Queensrÿche were always a bit too smart for the late-'80s hair-metal genre in which they were pigeonholed. That's good news for music fans who dig a balance between conceptual and catchy that still sounds crisp. "Another Rainy Night (Without You)" and "Best I Can" deal with familiar subject matter, like loneliness and surviving tragedy, and when the often polarizing topic of social inequities is addressed in the title track, the sonic bombast makes the lyrics almost an accessory. Empire never gets too progressive, a trait that keeps musically proficient acts like Dream Theater out of the mainstream. Vocalist Geoff Tate does veer into a head-scratching verse on "Silent Lucidity," but the song sounds so much like "Comfortably Numb" that no one noticed and it became the group's highest-charting single. There's a live disc from 1990 thrown in for kicks and diehards, and a few floating-around-for-years bonus tracks — notably a take on Simon and Garfunkel's "Scarborough Fair" that shows exactly why the 'Rÿche faded from view: these cats got way too serious and we all moved on.

  Topics: CD Reviews , Empire, reissue, music review
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