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Devin Townsend - Empath CD (album) cover

EMPATH

Devin Townsend

 

Experimental/Post Metal

4.09 | 195 ratings

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The Duke of Prunes
5 stars When i was about to hear this album for the first time, i was pretty sceptical about it mainly because i wasn't a big fan of Devin's work even though i enjoyed some of his stuff. But, this LP completely changed my view towards his music and it eventually became one of my all-time favourites. First, i have to say this is definitely not an easy listen. Like most prog, it requires a reasonable amount of spins and a certain dedication to fully understand and enjoy the record. But, it's worth, believe me.

The album starts with the laid-back and relaxing "Castaway", with a soaring guitar, accompained by mood settling beach noises. You really feel "Cast away", while listening. Near the end, The Elektra Women's Choir joins, instilling pleasent celestial feel. The track flows into the absolute contender for the craziest, most bizarre track of 2019 - "Genesis". If someone wants you to explain what Devin is all about, just play them this one. It encompasses the adventurous and unorthodox nature of his music completely. The choir fades out leading to Devin's powerful, roaring atop of a mountain, clean vocals. The overall feel is his usual epic progressive metal, with many interweaving layers. The "chorus" here is heavy, full of blast beats, reminiscent of Dimmu Borgir. A slight musical reference to the beginning of "March of the poozers", but sped up occurs, followed by another wave of epic chorus vocals, sounding genuinely uplifting. This is noticeable tendency in the latest Devin albums - his compositions tend to be rather uplifting, as opposed to his earlier material. And, purely in the mad scientist of metal nature, you can hear integrated cat's meowing, right before a wicked syncopated heavy, abysmal riff, serving as a bridge. After all that, we are taken to the 80's in some form of metal disco, just proving that Townsend has no limits. Absolute monster of a track.

What i find to be appealing to non-fans of HevyDevy, is that in this album we hear less of his regular "wall of sound" recording technique, while still maintaining the heaviness. The next track provides some form of respite from the madness. "Spirits Will Collide" starts with the women choir above a middle-paced symphonic power metal background. Devin's vocals here are one of the most uplifting ones he has ever done and i think it will appeal to more people, not familiar with his work. Without a doubt easiest digestible track of the album.

"Evermore" has similar construction as "Genesis", but this time with an underlying symphonic and orchestral feel. Here, the wall of sound is reduced to minimum and we can actually occasionally hear clean jazzy parts, interfering with the overall epic heavy sound. I'm just going to say that the chorus here is one of the most ear-worming things ever, seriously. This track feels like a space voyage that ends in a wormhole. Yes. I had to repeat it over and over again, it's that satisfying.

The next song, "Sprite" has this subtle, airy, alternative feel to it. The track has strong emotional impact due to its existential nature - Devin delivers really poignant-driven vocals, almost having an operatic tinge. Beneath the structure of the composition there are deeply igrained elevating keyboard layers creating incredible emotional consonance. Sublime piece of music.

Now, "Hear me" is the blast beat festival, balm for the soul of every extreme metal fan. Listening closely, behind the primal anger of the music, there is actually very strong musical line, it's not just chaotic notes. The next track - "Why?", comes completely logical after the previous display of extremism. Probably my favourite composition, in terms of the sheer power of Devin's voice. Here, he goes operatic off the charts. If this doesn't evoke pathos in you, then i don't know what will, really.

Next, we have the 11 minute "Borderlands", starting off with soft, alternative rock vocals, leading us to a Hollywood-inspired humorous chorus section, reminding us of Zappa. And then, we come to probably the most memorable riff of the album, entwined with many different vocal lines, again very musical and Zappa-esque. Everything stops rather abruptly, into an ambient sonicscape, filled with Devin's soothing vocals, that serves as a prolong build-up for the final reprise of the main riff and vocal section. It all then ends with another relaxing ambient part. As a connection between the two epics, we have "Requiem" - orchestral/choral score, worthy of replacing any acknowledged soundtrack for a space-themed movie. Frisson inducing, definitely.

The last piece - "Singularity", immerses us with a somewhat Gilmour-esque guitar opening, progressing into a part that is essentially filled with quiet, "lonely" vocals, and an acousitc guitar. Later on, Devin is in-your-face with his overly emotional and powerful operatic-styled vocals, sustained by the cosmic, orchestra-imitating wall of sound. It's crazy how Townsend changes the mood completely in the span of just seconds, yet it feels smooth and organic. The middle section is dominated by blastbeats and heavy vocals, reminiscent of "Hear me". As in "Borderlands", we arrive at "purification station" for our ears, expressed by demulcent chorus and a subtle keyboard lines underneath, after all the intensity and raw force. The part slowly progresses into brief example of "Musique concrete", while still having a musical line running in the background. Towards the end we are graced with proggy uneven rhythms, this time uplifting clean vocals, and the magical guitar of Steve Vai himself, the musical father of Devin Townsend, who now carries the genius of Zappa, in an alternate way.

I am seriously concerned that the mad genius cannot top this album, ever. The juxtaposition of these varied compositions and the seemingly nonsensical interweaved musical ideas, "lacking" a "concept" resonates immensely with a musical-perdurantist perspective, something Zappa originated in. And with "Empath", Devin ultimately proved the world to be the modern-day Zappa - able to accumulate a wide pallette of emotions into something chaotic at first glance, yet perfectly systematic when you delve into it.

The Duke of Prunes | 5/5 |

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