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Devin Townsend

Experimental/Post Metal

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Devin Townsend Empath album cover
3.93 | 340 ratings | 10 reviews | 32% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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Studio Album, released in 2019

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Castaway (2:29)
2. Genesis (6:06)
3. Spirits Will Collide (4:40)
4. Evermore (5:30)
5. Sprite (6:37)
6. Hear Me (6:30)
7. Why? (4:59)
8. Borderlands (11:03)
9. Requiem (2:47)
10. Singularity (23:33) :
- Part 1: Adrift
- Part 2: I Am I
- Part 3: There Be Monsters
- Part 4: Curious Gods
- Part 5: Silicon Scientists
- Part 6: Here Comes the Sun

Total Time 74:14

Bonus disc from 2019 SE - Tests of Manhood :
1. The Contrarian (demo version) (5:41)
2. King (demo version) (5:29)
3. The Waiting Kind (demo version) (3:54)
4. Empath (demo version) (5:11)
5. Methuselah (demo version) (4:07)
6. This Is Your Life (demo version) (4:15)
7. Gulag (demo version) (5:38)
8. Middle Aged Man (3:25)
9. Total Collapse (demo version) (5:41)
10. Summer (demo version) (6:15)

Total Time 49:36

Line-up / Musicians

- Devin Townsend / vocals, guitar, bass, synth, computer, orchestrations, co-producer, mixing

- Rayne Townsend / vocals
- Elliot Desgagnés / death metal vocals (2-5,7,10)
- Ché Aimee Dorval / vocals (2)
- Adam Getgood / vocals (5)
- Josefa Torres / vocals (5)
- Chad Kroeger / vocals (6)
- Jess Vaira / vocals (8)
- Anneke Van Giersbergen / vocals (6,10,bonus 2)
- The Elektra Women's Choir / chorus vocals (2-5,7-10)
- Moma Edmundson / choir director
- Mike Keneally / guitar & keyboards (2,7,8,10), vocals (8), co-producer
- Shaun Verreault / pedal steel guitar
- Ryan Dhale / guitar & keyboards (8)
- Scott Reinson / guitar & keyboards (8)
- Steve Vai / guitar solo (10)
- Callum Marinho / whistle (10)
- Nathan Navarro / bass
- Anup Sastry / drums
- Morgan Ågren / drums
- Sam Paulicelli / drums
- The Lords Of The Sound / orchestra
- Erik Severinsen / arrangements, vocals (8)
- Niels Bye Nielsen / orchestrations
- Ron Getgood / spoken voice (5)

Releases information

Artwork: Anthony Clarkson

CD Inside Out Music ‎- IOMCD 526 (2019, Europe)
2xCD Sony Music ‎- 19075933362 (2019, US) Bonus CD with demos

2LP Sony Music ‎- 19075924001 (2019, US)
2LP + CD Inside Out Music ‎- IOMLP 526 (2019, Europe) Full album on both media

Thanks to mbzr48 for the addition
and to projeKct for the last updates
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DEVIN TOWNSEND Empath ratings distribution

(340 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(32%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(32%)
Good, but non-essential (21%)
Collectors/fans only (9%)
Poor. Only for completionists (6%)

DEVIN TOWNSEND Empath reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Negoba
5 stars First Listen: Delicious Mess Fifth Listen: Album of the Year 15th Listen: Maybe the best Prog Metal Album ever Made

I am a Devin Townsend uberfan. He is my favorite artist of the last 20 years. At the same time, I was seriously afraid he was finally running out of mojo as I wrote in my review of his final DTP album Transcendence.

I was wrong. The old man has mucho mojo for the mortals still to deliver.

When my non-metal or non-prog friends ask me to describe Devin, I usually say he is the musical grandson of Frank Zappa, as he got his start with Steve Vai who in turn got his start with FZ. Up until now, the comparison was loose. Empath is metal Zappa, composed by a fully matured and sophisticated artist who happens to have the added bonus of being a virtuoso rock vocalist. In fact, among the album's numerous contributors is another Zappa alumnus Mike Keneally who serves as musical director.

