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Devin Townsend - Empath review

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Band: Devin Townsend
Album: Empath
Release date: March 2019

Disc I
01. Castaway
02. Genesis
03. Spirits Will Collide
04. Evermore
05. Sprite
06. Hear Me
07. Why
08. Borderlands
09. Requiem
10. Singularity
    1 - Adrift
    2 - I Am I
    3 - There Be Monsters
    4 - Curious Gods
    5 - Silicon Scientists
    6 - Here Comes The Sun

Disc II [Limited Edition bonus demos]
01. The Contrarian
02. King
03. The Waiting Kind
04. Empath
05. Methuselah
06. This Is Your Life
07. Gulag
08. Middle Aged Man
09. Total Collapse
10. Summer

How do you try to describe something that in many other contexts could serve as evidence to certify someone insane? Simply put, you don't. You strap yourself in and let yourself be taken on a journey with many twists, jumps and unexpected turns whilst you hold on for dear life. Devin Townsend here, sheds himself of the project that he has called home for a decade and embarks on an effort that marks his first solo venture since Ziltoid 2.

This album is almost like a sound collage, pieces of a puzzle that many people wouldn't think would fit together yet Devin seamlessly puts them next to each other like it was natural. "Evermore" goes from quiet strumming on a guitar through choral choirs by way of shredding and blast beats; yep, just like that. "Sprite" manages to transition from a child's storybook reading through ethereal passages with soulful melodies before ending on eerie electronic plains. This album sees Devin Townsend pick pieces from his past and create one hell of a sonic brew.

This is an album for all Devin fans, from his workings with Strapping Young Lad (see "Hear me"), his ambient records (so many passages are scattered throughout) through to his all out mind-bending ala Ziltoid. It is this album that serves as a culmination of all these different aspects of his career without ever sounding like he is self-referencing to remind fans of glory days gone by. It is to his whole career what Epicloud was to the Project, a summation of its parts re-imagined into a whole new package.

Devin's voice is as strong as ever, "Why?" taking the mantle from "The Way Home" for the best vocal performance from the man. The instrumentation is top notch and the guest spots (from regulars such as Anneke Van Giersbergen, old partners in crime in Steve Vai and a debut appearance from Chad Kroeger; yes, you read that right, Nickelback's Chad Kroeger contributes vocals on "Hear Me") all add to an album already bursting at the seams. Featuring Devin's traditional wall of sound production, everything is perfectly in place to create the sonic soundscapes that reside in the man's head.

All this said, it is a grower of an album; with so much to digest, you will miss little intricacies and find yourself trying to find reason in the madness rather than sitting back and absorbing it. This is an album that requires repeated listens before you can fully comprehend its contents, so if you find yourself not too sure give it time. Once it clicks, you have yourself an record that is at once certifiably a classic and insane.

If you had any doubts about the man's future when the project disbanded, this album will not only dash those fears, it will make you realize that he can reach ever greater heights from an already lofty position.

Rating breakdown
Performance: 9
Songwriting: 10
Originality: 10
Production: 9

Written by omne metallum | 12.04.2020

Guest review disclaimer:
This is a guest review, which means it does not necessarily represent the point of view of the MS Staff.

Staff review by
Finally free of all artistic constraints once more, Devin Townsend makes just the album he wanted to make.

published 30.03.2019 | Comments (7)


Comments: 1   Visited by: 43 users
13.04.2020 - 01:56
Rating: 8
Doge of Venice

I liked the album but I find when Devin is at his most 'all over the place' he is also at his most mechanical.

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