Devin Townsend Empath Album Review

Empath album cover.jpg

This is the 18th studio album from the Canadian genius himself, Devin Townsend and that is not including his discography with the mighty Strapping Young Lad.

I have been a huge fan of Mr Townsend ever since I heard the amazing “City” album way back in 1997 and have listened to everything he’s done along the way. You don’t have to know all his music to be able to get into this abum but it certainly wouldn’t hurt. Empath truly represents everything that Devin has put out throughout the years.

That being said, I haven’t truly LOVED one of his albums since 2014 “Casualties of Cool”. I adored the quadrilogy of “Ki, Addicted, Deconstruction and Ghost” and thought that “Epicloud” was stunning from the first listen, but i felt that his time with the DTP had done its best work. I think his best work is when he is truly doing his own thing.

01. Castaway

Starts out with the lapping of waves and shortly followed by Hawaiian tinged, ambient guitar giving a feeling of being... castaway. It is worth pointing out that there is a 7 minute documentary on YouTube chronicling the making if he album and in it Devin states how he thought of someone abandoned on an island inhabited with some of the most terrifying monsters and the most amazing creatures. The castaway however, would be able to walk freely amongst them with no danger to their person. 

Not sure what he meant by this but it is probably a metaphor for being middle-aged and some such shizzy-fudge.

The Elektra Women’s choir join in 

“Tonight, when the souls keeps quiet

Say a prayer for the beloved end...
Is only Heaven a game in vain?
We pray for it all”

Before going into the first track proper

02. Genesis (featuring Che Aimee Dorval)

I have already done a video review for this track which you can find here -


I think it is only right that I mention some of the musicians performing on the album at this point. We have 3 drummers. Morgan Agren (who he worked with on “Casualties of Cool”, Anup Sastry and Samus Paulicelli. We have Nathan Navarro performing bass duties, Anneke Van Giersbergen, Aimee Che Dorval and Chad Kroeger providing additional vocals (as well as Elliot Desgagnes) not to mention the incredibly talented Elektra Women’s Choir. Steve Vai lends his virtuostic guitar skills and we get some additional guitar from Ryan Dahle. The incredible Mike Keneally adds musical direction and the epic orchestral arrangements are competently performed by the Lords of the Sound Orchestra. Production duties were handled by Devin himself with hep from Adam “Nolly” Getgood.


03. Spirits Will Collide

One of the few traditionally structured songs on the album and this one is 80s as fudge. Huge fat sounding drums, guitars and vocals.

This is a glorious song that echoes a lot of the work he did on “Epicloud” and has a similar optimism that is very appealing.“So we rise!, Receive the pain but this isn’t where this ends, don’t you forget that you are perfect, don’t you forget just who we are, we’re strong enough!"

Loved this song!


04. Evermore

Once again, I have already done a track review of this one, and a bloody good video it is as well, that you can view here -


05. Sprite

Starts out with a narration about a bird (who’s sad) cos it didn’t have a mum or a dad (and he’d forgotten how to fly) as well as the will to try (This is supposed to be an enjoyable experience)

There is an eastern tinge to the instrumentation in this one as well as some more electronic elements thrown in and reminds me of something from “Sky Blue” with a bunch of arpeggios thrown in as well.

Gotta have arpeggios or it ain’t a Devin Townsend album.

There are moments of this song that remind me very much of his work on “Ki” as well as “Deconstruction” a well as his ambient/noise work from Devlab/The Hummer. This album really is a culmination of his career.

Not a bad song but nothing that really blew me away either.


06. Hear Me

Very reminiscent of his work on “Deconstruction” with very complex (and heavy) riffing and Anneke joins in.

As well as the “Deconstruction” comparisons this is the track that had the most throw back to his time in SYL. One of the riffs sounds just like “Critic” from “Heavy As a Really Heavy Thing” and there is a vocal passage that is very reminiscent of SYL bonus tracks “Centipede" or “Japan”.

