strongest and more energetic tracks on the album. Lyrics are political, and more in the "Operation Mindcrime" league. It builds strong, has nicely echoey chorus, and Tate has a bitter knife-edge to his vocals.

"Resistance" is also pleasingly powerful, building to a strong chorus and again installs memories of OMC. Tate sounds rather more passionate when singing politics rather than love.

The glorious lullaby, "Silent Lucidity" remains the 'ryche's most well known - and probably their best - track. Ever. The use of orchaestral elements gives it majesty and power, and Tate's lower tenor is deeply soothing, slightly sexy and laden with emotion. This track, alone, deserves 10/10. The whispered "help me" sends a shiver down my spine.

"Hand on Heart" tries to be a powerful piece, but "Silent" is a hard act to follow. Tate's voice is smooth and flowing, like a creamy hot chocolate. Some passion, still a bit commercial, however.

Another somewhat sterile, but still appealing piece "One and Only".

The mournful "Anybody Listening?" seems a desperate, anguished plea for someone, anyone, to listen, to realise. The music is strong, thick, laden with guilt and social conscience. Tate's voice tempered with dedicaation and desperation. Deliciously low, thick, melancholic. A fine conclusion.

Something of a santised, polished and radio friendly album from Queensryche. It does contain the one song that made their names known - and is pretty much the only Queensryche song I've ever heard on the radio, outside of specialised "metal" shows (when I used to request a different track from them every 2-3 weeks). The album starts weak, builds to its climax, peaking at "Silent Lucidity", although the songs that follow are still more spirited than the opening. The first four almost had me giving this a lousy 5/10, but I now feel more comfortable lifting it to a 7/10.

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