May 17, 2021
Details Emerge on Lackluster Empire (and Operation: MIndcrime) Box Sets
By Brian Heaton
Capitol Records is finally getting around to releasing the long-awaited 30th anniversary box set of Queensryche's Empire on June 25. The label is also re-releasing Operation: Mindcrime in a similar format on the same day, giving the band's fans a double dose of classic material to consider rebuying.
Empire is featured as a 3CD/1DVD box set, while Operation: MIndcrime is being issued as a 4 CD/1 DVD box set. The audio from both new versions of the respective original albums is newly remastered at Abbey Road Studios in London and will also be available on vinyl. Simple two-CD versions of the records are also being released. Sadly, however, the contents of both sets are underwhelming, and likely not worth investing in if you've kept up with buying past editions of each album.
Looking first at the Empire box set, the first disc features the newly remastered original album. Disc two contains three bonus studio tracks—“Last Time in Paris,” “Scarborough Fair” and “Dirty Lil' Secret”—all of which were already available as B-sides on previous reissues and compilations, not to mention the original CD singles from the 1990s. The disc also contains edited versions of “Silent Lucidity” and “Empire”, an acoustic version of “I Dream in Infrared”, “Prophecy” from Live in Tokyo (which was available on the EP remaster in 2003), and radio edits of “Best I Can” and “Anybody Listening?”
Disc three is “Live at Hammersmith Odeon, London, 1990,” featuring 10 live tracks previously available on the 20th Anniversary box set of Empire. The final disc in this new box set is simply Building Empires, the DVD compilation that originally came out on VHS in 1992 and was issued on DVD in 2001. It's all housed in a 10x10 box with new liner notes by Alex Milas, who interviewed singer Geoff Tate for the project.
Glancing at the Operation: Mindcrime box set, its contents mirror the repackaging treatment given to Empire. Disc one is the original album remastered. Disc two has edited versions found elsewhere. The third and fourth discs contain live content—disc three has the Mindcrime portion of the Hammersmith Odeon show in 1990, while the fourth live disc which is labeled “Operation: Mindcrime Live in Wisconsin 1991” appears to just be Queensr˙che's previously released Operation: LIVEcrime CD. The DVD is the Video: Mindcrime compilation, first released in 1989 on VHS, and then repackaged into the “deluxe edition” of Operation: Mindcrime that was issued as a box set in 2006.
In a nutshell, unless you've never owned these two albums previously (unlikely if you are reading this blog) or lost all your physical media over the years for whatever reason, there's almost ZERO reason to purchase these two new editions. Of course, completists may want the newly remastered audio and the different packaging. But there isn't much bang for your buck here.
The one lone exception is on CD two of the Operation: Mindcrime box set. It contains two interview tracks, “Interview with Queensr˙che—Speak the Word” and “Overseeing the Operation.” Both are promotional radio interviews with the band that were, as far as I know, previously only available on vinyl. Apparently, they've been officially digitized and are now available with this set.
If you're a hardcore fan, however, think carefully before spending your money on these sets. The 30th anniversary of Empire was the perfect opportunity for Capitol Records to do the album (and fans) justice by including a disc of album demos, and the full version of the Queensryche's much-ballyhooed MTV Unplugged session which has been begged for by the fanbase for years. Instead, the label did the bare minimum, looking for a quick and easy cash grab.