There is also a furious double bass/Tremelo picked section that brings to mind his work on the “Physicist” project, gang vocals straight from “The New Black” era SYL and full on “Deconstruction” era arpeggiated bliss. There really is a lot to love about this song and I’m pretty sure that Chad Kroeger is in this one somewhere.


07. Why?

We next go into full on Disney mode on this track. Devin has tried this sort of thing on other albums but not to this degree. I am sure that a lot of people will dislike this one but I have to say that I was into it.

He has always expressed his love for movie soundtracks by the likes of John Williams etc etc… and this is a definite nod to that orchestral, filmic score that we will no doubt get a lot more of on his upcoming project “The Moth”

Some may find this one very cheesy but I really enjoyed it.


08. Borderlands

Starts out with an almost UB40 “Kingston Town” vibe and Devin is quick to inform us “I desire a good life” (Gotta have a good good life, Gotta have a good good life x2)

There are some more progressive moments thrown in and a great, hooky riff that peppers the song to great effect as well as a return to the tranquil side of Townsend (thats an album title for sure) ala “Ki, Ghost or Casualties of Cool”


09. Requiem

A beautiful respite courtesy of the incredibly talented Elektra Women’s Choir, along with more symphonic instrumentation, and we even get a nod back to the “Transcendence” album or more specifically “Stormbending” with the line “All we're offering is a chance to be loved” before going into the 6 part, 24 minute closer of “Singularity


10. Singularity Part 1 - Adrift

Ambient lead guitar that reminds me of some of his work form the incredible “Terria” album before going into something more akin to “Ghost”

“I don’t know where to go, and I don’t know what to do, but I know I want to be there with my arms around you, I’m alone”

The song builds and truly showcases Devin’s powerful singing voice.

Beautiful


11. Singularity Part 2 - I Am I

Starts with more of that cinematic, John Williamsesque score before amping up into something similar to “Stand”. It has to be said that in terms of the heavier side of the album, it is “Deconstruction” era Townsend that springs to mind the most. We also get more of his ambient/noise era and the bridge section reminds me of something from the “Infinity” album.


12. Singularity Part 3 - There Be Monsters

Things take a more sinister tone with this tune as things slowly build up over the first 50s seconds into full on blast beats and tremolo picking that brings to mind the self titled (and very underrated) SYL album.

As the name of the song suggests this is unrelenting and a joy to listen to.“Got to find a way out, of this war, physiologic war, physcotropic war, physco-sexual war (sounds like you want to get out of that one mate)


13. Singularity Part 4 - Curious Gods

A return to the ambient and tranquil for this one as well as elements of jazz (and prog of course) with a good amount of “Devlab/the Hummer” era thrown in for good measure.


14. Singularity Part 5 - Silicon Scientists

A lot of electronica appears in this one along with Devin’s impressive lead guitar playing, heavy power chord stabs and orchestration. 


15. Singularity Part 6 - Here Comes The Sun (featuring Anneke Van Giersbegen and Steve Vai on guitar)

I believe that Steve Vai appears on this one and this brings to mind some of his work from “Synchestra” mixed with “Epicloud". There is a great use of heavy guitars as well as a lot of arpeggios going on and the wonderful Anneke Van Giersbergen makes a final appearance. 

“Through the meadow, through the field, shine forever, shine on me, for the future, is ours to see, ill shine for you, if you shine for me”

9/10

I won’t lie, I was not that taken with the album upon first listen but thats not the point of it. There is so much going on here that it will take at least 5 listens (and thats official) to truly start to grasp what is going on here.

It got better and better with each subsequent listen and it is without a shadow of a doubt the best thing he has done since “Casualties of Cool”

I don’t believe it to be his masterpiece (I believe that is still to come) but it is difficult to find anything wrong here. I can understand how the uninitiated may not get into it, or those who are into his heavier music might not dig some of the cheesier elements but I am all in and (as always) cannot wait to see what he comes up with next.

A true genius and talent

ALL HAIL DEVIN TOWNSEND!

You can check out my YouTube review of the album here -