It is not an exaggeration to say that this album may have the broadest range of styles ever juxtaposed. The blast beat festival of Hear Me is immediately followed by orchestral / choral Why. And it works. Well, at least after 3-4 listens. This album is not an easy listen, especially the first time through. Not only does it span an enormous palette of musical ideas, it evokes an immense range of emotions. In fact, Townsend has said this is the point of the whole album, that in spite of a chaotic world, we are in the journey together. The thematic idea of the album is monsters and light.

The lead video "Genesis" actually serves as an overture, while the album ends with the 20+ minute multipart epic "Singularity." The prog-head in me giggles at the way this 2019 album follows this classic formula. There are also little musical allusions to other artists, some obvious (Nirvana's "In Bloom") and some subtle (Opeth-ish guitar parts in the epic).

The bonus disc is also excellent, and would have sit nicely in the DT discography if it had been the primary album. It still would have been his best since Epicloud. But like the majority of Dev's albums, it has high points and low points.

Empath itself has no filler. It is the first masterpiece album I've heard in years.

Review by TCat
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
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.

Review by BrufordFreak
COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars I have to admit that I look forward to every Devin Townsend album despite the fact that I rarely come away wanting to hear them again. I just appreciate this guy's unique genius and unpredictable chameleonic eclecticism. What a talented guy!

1. "Castaway" (2:29) spacious echo guitar--to Hawaii and beyond! With the joinder of the angelic choir for the final minute, this must be suggesting that we have arrived at Heaven. (4.5/5)

2. "Genesis" (6:06) where this song begins and "Castaway" ends is unsure, but I'm filled with a kind of ecstatic religiosity as I listen to this (aren't I?). Weird timelessness to this: it has moments that seem to span all of my six decades. You sure you weren't channeling EDGE OF SANITY (Crimson) when you created this, Devy? (8.25/10)

3. "Spirits will Collide" (4:40) This is the first song I heard from Empath. My reaction was similar to the one I had when I first heard Kirk Franklin's "Stomp!" and The Nu Nation Project in the late 1990s: someone taking church/religious music into a (refreshing) new direction. A church choir! (Is Devvy a Christian rocker?) With hard-drivin' rock/metal. I'm also reminded of the Christian thrash metal song from the 1990s in which the lead singer screamed one word, "repent," the entire song. This is not those songs or artists, but the one-track, one-dimensionality of this song does remind me of songs like those. (7.75/10)

4. "Evermore" (5:30) contains some very interesting dynamics, styles, transitions, and messages but, to these ears/mind it's too disjointed and all-over the place; there's not enough coherence and directness here to make a point. (7.75/10)

5. "Sprite" (6:37) Devy's contribution to fairy tales (in the UTOPIA "Singring" tradition). Dull and one-dimensional for over half of the song, then, after it goes church-religious, too weird (though I do like the Tangerine Dream-like fairy-travels bit in sixth minute). Devy's really stretching himself with the Celtic sprite in the beginning to the Gollum finish. (8.25/10)

6. "Hear Me" (6:30) sounds like cartoon music. Until the women's choir joins in. Then Devy takes over and it really is loony toons. The chorus is decent. The group skill to keep in time is insane (unless it's all auto-synced.) The song actually works because of the contrast of extremes. (8.75/10)

7. "Why?" (4:59) opens like a BBC theme song. Boy, Devy has a gorgeous voice. I truly wish he would sing more like this--give Josh Grobin and Roy Orbison a run for their money. LOL! (9/10)

8. "Borderlands" (11:03) a wild hodge-podge of styles melded into "one" while, thankfully, staying away from the freneticism of thrash/doom styles. I LOVe the centre section (ending with "it's tragic, it's love"). (18/20)

9. "Requiem" (2:47) an interlude into heavenly clouds and eternal light. Again, this talented dude could compose music for any genre he likes! GORGEOUS cinematic choir piece! (5/5)

