Queensryche had been hitting the progressive metal landscape hard for several years by the time 'Empire' was released, but nothing previous could match its success. The album is a wonderful example of what happens when precise songwriting and a straightforward approach are interwoven. Queensryche avoid the trap of becoming pretentious with song structure, something that other prog-metal/rock bands like Dream Theater fall all too easily into. Though technically a progressive metal album, 'Empire' sounds more like a polished hair metal album than anything else. The album literally swims in reverb, conjuring up thoughts of Firehouse and Skid Row. The guitars are doped up with enough effects pedals to make Billy Duffy sit up and take notice, and there's that unmistakable late 80s/early 90s mainstream rock sound permeating every single fiber of production. Yet, it still sounds excellent, and that's a testament to Queensryche's passion more than anything else. There's lots of heart on every song on the album, from the opening 'Best I Can' to the wonderfully catchy 'Jet City Woman,' 'Another Rainy Night,' and 'Hand on Heart.' The album's most remarkable track is the breakout hit 'Silent Lucidity,' which progresses from acoustic campfire tune to a bombastic, orchestra-backed power ballad. It's one of the most beautiful and uplifting rock ballads I've ever heard, period.
The album does tend to stumble a little with tracks like 'Resistance,' which clearly aren't up to par with the rest of the album, but that's nitpicking at its most feverish. Queensryche deserved their stardom with the release of this album. It's a fine example of the sort of passion and intricacy that was woven into hard rock albums of the time period in question. Unfortunately, both qualities seem to have disappeared from modern day music. Give 'Empire' a listen, and remember a time when music meant something other than American Idol and dollar signs.