Progarchives, the progressive rock ultimate discography
Devin Townsend - Empath CD (album) cover


Devin Townsend


Experimental/Post Metal

3.93 | 340 ratings

From, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Prog Reviewer
4 stars 20 playthroughs and I still can't pick out Chad Kroeger's voice. It's probably just hidden in all the friggin' overdubs and noise saturation there, as usual.

As usual, and yet, not quite. Dropping the "project" moniker for this release, Townsend basically recorded this album as a symbolic two middle fingers to those of us "critics" complaining about his style of over saturation in his music, so he decided to sprinkle it in this album with a heavy dose of schizophrenia and growling.

Now "hevy Devy" is known for being very broad texture-wise due to his bipolar disorder, but never have we truly heard it coalescing together in one album. Indeed, listening to this album from a distance, it sounds disjointed somehow, but each song is composed with a purpose and structure. "Castaway" begins in a tropical matter, with echoes of Hawaii and steel drums before a choir triumphantly brings in "Genesis" with a roar. Right off the bat Townsend refers to his mind and his "fantasy world", with 8-bit samples and soaring soundtrack strings. The chords here down mesh and mush like they did in Transcendence. In essence, those damn near put me to sleep half the time. No, here the chords are jagged and rough. Right away, you realize this is an album you have to sit down and listen to. Right away, you realize Townsend is telling a story and he's going to drag you along for the ride, whether you fucking like it or not. With a chorus only repeated once, "Genesis" is an anthem of Townsend's defiance to conform to critic's expectations, an emotion that's carried over into "Spirits Will Collide".

"Evermore" is more a balancing act of graceful waltz-like tempos, triumphant choruses, crunching power chords and a sprinkling of snappy castanets. There's a bit more variety here to sink your teeth into, but so far, so normal. These songs feel like an overture that's long overstayed its welcome, not spazzy enough to be different, but not quite catchy enough like some offerings from Transcendence.

Only when you get to "Sprite" does it start to get interesting. What starts off with what sounds like a fable or poem begins with a very soft and innocent fairytale soundscape. Some fancy drumwork flits and flutters between the strings and keys in the background, like fairies dancing betwixt the moonlight sky (or something like that). It all sounds very trivial and predictable. That's why Townsend lets it marinate for a good two minutes before Elliot Desgagnés (of Beneath the Massacre fame, FYI) barges in growling some sort of beast from between the 6th or 7th ring of hell, presumably playing the "monster" in this peaceful fairy tale (every fairy tale's gotta have a monster).

Then we get to "Hear Me", which is ironic, since it immediately starts with screaming and blastbeats. Yes, I'm pretty sure we can hear that Devin. To me, this is Townsend at his most ferocious since Deconstructed. This is definitely the loudest song off the album, and yet there's something which I can't hear, as previously aforementioned at the start of this review (so if anyone knows exactly when Kroeger [of Nickelback fame, of course] is singing, please feel free to let me know, my ears strain to pick out anything remotely resembling his voice).

Now Townsend's bipolarity are showing in full force. Transition from that to the intro of the classically waltz-like "Why?". This is something I imagine Townsend skipping through a field of roses (and potentially some corpses) in some Wizard of Oz musical type thing. Sprinkle some dissonance here and there and some crunching chords and Desgagnes growling and you're good. Honestly, this is one of the highlights for me. The styles being displayed are outstanding, and the conjunctions never feel jagged or abrupt. They're more akin to surprises a la Haydn's symphony.

So let's jump to a more indie folk pop sound to kick off "Borderlands" (one of my favorite shooters by the by), but now he's going off the rails, some Zappa-esque schitzo arpeggios, atmospheric soundscapes a la Ghost, capped off with more triumphant choruses continuing into the choral, operatic "Requiem". We cap off the album proper with the juggernaut of the lot, "Singularity" which takes its time to build up in that happy, symphonic theme that's been made prevelant since the beginning, but it's interspersed with dark electronic bridges, furious blastbeats (and screaming, obviously), another atmospheric break, some scary guy talking in a robotic voice and what appears to be a pots and pans solo. There are definitely isolated sections with smatterings of spastic guitar licks a la Zappa or Between the Buried and Me, but personally, I wish there was a bit more showmanship, some more solos and showcases and whatnot. The end is also a bit too abrupt for my taste, but the buildup with about 4 minutes left sort of emphasizes the point.

The second disc contains demos, a la Transcendence (aka songs that didn't quite make the final cut). They all have the same sort of theme so I'm not going to bother reviewing each one. Favorites would be "The Waiting Kind", "Methuselah", "Middle Aged Man" and "Summer".

All in all, it's refreshing to see Townsend get a bit of psycho back in his playing. It's a bit of refreshment to liven up an otherwise predictable sound, especially with what he's capable of and what he's produced in the past. One of his finest albums in quite a while, with perhaps a slight knock at the lack of sing-a-long-ability such as tracks of Epicloud or Infinity. Nonetheless, it's a bombastic return to form, and we all have Chad Kroeger to thank for motivating him to stick to his guns and buck the trend.

God, who would've known we'd be thanking Nickelback for indirectly producing a prog gem. You can't make this shit up.


Wicket | 4/5 |


As a registered member (register here if not), you can post rating/reviews (& edit later), comments reviews and submit new albums.

You are not logged, please complete authentication before continuing (use forum credentials).

Forum user
Forum password

Share this DEVIN TOWNSEND review

Social review comments () BETA

Review related links

Copyright Prog Archives, All rights reserved. | Legal Notice | Privacy Policy | Advertise | RSS + syndications

Other sites in the MAC network: — jazz music reviews and archives | — metal music reviews and archives

Donate monthly and keep PA fast-loading and ad-free forever.