Album Review: Devin Townsend’s Empath

You're welcome: I have delved into the Tartarean pits of my inbox and brought back such wonders to behold. So wondrous are these wonders that even for the recounting of their wonder I can't help but say you're welcome.

Empath is emerging.

That's right, a new era of Devin Townsend succulence has dawned upon our sordid realm, and now that it is up in me, like a caring mother bird shall I regurgitate some digested scraps of it into your eager brain-maw. To think this time last year I was digging through Steve Vai's garbage, and now look at me.

I shall begin with broad strokes. The forecast was for eclectic weirdness, and it certainly weird and varied, but not in the indescribable way that Devvy seemed to think in his myriad announcements and lubing of our expectations. In my profesh opin Empath can be described rather succinctly:

Imagine if the “Mighty Masturbator” was written to be on Transcendence and then instead of just one track the whole album was that. There I did it can I lick your wrinkly skull now, you croc-wearing goof?

Thus is the acute strangeness of Empath: irrefutably bizarre, but nonetheless irrefutably Devv-ish. You can basically stop reading now, that was the best summary you're gonna get anywhere. For those who remain I shall reach deep into my gullet and satisfy your unseemly hunger further with a blow-by-blow of the record, so uhh... yeah. Here's that:

We open with “Castaway”, a tropical beach choir dealie that bleeds into “Genesis”, our call to adventure. If you're demented enough to even be here right now I'm going to assume you've seen both the “Genesis” and “Evermore” music vids. You know what's up, moving on.

“Spirits Will Collide” pops the power ballad cherry a little early in the game, but I see it as the “meeting the mentor” stage of our little hero's journey, ramping into the crossing of the threshold that is “Evermore”.

You know what, sure, let's push this monomyth bullshit 'til it breaks. “Sprite” has a road of trials-y vibe to it. It sure is proggy as hell, while also trying to be soundtrack to a children's movie? Yeah we're getting into the belly of the whale here fer sure bud you betcha. From that mathematical reverie we are snapped awake by some borderline “Strapping Young Lad” aggression with “Hear Me”. I'd be tempted to call this the central ordeal but we're still not at the halfway point so oops there goes Joseph Campbell. On the other hand Chad Kroeger is apparently harmonizing on the chorus so the memes tell me this has to be nadir of the record.

Then, out of nowhere we have “Why”. “Why” is aptly titled. Sure let's jump out of chuggy angry boi prog right into what is essentially musical theatre, played straight, no subversion or anything. Just, Devin singing something out of some unwritten musical. Okedoke.

After that, nothing can surprise you. “Borderlands” is the midpoint of our listen and it's an 11 minute upbeat... thing that meanders in and out various thoughtscapes but always returning to its core bend-at-the-knees-up-and-down groove until it dissolves into contemplation and bleeds into “Requiem”, itself a bookend to “Castaway” earlier featuring a cheeky reference to “Stormbending” off “Transcendence”.

Which brings us to “Singularity”, the final 23 minutes of this 74 minute behemoth. I'd point out the obvious, that Devin has finally gone mad enough to top “The Mighty Masturbator”, but interestingly it subdivides cleanly into six uneven parts. These parts obviously lean on each other seamlessly, if you don't know they're there you will miss the transitions, but they're discretely self-contained and more than just proggy ramblings. I don't know how to reconcile being a Devin Townsend fan who gets bored with proggy ramblings, but Singularity manages to hold my attention. Enough said.

Once I get my mittens on the bonus tracks I might deduce a clearer picture of what I just listened to, like a scientitian in the wilds digging through droppings for vital data on an elusive beast. Until then I shall have to remain mildly confused and titillated. Business as usual.

DJ Spacepirate is the host of the CJLO show Burnt Offerings, airing Sundays from 18:00-20:00.