Review Summary: Broken glass and crushed glitter
Empath presents punk at an interesting crossroads, antagonistic in its fragility, careful and considered in its handling of emotional detritus. There's something strangely perceptive and maybe a little indefinable about how crafted and surreal the moments of buildup and comedown are here: washed out but painstakingly realized, woozy but radiating a hushed grandeur . It grows to be something bigger than candy-coated aggression or riotous beauty, branching out into a diffracted but fully developed emotional tapestry where one informs and results in the other and vice versa; this is a band preternaturally talented at presenting conflict, musical and otherwise. They seem perfectly poised to be championed as outsiders: both bluntly literal and romantically impressionistic, a field on fire under a trilling starlit sky. It presents itself as the best kind of opening statement from a young band: expressing yourself just enough and then letting the music do the talking.
It's a dichotomous sound on paper that is beautifully complementary in execution, existing at a mid-point between early Joy Formidable's revved up dreampop-punk and the ambient and intimate soundscapes of Loud City Song
. Admittedly, it doesn't have quite the sustained euphoria of the former nor is it as fully fleshed-out and lived-in as the latter, but it's an impressive and quietly ambitious batch of tunes. 'Pure Intent' is calamitous riot grrrl rock but contains these tiny instrumental bridges of such vulnerability and control, softly whirling synths and a dainty warbling riff offering shelter against the storm. It wafts out on a wavering comedown of tactile strumming and city night ambiance, going out for a smoke after an intense burst of feelings. Even better is album best 'Roses That Cry', epitomising all of this seeming disparity to perfection. It sounds like a cinematic synth-rock song stuck into a literal blender, all of its composite parts blasting by in the blink of an eye-urgent drum rolls and oscillating guitars engaged in a chaotic ballet with the albums most tender singing and a mutating but beautiful synth line. There aren't lulls in quality so much as the slight feeling of the album overstating itself near the end; even at only 27 minutes, it's possibly it overstays its welcome a little, and the band would benefit from a little more variety in the future. They've cultivated such a novel sound that they don't need to keep showing their hand to impress us, and I wonder how good they could be if they afforded themselves just a little bit more space. Then again, maybe that would rob them of their confessional, off-the-cuff charm, and what they've presented is a beautiful clamor indeed.