Empire [Bonus Tracks]

by: Queensrÿche

Empire is the largest-selling album in Queensrÿche's history. Following up the band's first commercial success (Operation: Mindcrime), Empire couldn't be more different musically. Empire's songs all stand by themselves as tough singles, though arguably "Silent Lucidity" stands head and shoulders above the rest. Empire opens with the frighteningly heavy and catchy "Best I Can," with its twinning of metal guitars and shimmering keyboards and near operatic crescendos. Guitarist Chris DeGarmo's heading up of the project and his focus in keeping the band as far away as possible from the tropes of Mindcrime is, in large part, the key to the album's success as a pop record. While it's true that heavy metal recordings had made the charts, none of them did with the sheer pop glee of Empire, with "The Thin Line" and "Jet City Woman" blazing out of the box and pointing the way to more blues-oriented progressive songs such as "Della Brown" and the title track, with its crunching dual lead guitar riff and overblown bassline. "Resistance," with its complex guitar intro and syncopated runs, is the perfect anthemic metal track to precede "Silent Lucidity," a song that had teens all over the world flicking their Bics during the band's tour and swaying together. Enough said. But if there is a song of hope on Empire, then the track that follows it, "Hand on Heart," is it. This is the greatest one-two punch of mainstream big rock & roll in the 1990s. With its staggered guitar part playing counterpoint to the sung melodies, its lyrics full of determination, aspiration, and promise, and a chorus only a Grinch could hate, "Hand on Heart" carries the quiet affirmation of "Silent Lucidity" and engraves it in rock. "One and Only" is another metallic love song, and once again free of facile, sexist obviousness. Its overdriven guitar parts and Geoff Tate's on-the-edge singing make its insistence on love conquering all a reality -- at least for as long as the song lasts. And finally, "Anybody Listening?," with its fingerpicked minor-key guitars, spare bassline, and almost spiritual entreaty from Tate in the lyric, caps off the album with a call to arms before it's too late. [The 2003 remaster contains three bonus tracks, the Led Zeppelin/"Kashmir"-influenced intro to "Last Time in Paris," a Baroque, psychedelic cover of "Scarborough Fair," and the balls-out rocker "Dirty Lil Secret," a track with the crunchiest, heaviest riffs on the set. This is a hell of a value with amazing sound, liner notes, lyrics, and bonus cuts; it's a Queensrÿche treasure trove.] ~ Thom Jurek

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