Devin Townsend
Empath


4.5
superb

Review

by Scheumke USER (12 Reviews)
March 29th, 2019 | 618 replies


Release Date: 2019 | Tracklist

Review Summary: If you can shine for you, friend, please shine for me

Empath could be metaphorically described as a big dinner table chock full of appetizers. There’s meat, fish, soup, hot and cold dishes, deserts, you name it. It’s all there, and you can taste all of it, but only in small mouthfuls. Devin Townsend is a great cook, and has cooked almost all of the dishes on display before, in actual meal sized portions. Today though, you get a big tasting of everything he has in his pantry. Why?Not necessarily because he wants YOU to taste it, but because he loves cooking, and this is what he wanted to cook. What he needed to cook.

Chef plays host today, and you will be pampered! But before we start off, Mister Townsend bids you to sit down, relax and let it all wash over you with a nice coconut milk (little parasol and all).

The soothing sounds of “Castaway” are not what you would expect as a starter, but they give a very smooth opening that finds you on the wonderful beaches of Hawaii. For some reason, a choir of angels starts singing a hymn to guide you on your journey to come.

Before you had a couple of sips, the host is back, takes the glass from you and sits you on the big dinner table. ”The aperitif is something bold. An explosion of flavor that leaves hints of every dish you will taste today” says Mister Townsend as he hands you a big spoon full of what looks like a bit of barbeque ribs with cheese on a bed of spinach topped off with a strawberry sauce. The taste is all over the place, and there are hints of even more ingredients that you cannot quite make out until you pay attention to the subtleties of the dish. You enjoy it a lot for what it is, but you can immediately name ten people who would spit it out and just angrily leave the room.

“Genesis” has everything. Anything and everything, except for, maybe, cohesion. It tries by having an actual chorus, but all the different parts in between are all over the place. It goes from blast beats to disco to groove to kittens meowing. It’s bipolar in a six-minute cocktail, a wonderful mess of a song that gets all your taste buds prickling with excitement.

Three small dishes follow. The first is a good little dish that is a little forgettable because you ate something similar yesterday. You are here for something new, not more of the same. The second is a spinach dish. It has the flavors of the aperitif, but with less ingredients, which give the dish more of its own personality and makes it easier on the tongue. After this your host starts to tell you a little children’s story while handing you the third dish, which is a weird combination of ingredients that do not really seem to mix well together or to go anywhere. The story is a little silly and it is unclear why this dish was included for our tasting to begin with.

I enjoy “Spirits Will Collide” but it's a little too similar to what he did on Transcendence and Epicloud (grand, big sounding and poppy). Because of this, I find it hard to fully enjoy it for what it is yet. I have had a little too much of this sound recently. “Evermore” does sound like “Genesis” with more direction and structure. It’s a diverse song, built around a strong rhythm part that keeps coming back with slight variations and that build up to a fantastic ending. “Sprite” is the only song on Empath that I cannot get into, for it lacks direction. The other chaotic songs on Empath have some sort of climax or clever use of themes to tie it all together. “Sprite” lacks this completely. The entire affair meanders on and becomes formless, rather than progressive.

With a stupid grin on his face, Mister Townsend hands you a plate with a lid on top. Then, he just stands there chuckling to himself with a mad glint in his eyes, his arms behind his back while you remove the lid to see that the plate is empty. Out of the blue, the guy reveals a big juicy steak from behind his back and starts slapping you in the face with it. After you recover from the initial shock and absurdity of it, you manage to grab the steak out from his hands. You remove the sauce from your eyes and take a bite out of the juicy meat, only to feel your head grow red as a tomato. “Holy ***” you manage to shout as you take another bite. This is the spiciest thing he’s cooked in years.

Afterwards you crave for some refreshment, and your kind host is happy to oblige. He hands you a glass of liquid that turns out to be a sickly sweet but fine wine. It’s subtle, pompous and delicious. Even though you know it would ruin your appetite, you crave to drink this for the remainder of the evening.