10. "Singularity" (23:33) an excellent song with great movement, great stylistic shifts and development, brilliant use of his choir and, believe it or not, less thrash metal walls of sound than I'm used to hearing on a Devin song. My one beef with this (and many of Devvy's songs) is that we get sensitive, angelic pre-pubescent- and Josh Grobin-like vocals alternated with Ziltoid growls, doom metal guitars, and machine gun bass drumming: Is Devy all tongue-in-cheek--is he's just laughing as he makes this music and laughing at us for taking it seriously? Nice to hear him shredding in refreshing ways in the "Silicon Scientists" section. Nice to hear the uplifting feel and message of the final "Here Comes the Sun" section. (45.5/50): - Part 1 - Adrift (4.75/5) - Part 2 - I Am I (5/5) - Part 3 - There Be Monsters (9/10) - Part 4 - Curious Gods (8/10) - Part 5 - Silicon Scientists (9.75/10) - Part 6 - Here Comes the Sun (9/10)

Total Time 74:08

Devin Townsend is a genius: he is uber-creative, mega-talented, warped, and totally unique. It this is an album that I'll want to revisit. I like it!

4.5 stars; a near-masterpiece of progressive rock music.

Review by Wicket
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 [%*!#]ing 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 [&*!#] up.


Review by The Crow
3 stars After the surprisingly average "Z2", Devin Townsend manage to return to the good path with Transcendence, which was his best album since "Deconstruction".

Sadly, this "Empath" is another let-down in my opinion, being too pompous and inconsistent to be considered truly excellent. Devin tries to give us a summary of his career here. Genesis bring back the craziness of "Synchestra", Spirits Will Collide is much in the vein of "Epicloud" or "Sky Blue", Evermore could be a take-out of "Transcendence", Hear Me reminds me to "Deconstruction" and Strapping Young Lad and Castaway has new age vibes in the vein of "Ghost". And sadly, except from Genesis, this songs are under the expected quality from a mastermind like Mr. Townsend.

But the real problem of "Empath" is that when he tries to do something new he succeeds in the masterpiece Why?, but also fails in the boring and repetitive Borderlands. And in the other true attempt of innovation here, the epic Singularity, the result is also inconsistent containing true brilliant moments like the final four minutes mixed with some boring and forgettable ones.

So if you are a fan of Devin Townsend, there is much to enjoy in "Empath", but this album is one of his weakest efforts to date given the amount of average and forgettable tracks it contains.

Let's hope his next album will be better!

Best Tracks: Genesis (crazy brilliant and dynamic), Why? (one of his best clean vocals performances mixed with some opera and classical music influences) and some parts of Singularity.

My Rating: ***

Latest members reviews

4 stars Amazing production values, some very nice work with choir and orchestra - but still feels like a solo artist trapped in his basement and having too much fun with crazy stuff. Townsend's a genius, but he needs someone to balance his bipolar temper. Some parts are divine, some parts just obnoxious ... (read more)

Report this review (#2302611) | Posted by uribreitman | Monday, December 30, 2019 | Review Permanlink

5 stars This is it. This is Devin's Magnum Opus. And given that the man has already released nearly 20 solo records, many of them highly regarded, throughout his two and half decade solo career, this is a staggeringly impressive accomplishment. After all, how many great artists, of any rock genre, prog or o ... (read more)

Report this review (#2248648) | Posted by ssmarcus | Thursday, September 5, 2019 | Review Permanlink

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. Fir ... (read more)

Report this review (#2241903) | Posted by The Duke of Prunes | Sunday, August 4, 2019 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Devin Townsend's newest release is truly a work of art. From the chill-out feel of the opening track to the epic closer, it's a wild journey of metal, choral arrangements, and all around excellent progressive rock. Some of his most excellent ambient moments since 2001's Terria are on this album, esp ... (read more)

Report this review (#2204621) | Posted by tempest_77 | Tuesday, May 21, 2019 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Wow. This is nothing like the Devin we have known. Some beautiful music with amazing production. A little cinematic. Always knew this was in Dev. So happy for him. He has nailed this. Die hards may hate it but this is what dev wants at this time in his life. He has pumped out so many albums. Sta ... (read more)

Report this review (#2169009) | Posted by keriboi | Wednesday, March 27, 2019 | Review Permanlink

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