Review Summary: For an hour, Frusciante takes the listener on his life's journey.
To put in plain and simply; John Frusciante is one of a kind. Added to the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ roster for the release of “Mother’s Milk,” Frusciante brought his creative and innovative guitar playing to an already talented band, and would ultimately be a major facilitator of the band’s success. We did not really discover who Frusciante really was however, until his solo work was released. John is one of those rare types whose combination of sheer passion and dazzling songwriting is evident in every single one of his releases. Both “Shadows Collide With People” and “Curtains” directly reflect this, for they are Frusciante’s most critically acclaimed records. With his Chili Peppers work aside, John has the capacity to experiment with strange watery effects, hip-hop beats, and auto tune vocal effects to propel this innovative style of his. Frusciante’s 2009 work “The Empyrean” is his most ambitious and experimental album to date, for its inspiration and spirituality is merely brilliant.
Musically, “The Empyrean” is nothing short of magnificent; its instrumentation delicately and intricately developed, and the atmosphere giving the listener somewhat of another dimension sensation. The record is truly an interesting journey, for John is at the peak of his innovation. In “The Empyrean” alone the listener is presented with vocal distortion and other strange effects, that overall accentuate the record with great precision. Dark/Light
is virtually a literal representation of this, for the track transitions from a harrowing piano and vocal performance to choir singers and a hip-hop beat. These factors alone provide the song with a fitting and uplifting end. John’s guitar playing on the record is some of the best he’s ever done, bending and wailing his way through the instrumental opener Before the Beginning
and presenting an unusual yet brilliant guitar solo in Unreachable
What is noticeably different of “The Empyrean” than Frusicante’s previous works, is that the time was taken to expand his concepts. Between 2004 and 2005, John cranked out six different releases, EPs and full length records included. Although some of his best solo work was produced at the time, none of these albums developed a concept that even compares to “The Empyrean.” This record in particular is a collection of Frusciante’s thoughts on fame, spirituality, drug abuse, and his music career. Such a concept could not have been created had Frusciante not gone through a horrific heroine-driven depression in the mid-1990’s. What this indicates more than anything, is that John truly does believe and is inspired with his music. Overall the concepts of “The Empyrean” may be interpreted in several different ways, but is nearly an hour long account of Frusciante’s life.
More than any other track on the record, Unreachable
proves to be “The Empyrean’s” most intriguing and sensational piece, fueled by Frusciante’s pure passionate vocals and Flea’s grooving bassline. Unreachable
is also equipped with powerful lyrics, “I've run out again this, the one on my side, for we to disappear well I know I've tried, you know we've tried, you know we've tried. Hey, shoot me.” Not unlike the rest of his records, the emotion does not seem to have been eased from the violin fueled darkness of One More of Me
to the moving lyricism of After the Ending
. “There is nothing after the ending, everything is eternal, nothingness does not exist.” With “The Empyrean” John Frusciante has reached one of the most intriguing and essential points in his illustrious music career, but at the same time does not live up to some of his previous work. For what its worth, "The Empyrean" seems to have somewhat fallen into the progressive trap of being a bit too ambitious for its own good. While the majority of Frusciante's earlier works featured mostly great guitar playing and tremendous songwriting, "The Empyrean" is something more, which in this case hinders the record from being any better than excellent. It should be very interesting to see where this record takes Frusciante’s future albums, and for the time being he produced one of 2009’s greatest records.
Before the Beginning
Enough of Me
One More of Me