The Lowdown: In a day and age when a good number of rock and metal acts are playing it safe and not taking many gambles (at least as far as the mainstream goes), it makes such unpredictable artists like Devin Townsend all the more welcomed to the party. Townsend’s latest solo effort, Empath, continues his glorious sonically-schizoid journey, as he refuses to be aligned to a single style (although elements of metal and prog are steadily detected).
The Good: Whether it be Strapping Young Lad, Devin Townsend Project, The Devin Townsend Band, or simply Devin Townsend, HevyDevy usually gets to call the shots — and we get another album that is 100% solely the singer/multi-instrumentalist’s musical vision (heck…he’s even the album’s producer). And as a result, it’s impossible to not be sucked into the vortex of such epic ditties as the song “Genesis”, and the near 25-minute album closer, “Singularity” — which one second sounds Dream Theater-esque, then the next, punishing extreme metal.
The Bad: If you enjoy more one-dimensional/straight-ahead metal, Empath is not the album for you. And while the presence of a vocal choir (on “Spirits Will Collide”) and a symphonic score that sounds like something out of a Disney film (“Why”) are enjoyable listens, you can bet your bottom dollar that extreme metal fans will be leaning heavily on the forward button during these bits.
The Verdict: Artists such as Frank Zappa, David Bowie, and Faith No More are nowadays praised for their fearless knack of jumping from genre to genre throughout their careers. Empath is another fine addition to the ever-growing / never-ending Devin Townsend discography, and shows that Townsend should one day also be enshrined into this elite “musical chameleon” category, as well.
Essential Tracks: “Genesis”, “Spirits Will Collide”, “Evermore,” “Hear Me”, “Singularity”