In 1990, when my development should have been well on its way towards some level of maturity, I was only reaching a crossroads. That is what happens when your enjoyment of music gets a late start. I was still pretty entrenched in the hair/glam era with bands like Bon Jovi, Def Leppard, and Poison (all of which I still have a lot of affection for). However, my best friend was introducing me to heavier bands like Metallica and Slayer.
I enjoyed them, but my full blown love had yet to develop, not to mention I was on the cusp of the grunge revolution. Then there was Queensryche. They were not quite mainstream enough to have crossed my narrow path, nor heavy enough to be bothered with by my friend. Then I heard "Silent Lucidity," a gorgeous ballad that hit at the right time. I picked up Empire as one of my earliest CD purchases—remember cassettes?—and I was exposed to something quite different than anything I had yet encountered.
Now, not to overstate the matter, but Empire is an album that was beautifully produced, emotionally driven, technically sound, and had a certain infectiousness to it. Over the years, my attention to Queensryche has waned, and all but killed by that cover album they did a few years back. It has gone so far down as I have not even checked out their most recent original release.
It is this remastered 20th anniversary release that has encouraged me to revisit them during the highest point of their career. I am very grateful for this encouragement as it has reminded me why I loved them in the first place.
It is interesting to track its development over their first few albums. Their first two full length albums—The Warning and Rage for Order—showed a band willing to experiment in the studio while giving full attention to the craft of songwriting. Then Operation: Mindcrime appeared and it was a game changer. It was an amazing rock opera that pushed them closer to national mainstream fame. In 1990 the push towards multi-platinum success came in the form of Empire.
The album features the breakout hit "Silent Lucidity," which was everywhere. And while hardcore fans may have loathed it, there is no denying that it helped bring a lot more ears to their music—mine included. It's success was buoyed by other singles like "Jet City Woman" and "Another Rainy Night (Without You)."
Sure, the record seems to be filled with singles and somewhat filler, but I didn't care. It represented something that I had not heard before, as I was unfamiliar with Mindcrime and their other works prior to this point.