Wow. “Hear Me” is the heaviest thing Devin Townsend has done since his SYL days. It’s an insane power trip that leaves you dizzy with its aggression and pure, unrelenting fury. This honestly puts “Poltergeist” to shame. The following “Why?” is the first truly new thing he’s done on Empath, namely the usage of a classical orchestra. It’s basically a full orchestral piece that gives a lot of room for Devin to display his best vocal work to date. If his next album would be more like this, I would devour it without thinking twice, because I absolutely adore it! It’s cinematic, catchy and has a musical quality to it that I really enjoy.

You are slowly getting satisfied by this point, but you are not there just yet. Luckily, the next tasting is refreshing and exactly what you need. At first it looks like a big plate of pasta, but you quickly notice that half of it is a delicious light salad that combines perfectly with it. You finish your pasta and notice that the angelic choir is back to bring you your small, but tasty dessert.

“Borderlands” feels like a turning point for the album lyric-wise. Where before he was singing that the entire world was bleeding and his faith was all wrong, now he has found a positive attitude and maybe even enlightenment. “There’s a sign on the Borderlands. It says: Shine like the galaxy, and woe to all who fear this”. The song is a journey in and off itself. The book-ending parts are very groovy, but the middle consists of purely meditational music.

You almost grab your jacket and intend to leave, and then remember that the menu said that there was still a big epic plate full of food to come. Even though you already feel full to the brim, you decide it would be rude to leave now and sit yourself back down while your host presents you with his final dishes.

The plate contains no less than six different, bite sized creations that feel like a culmination of all the things you have tasted before, only more so and combined into one big plate full of amazing bites. It starts off very light and goes through salty, sour and bitter, to end in a sweet explosion of epic proportions. It leaves you lightheaded and a little overwhelmed.


The big epic of the album: “Singularity” is as diverse as “Genesis” but takes more time to put all the different genres on display. It builds on the different styles and generally only gives us one style per part, which makes the parts themselves much more cohesive. Some clever use of different themes glue the parts together and prevent it from becoming random. The final part “Here comes the Sun” needs a special shout-out. It is a brilliant, cathartic explosion that combines heavy chugging with smooth uplifting vocals. It's a soaring climax that is breathtaking and glorious.

Empath is a little too much to digest at once. It is so layered and so overflowing with ideas, that it takes time and patience to give it all its right place. Yet when it does, it's the perfect sample of what Devin Townsend is capable off when he has no restrictions. In that regard, it is the perfect starting point for new listeners. They probably won’t like all of it, but you can certainly point them in the direction of albums they would like based on their taste.

Your host closes the doors behind you with the words “If you can shine for you, friend, please shine for me”. You see that he himself has undergone a transformation. He seems more at peace with himself and his craft than when you both started, which brings a smile to your face as you walk away, sick from eating too much, but deeply satisfied.



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user ratings (264)
Chart.
3.8
excellent
other reviews of this album
SitarHero CONTRIBUTOR (4.5)
Love, hate, confusion...



Comments:Add a Comment 
Scheumke
March 29th 2019


712 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

I wanted to do a couple of things with this review I hadn't done before.

1. I wanted to do a track by track that was actually entertaining to read (I hope I succeeded)

2. I wanted to do a review using a metaphorical story



As always, let me know if you have any feedback!

Digging: Illyria - The Carpathian Summit

GreyShadow
March 29th 2019


3070 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

too tired to read now but I'll get to it in the morning!



I've always been a more casual Devin fan (I've heard a lot, but no where near all he has done) and this may be my favorite that I've heard from him as a whole. I can't wait to listen again

Digging: Carly Rae Jepsen - Dedicated

davesthesay
March 29th 2019


62 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

May have gone a bit over the top with the food metaphors. I am hungry now, but I also want to listen to Devin, so mission accomplished.

