Devin Townsend – Empath
Hevy Devy Music / Inside Out Music
Release Date: 29/03/2019
Running Time: 74:08
Review by Beth Jones
Now, those of you who know me, will already know that I think Devin Townsend is some kind of astral being from a higher plane, so it will be little surprise to you to find out that I was like a child waiting for Christmas when it was announced that he was to release a new album, and I was intrigued by his documentary series that tantalised us with the promise of an album that he was both amazed and concerned by, as it was completely different from anything he had done before. I have to admit that I was a little nervous, in case I hated it, and it made him, this glorious example of a human, slip off the rather high pedestal I had positioned him on in my mind. I had purchased the album on pre-order and waited patiently for its arrival on 29th March, only to be dismayed for a whole week, when, alas every day the postman came, but with no vinyl shaped package (sad face).
However why let a little thing like an appalling postal service stand in the way of musical genius?! Rick pulled it up on Spotify on the evening of 29th March, and we had a listening party for two in our front room.
Looking at the list of collaborating musicians on this album tells you that it is going to be special. It reads like a who’s who of top current musical geniuses: Nathan Navarro, Morgan Ågren, Samus Paulicelli, Anup Sastry, Elliot Desgagnés, Ché Aimee Dorval, Anneke van Giersbergen, Chad Kroeger, Ryan Dahle, Steve Vai, The Elektra Women’s Choir, Mike Keneally and Adam “Nolly” Getgood. They all saw something special in what Devin was attempting! This was going to be exciting!!
As I lost myself in the world of ‘Empath’, two things quickly became clear; Firstly, I needn’t have worried about whether I would like this album – it is Devin duh! He’s not going to put out rubbish, because he is a god! And secondly, clearly, he is having some sort of mental crisis, and I am worried about him! That said, what he is producing in the throws of this crisis is quite simply mind-blowingly good! The Plovdiv live album he released last year was immense, and I didn’t think it could be topped in the sense of the emotionally electric pleasure it gave me, however ‘Empath’ has equalled and surpassed that. Whilst it is infinitely different from the Plovdiv release, and infinitely wilder in its soundscapes than Devin has attempted before, it is at its heart, still Devin and it is genius.
Starting with the calm, tranquillity of ‘Castaway’, the album takes us on a journey through creation, on a universal scale, with an entire toolbox of style, sounds and rhythms, making the whole thing every genre and no genre all at the same time. I am struggling to describe it’s brilliance without sounding like an utter pompous prat, but the best analogy I have come up with so far is this; When Mozart was composing, he had outlandish ideas, like attempting to write opera in languages never used in opera before, and writing a Requiem mass for his own death that was so ambitious, the people of the time thought he was completely insane. But now he is, without question, one of, if not THE greatest composer to have ever lived, and his operas, and the Requiem, are perfect examples of the most beautiful and revered pieces of classical music ever written. To me, Devin is that same crazy genius that Mozart was, and the music he is producing now is before its time, making it marmite for many, but he knows what he is doing. He sees the bigger picture, and this album shows that perfectly. You might hate it now, you might hate it for a good few years, but I guarantee that there will come a point where you listen back to it in the future and think, ‘Oh my god, why didn’t I pay more attention to this years ago?!’
Personally, I think the album is perfect, in every way, from the insane speed and precision of the drumming in ‘Hear Me’, to the beauty and pois of opera in ‘Why?’, and the sheer scale of the sound in ‘Genesis’. The vocal talents he possesses also never cease to amaze me, from his heavy to his serene classical operatic, his vocals are crystal clear, and beautifully powerful throughout, and combined with the unmistakable sound of his pal Anneke Van Giersbergen’s amazing vocals, along with other equally brilliant vocalists and choristers, it is just glorious. Devin has taken a whole bunch of musical ideas and combined them with some of the best musicians in the business, then interspersed them with sound effects, and possibly a touch of magic, and painstakingly layered together a complete work which takes you on a journey on so many levels of conscious thought that it will blow your socks off.
Or you might hate it, but if you do, whilst I respect other people’s opinions, in this instance I’m sorry but you are wrong! This is everything I could ever want in one album. THIS is the future my friends. Empath!
03. Spirits Will Collide
06. Hear Me
II. I Am I
III. There Be Monsters
IV. Curious Gods
V. Silicon Scientists
VI. Here Comes the Sun!
Tweets by dvntownsend
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