CD Review: Queensryche, “Empire: 20th Anniversary Edition”

Let me bring you down for a moment. Remember that song “Silent Lucidity” you heard that night when you and (insert name here) went all the way? If you wound up with a kid a year later, he or she recently graduated high school and is now off to college. Don’t go dancing tonight, Mabel, you might break a hip.

No, it’s true. Queensryche’s Empire turns twenty this year and EMI would like you to join in the celebration. This 2-CD edition features the album, three extra tracks originally released as B-sides, band photo postcards, a fold-out poster and a second disc chronicling a tour stop at the UK’s Hammersmith Odeon. If any Queensryche release deserves the fuss, it is this. That might not sit well with die-hards that consider Operation: Mindcrime to be their best outing, but Empire managed to one-up the previous effort in a few significant ways.

Empire was able to be as topical as Mindcrime on the title cut but wasn’t tied down to a heavy conceptual backdrop. The songs stood alone and did so very well. Tracks like “Silent Lucidity” and “Another Rainy Night (Without You)” were major charting hits and, perhaps most notably, the album was the last truly big hard rock album of its kind. After it, the sounds of Seattle would drive the glossy, big guitar/big hook rock song underground for awhile. Whitesnake was passe, G’N’R was disintegrating and Def Leppard’s star was on the wane. Empire seems like the last great campaign of a very particular sort of rock.

Is the set worth the money though? Here’s where things get itchy. During this time in CD technology, the releases were getting a fairly decent shake on the mixing and mastering. Labels realized they could increase the volume and the bass but weren’t yet forsaking the highs in the audio spectrum. That distinction surfaced around the time of the iPod, which is to say that the original CD release didn’t sound so bad that owners demanded a remastering. Therefore, your choice to buy hinges on the extras.

The bonus tracks on disc one are “Last Time In Paris”, “Scarborough Fair” and “Dirty L’il Secret”, none of which are truly awful but all immediately identify themselves as B-side candidates. That they’re here is neat, and should make completists happy, buy they all are somewhat inessential. The second disc is more substantial, offering up a large chunk of the Empire tracks recorded live, but also feature some of their back catalog like “Take Hold Of The Flame”. Because it ties up the album in a neat, compact package, the 20th Anniversary set gets a passing grade, but if you’re satisfied with your original copy and have no great interest in the live disc, you’re not missing out considerably by letting this edition go by.

Empire (20th Anniversary Edition) is available from Amazon.Com.




  • http://www.grayflannelsuit.net/ grayflannelsuit

    Any QR fan worth their salt already has those three bonus tracks, as they’ve been released at least a dozen different times. Not really sure what there would be to recommend this, as even a remaster to such a good-sounding record would be pointless.

    I am on record as a fan of “Last Time in Paris” though. It showed the band actually had a sense of humor. The live cuts could be worth it, but I have so many QR boots it’s not essential listening.

    But on a positive note, I love this record despite the fact that it could lose one or two songs and be better for it. But the best QR didn’t come until the next album.

  • http://www.popdose.com DwDunphy

    See, I love Promised Land, but it just doesn’t topple Empire for me. They’ve never been quite the same again, and not in a good way either.

  • http://www.grayflannelsuit.net/ grayflannelsuit

    Promised Land, for me, was one of those records that comes along at exactly the right moment in your life and speaks to you on a personal level that can’t be explained (sort of like an entire album of “Basement Songs” like you feature here).

    Agreed that there was a huge dropoff after PL. I am happy to say that over the past 5 or so years they’ve at least returned to respectability. American Soldier is a surprisingly strong effort.

  • http://www.popdose.com DwDunphy

    I liked American Soldier a lot. I was pleasantly surprised by it. I just wish they would stop going too far afield. Experiment, yes, no question. Shuck off fans like a runningback on steroids? No, just no.

  • http://www.popdose.com DwDunphy

    I liked American Soldier a lot. I was pleasantly surprised by it. I just wish they would stop going too far afield. Experiment, yes, no question. Shuck off fans like a runningback on steroids? No, just no.

  • Matt

    That respectability seems to take a hit with some of Tate’s ideas that have been put into play in recent years, particularly the current Queensryche burlesque tour. I wasn’t so much a fan of the American Soldier disc, but I really liked the Mindcrime II disc (for probably the first 10 tracks at least) and stepping back a bit, I also liked the Tribe album a lot.

  • Matt

    live disc is where it’s at on this release for me – you’re right that the bonus tracks on the main disc are pointless…..although has Last Time in Paris been on a reissue of Empire yet? I was happy to get this package for that reason. Empire still holds up – great album.

  • http://www.grayflannelsuit.net/ grayflannelsuit

    All of their albums through Hear in the Now Frontier were remastered in ’03 with bonus tracks. Empire had the same 3 the new version does. The pick of the litter is the debut EP, which has 9 live tracks from a 1984 Tokyo show.

  • http://www.grayflannelsuit.net/ grayflannelsuit

    All of their albums through Hear in the Now Frontier were remastered in ’03 with bonus tracks. Empire had the same 3 the new version does. The pick of the litter is the debut EP, which has 9 live tracks from a 1984 Tokyo show.

  • http://www.grayflannelsuit.net/ grayflannelsuit

    Yeah that burlesque tour looked like one big WTF to me. No interest in that. I dug Mindcrime II at the time although I rarely listen anymore. That tour was great though, as they did both Mindcrimes all the way through.

  • http://www.popdose.com DwDunphy

    It appears they’ve bumped the release of this to November, I assume to keep it fresher in the mind for holiday shopping time.