Digging: Snooze - Familiaris

Disorderly
March 29th 2019


64 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Cool review. Can't wait to finally hear this.

SitarHero
Contributing Reviewer
March 29th 2019


9516 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

I'm not negging you but this simply doesn't do it for me as a music review. The food gets more detail than the music and the actual music description is still a pretty rote track-by-track.

Scheumke
March 29th 2019


712 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

I can accept that. I wanted to challenge myself by practicing something new. At first I thought about only doing the story bits, but I found that to be too insubstantial and just gimmicky. I was afraid that by adding more detail about the music it would lengthen the review too much (I think it's already quite long as it is), but maybe that would've been the way to go ultimately. Thanks for the feedback SitarHero! Appreciate it.

Scheumke
March 29th 2019


712 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

Btw, do you know of a review that did a similar thing that worked for you? Interested to get some inspiration, see what others did differently.

DarkSideOfLucca
March 29th 2019


14660 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

It's so fuckkinggggg good, I've jammed this like 6 times already lol

TheNotrap
March 29th 2019


10737 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Need to check this asap

Digging: Deathspell Omega - The Furnaces of Palingenesia

DarkSideOfLucca
March 29th 2019


14660 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I need to think about where this ranks on my Devin list. I mean realistically I like Ocean Machine, Terria, City and Alien more, but it's close to Infinity for me (As of now)

TheNotrap
March 29th 2019


10737 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I jammed Ocean Machine back in the day, I remember liking a particular song, but I don't remember much



I have to check his discography properly

SitarHero
Contributing Reviewer
March 29th 2019


9516 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

I'm glad you can take constructive criticism my man, especially considering that you clearly put a lot of effort into this. :]



I can't think of any thematic reviews that work the same way as yours off the top of my head. I kinda-sorta attempted one way back when with Mad Season's Above, but I didn't delve nearly as deeply into the theme. It's certainly a difficult balance to strike.

Gyromania
March 29th 2019


27240 Comments


album cover reminds me of the spice girls

DoofDoof
March 29th 2019


3408 Comments

Album Rating: 1.0 | Sound Off

album sounds like Fear Factory working with an orchestra to provide the music for a stage production of Disney's Aladdin



so in a cruel act of irony, the music is in fact worse than the Spice Girls

Gyromania
March 29th 2019


27240 Comments


haha. hey man, spice girls have some pretty decent songs (viva forever). i mean they're prob actually shit but nostalgic to me. but yeah, fuck this guy. i like a bit of ghosts but otherwise generally cannot stand devin townsend.

DarkSideOfLucca
March 29th 2019


14660 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Woah



This Devin hate is beyond strange. I get not liking this one, but how can you hate Ocean Machine? Or City? Or Terria?



Does not compute.

DoofDoof
March 29th 2019


3408 Comments

Album Rating: 1.0 | Sound Off

Some of his earlier stuff is sporadically inspired but now he's just preaching to the converted - more about the stage show I guess, it certainly sounds like this has been written to sell the tour :/



He has a whole thing, it is almost like a religion, he even bad mouths other music - it's a 'safe space' for operatic rock people.



Nothing wrong with that but I really think this stuff has next to no appeal outside of his fanbase - 'not for the casual consumer'



'Ocean Machine' and 'City' are both good sure. 'Terria' was one step closer towards this phase.

parksungjoon
March 29th 2019


9399 Comments


ocean machine is a hard 5 tbh

DoofDoof
March 29th 2019


3408 Comments

Album Rating: 1.0 | Sound Off

A 4 for me but I do get people 5'ing it



I can't take stuff like this latest release seriously at all though, thoroughly unmusical and ridiculous to listen to for me.

BigBlob
March 29th 2019


4851 Comments


I tend to not be a massive fan of any album with his name on the cover. DTP and this etc...

But stuff like Casaulties of Cool and SYL is amazing.

Alien is like the best metal album ever to me

Digging: Rammstein - Rammstein



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