Sunday, 7 April 2019

Devin Townsend "Empath" (2019)

On occasion one may ponder the powers scarcity and availability has towards the seduction of an artist. Perhaps a life taken early leaves one divine piece of work behind illuminated and in the case of those blessed with good health and abundance of opertunity, quantity is an excellence. In the case of this Canadian musical genius, we have been spoiled rotten by decades of continual output. From Strapping Young Lad to Casualties Of Cool and back to the Devin Townsend Project, his band and solo adventures has made it feel like every year is graced by something new. After the disbanding of DTP, Dev has taken a short two year hiatus to return with no shortage of inspiration and an almighty seventy four minutes, a collection of his most diverse sounds and extremities that I admittedly had a slow time coming around to.

My problem was simple, I know his music all to well and admittedly little within Empath surprised me on the first few spins. Perhaps I was expecting some new frontier to be conquered, a turn of the path. Thus I found much of the music reminding me of the parallels to his other works. The production however was immediately impressive, a most luscious and crystal clear, perfectionist craft. His best to date. The gravitating walls of sound deliver delicious slabs of glossy sound, distortion guitars and synths expressing weighty grooves and movements in tandem. Devin deploys his typical range of styles again with an added exuberance that reaches into the extremes, both of the entertainingly ugly and not so skin deep pretty aesthetics.

Through the record Devin reaches back to the blistering mania of SYL, occasional demonic gutturals are ripe with a textural fortitude unheard before. On the other end of the spectrum his ever powerful and grandiose voice soars to new heights imploring a range of serene and beautiful melodies. It is in this calmer side of the music that he makes his biggest progressive stride, creating stretches of unbelievably beautiful, glossy soundscapes that have a natural tone, the soundtrack to the animals of the cover. This may be prompted by the inclusion of cat meows and dolphin cries at certain milestones of the record. There are also many colorful, exotic bells, xylophones and whistles that drop in another dimension to his chunky rhythm led music. Its sense of theater and classical composition also takes strides with stretches of orchestral thematic music taking center stage on a wildly diverse album that can flip the switch on its opposed ends in an instant.

It is with the last few of my many habitual listens to Empath that it occurs to me barely a second of the record hasn't lost my interest. My familiarity with what to expect perhaps blunted its blow at first. Even now much of the music feels shades beyond my memory of it but this is something new to cram into a crowded space of classics this man has forged. I now go into my second decade of spins feeling like this may only have the potential to grow on me. Much of what I love is spread across its wide pallet and I do think it has pacing issues where its direction changes. It feels more like a spin of the bottle but its continued exuberant energy also lets it make total sense. Its just all a little overwhelming, Empath is all of Devin's work rolled into one with a cool new breeze thrown in. I should think less and enjoy more!

Rating: 8/10