Empire

There is a plague. It has struck many rock bands and musicians – Rush, Pink Floyd and Don Henley to name a few. And the latest victim of this plague is Queensryche.

The plague is commercialization. It’s a tragic pattern. Band X’s first few albums are classic. By the time they get up to their fifth or so album, they are still strong, but you can see signs of commercialization. Two or three years ago, they were starting to sound more and more like Motley Crue and Bon Jovi and less and less like they were supposed to sound. And in 1990, Band X sounds more like the New Kids than anything else. Success has gone to their heads.

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Take Pink Floyd. Their early albums – “Meddle,” “Dark Side of the Moon,” “Umma Gumma” and “Obscured by Clouds” to name a few – are classics. I don’t worship every single cut on each of these albums.

But to me, Floyd’s early (pre-“Wish You Were Here”) material embodies what the band is supposed to be: eerie, progressive rock with lyrics of psychedelic imagery.

After the success of “Dark Side” came “Wish You Were Here” and “Animals,” a combined waste of almost two hours and a lot of virgin vinyl. These albums preached to the commercial world, not to Floyd’s fans. And their ’88 album, “Momentary Lapse,” is inexcusable. No originality, no classic cuts, no Floyd characteristics…Pink Floyd has become Britain’s self-contained answer to the New Kids.

Rush has many classic albums under its belt; “2112,” “Hemi-spheres,” “Exit Stage Left” and “Signals” are classics no matter who you ask. But as soon as Rush became popular, Presto! “Presto” came along and rendered Rush beyond hope.

Don Henley was the drummer for the Eagles, one of my favorite bands, whose “Hotel California,” “Heartache Tonight,” “James Dean,” “One Of These Nights” and “Life In The Fast Lane” have become definitions of classic rock and roll. Kind of makes you want to cry when you consider the fifty minutes of wasted vinyl he released last year and called “The End of the Innocence.”

I could go on, but I think I’ll talk about Queensryche. Queensryche likes to make a point of making each album different from the last, so I wasn’t expecting another “Mindcrime” when I spent ten dollars for the “Empire” CD. I was expecting to hear at least one or two really good songs (like “Revolution Calling”) and I also hoped to see some organization and originality. I wasn’t expecting the album to have as much of a story line as “Operation: Mindcrime” did, but the order of the songs made me wonder if Queensryche had sat down at a roulette wheel to decide on it.

So Queensryche is now a nameless heavy metal band. Their thanks to the true fans who made “Mindcrime” so popular is an album that just appeals to some. As a very angry fan of Celtic Frost once said when the band “turned into another Bon Jovi clone, when a band switches styles in the middle of its career, they say to all their old fans, AScrew you, we’re going where the money is!’” n

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