Song: "Silent Lucidity"
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While it is true in many, perhaps even a majority of cases, one cannot write-off the entire "hair metal" movement of the 1980's as something that had no "real" musical value. Most of the groups of this period did their best to promote the virtues of a lifestyle of excess, and the personas that they displayed were, at least in hindsight, rather comical. However, one of the biggest problems with just how big this trend became was the fact that a number of bands that likely did not belong, became wrapped up in the category, possibly giving an unjust assumption of their music. There is perhaps no more clear an example than when one examines the music of Queensrÿche, as their arrangements and moods went far beyond the stereotypical sounds of the time. In many ways, the band was more akin to the likes of KISS and Queen than they were groups like Mötley Crüe, and yet even to this day, this is a fact that somehow remains largely overlooked. Bringing a far more melodic and grand sound, along with lyrics that were often almost philosophical, Queensrÿche remain one of the more intriguing bands of the 1980's, and yet it was their first album of the decade that followed that proved to be their finest work. With the release of 1990's Empire, the band finally struck the ideal balance in all of their influences, and there are few songs that are as unforgettable or truly beautiful than what one can experience in Queensrÿche's classic 1990 single, "Silent Lucidity."
The opening acoustic guitar progression, played by Chris DeGarmo, has become nothing short of iconic to the youth of that generation, and yet it is also in this aspect where one of the greatest mis-labelings of all time occurs. Due to the feel that this puts forth, as well as the perception that it is a slower song, "Silent Lucidity" is often labeled as a "ballad," and yet when one steps back and looks at the song, it is clearly not even close to this form. However, the mood that this progression sets into place is one of the most brilliantly delicate in history, and it blends perfectly with the string arrangement that was arranged and conducted by Michael Kamen. This mood grows even stronger, completely captivating the listener as the song moves into the "main" section, and the rest of the band joins the arrangement. The second guitar from Michael Wilton locks in with DeGarmo to create an almost hypnotic cycle, and it remains one of the most distinctive aspects of the song. It is also the way in which bassist Eddie Jackson and drummer Scott Rockenfield are able to strike the ideal balance between the bands' hard rock roots and the soaring sound of the string section that makes "Silent Lucidity" such an amazing musical experience. Though many other bands experimented with involving large orchestrations, they all seem forced and unbalanced when compared to the sheer beauty and emotion that one finds on "Silent Lucidity."
Adding the perfect final element to the song, few will argue that Geoff Tate possesses much less than one of the most instantly recognizable voices of his generation. Easily able to work the entire vocal scale, it is the way in which he uses his deep, but strong lower register on the verses that in many ways defines "Silent Lucidity." There is a unique tone within his vocal delivery here, and it almost seems as if he is playing the role of "old wise man" as he spins this often metaphysical tale of sleep and dreaming. Working perfectly with the delicate nature of the music, the song is almost a lullaby at some points, and Tate walks this line, never breaking the mood or jarring the listener out of the hypnotic trance of the song as a whole. It is also the absolutely fantastic lyrics that enable "Silent Lucidity" to achieve the status that it has, as they are some of the most perfect phrases and vivid images that have ever been penned. At every turn, the lyrics can be dissected in a number of ways, an there are few lines that better capture the spirit of the song than when Tate sings, "...there's a place I like to hide, a doorway that I run through in the night..." This is the final element that is necessary to create this enthralling, yet never overwhelming mood, and the vocal performance from Geoff Tate remains nothing short of unforgettable.
Even more than two decades after its initial release, the overall power and beauty of "Silent Lucidity" remains completely intact. The fact that it has aged so perfectly, while almost every other song of the era has become more of a "period piece" is a testament to just how far apart the band was from their peers. The song stands as so much more than a ballad or a relic of the "hair metal" era, and once one realizes this fact, the overall contributions of Queensrÿche become clear. Truth be told, if one really dissects a song like "Silent Lucidity," there is an easy argument to be made that the song is most closely related to the works of Pink Floyd than any band of the 1980's, and this again separates the group from being a part of the "hair metal" scene. Just "why" the song has turned into such an iconic moment in music history can be to so many aspects, and yet one cannot deny the fact that the group allows the orchestration to be far more prominent in the mix weights heavily on this fact. The complete commitment to having this tone is what sets it apart from other such attempts, and the balance struck here clearly led to a number of the more regrettable combinations of hard rock and full orchestras that occurred over the decade that followed. Bringing together a number of different influences and fusing them together to create an absolutely phenomenal, yet fragile mood, there is simply no other song in history that can compare to the brilliance that can be experienced within Queensrÿche's 1990 single, "Silent Lucidity."