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Devin Townsend - Empath CD (album) cover

EMPATH

Devin Townsend

 

Experimental/Post Metal

4.07 | 206 ratings

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TCat
5 stars Devin Townsend just keeps on going and he keeps on releasing amazing albums. "Empath", released in March of 2019, continues his amazing legacy, and fans will not be disappointed. But how do we get the world to listen to this genius of progressive metal? It's true that his extremely emotional vocals and his wall of sound technique doesn't fit everyone's tastes, but man, are these people missing some great music. Many of the tracks feature the "Elektra Women's Choir" which give a really amazing feel to the tracks they are involved in, and make this music even more uplifting.

Leading out with a introductory track, "Castaway" is pretty amazing and set the stage for what is to come. It is a lovely build with a full choir singing at the end that brings it into the next track "Genesis". Then, Bam! Devin is in your face with some of his heaviest vocals and music, but don't worry, even in this first track, there is so much dynamic and variant sound. Che Aimee Dorval, who has worked extensively with Devin in the past, guests on this track, and this is one example of the many tracks that feature multiple drummers (at least 3 in this track). The overall feel of the track is progressive metal, but there are so many changes and surprises around each corner, the choir continues, cats meowing, cows mooing, seagulls screeching, and it all somehow fits together seamlessly. "Spirits will Collide" continues with that uplifting power metal giving breaks in the wall of sound for when the choir sings alone, but bringing it back when Devin joins in. At this risk of sounding sappy, this emotional heaviness can bring one to tears.

Not being one to stand too long in any certain subgenre, Devin ventures into a more symphonic sound in "Evermore" without completely losing the wall so sound feel, but incorporating quieter sections with some great synth work. Devin has a way of turning his heavy music into something that sounds like a complex rock orchestra, and this is very apparent in this track. In "Sprite", which features a strange reading, Devin resorts to his head voice giving it a more airy feel, and the music itself is a more carefree feel, lighter and playful, yet quite complex, as you should expect. But, as with most of his music, there is something lurking underneath it all. Everything bursts into crazy rapid fire notes when we go into the next track "Hold On". Anneke Van Giersbergen, another DT regular guests on vocals along with Chad Kroeger from "Nickelback", though I can't quite pick him out in this crazy music. This track is emotional like the rest, but in a no-holds-barred kind of way, as it is more extreme and loud. But it's still amazing! Yes, there is growling in there, but it only elevates the power of it all. And Devin's vocals are at their extreme on this one too.

"Why?" is the crazy musicianship of Townsend at it's best. This one sounds heavily orchestrated and sounds very Disney-like, complete with birds singing on Devin's shoulders. It might sound corny, but that is why Devin is so damn good at this, because it is just as awesome as everything else on this album. The choir only helps to make this even more believable. The power of Devin's voice becomes almost operatic. "Borderlands" follows and this time starts with a reggae feel, which later becomes complex and then a nice, heavy metal feel soon after. This 11 minutes track is wonderfully progressive and flows so well for a song that goes just about everywhere in musicality and style. If there is one song that demonstrates all of Devin's genius, his penchant for effective use of dynamics, and the many styles that he has touched on in his career, this would be that song. It is a tour de force of his music, even becoming blissfully soft and pensive for several minutes in the middle of the track and then coming out of that mood with the choir leading him along seemingly saying "Don't be sad Devin, lets go play some more". He does for a while, but the track finally ends in an ambient way. This flows into the beautifully constructed "Requiem" which utilizes the choir and is quite orchestral.

As if this isn't enough, Devin puts a 23 minute suite at the end of the album. "Singularity" is a 6 part suite that starts with "Adrift" with a solo electric guitar playing a melody by itself before an acoustic guitar comes in with Devin singling in his best mellow voice. He is later supported by the choir making this a very celestial sounding track, and then DT waxes operatic again, in the best possible way of course. At 5 minutes, "I Am I" goes into a more bombastic style, and the wall of music and vocals returns in a big way. The music mellows out after a while for a quieter section, then at 8:30, part 3, "There Be Monsters" section switches to a darker tone and builds in intensity and then things just go wild in another study in heavy extremes. The fourth part is "Curious Gods" replaces the loudness with a quick calm down and a return to a softer sound after 13 minutes. There are some nice harmonies in the form of layered vocals and complex yet mellower somewhat avant garde sounds and some whistling. When it slips into the next section "Silicon Scientists" things are chaotic, and then get into some interesting meter changes and deep, character style spoken vocals. At around 19 minutes, the last section "Here Comes the Sun", with Devin's vocals coming back softly and things build to climax when Steve Vai comes in for a guitar solo guest spot to complete this epic suite and close this amazing album.

There is a 2nd disc with the limited edition of this album that includes 10 more tracks, most of them demo versions of other songs not on this album. The thing with DT is that his demo songs many times sound like they are finished. I'm not going to go through these tracks, but just know that it is more amazing music from this genius.

Those that were afraid that DT might be losing his edge need not worry. This album is one of his best albums, and that is saying a lot. You get the signature DT sound here, and you get an amazing amount of variety. There is plenty of loudness here that will satisfy the ones that love DT's heaviness, some of which is very extreme and rank up there with his heaviest, but there are some beautiful sublime moments there too. DT always does his best when he is so dynamic as he is in this album. The addition of the choir on many of these tracks give so much depth and emotion to this music.

DT has quickly become my favorite Progressive Metal artist and this album completely solidifies that, but also brings him up to one of my favorite all around artists. If you ever loved DT's music, then you need this album. If you were always on the fence about his music, you need this album. If you have never heard of Devin Townsend, then you definitely need this album. One of the best albums so far this year and I have a feeling, unless something amazing comes along, it will be the best of the year. 5 bright stars.

TCat | 5/5 |

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