Today the new album, Empath, from crazy Canadian musician Devin Townsend landed on store shelves (or digital or Spotify or whatever you use for music). As a longtime fan of his art you could definitely say I was looking forward to it. I expected it to be great as the lead singles were outstanding tracks. But, what I had not expected was just how fucking special the album would be and how it would hit me so hard.
I could say there are hundreds upon thousands of great albums but there are only a few I consider to be masterpieces that have really spoke to the core of my being (To the Bone by Steven Wilson and Foundations of Burden by Pallbearer to name a couple). After only three full listens I feel Empath can definitely be added to that very small list.
Well, I feel connected to the artist and what he's expressing to say it simply. I've followed Devin's work since my ears caught wind of Strapping Young Lad's album City a bit over 20 years ago. Such a batshit crazy, unique and rage filled record that would fill any confused and rage-filled teens energy with joy.
Fast forward some years and Devin is still putting out great rage fueled music whether through SYL or solo or other projects. And that teen now in his 20s is raging against the machine and is still at chaos with himself. Then a turning point in life happens. You either sink or swim. I opted to swim.
Around the time I was trying to get a hold on my life Devin released a quadrilogy of albums which expressed the different emotions he was going through as he got his own life in order. Needless to say they were a set of records I connected with.
Moving forward his music music kept moving away from rage and anger to a more look into the self and while always the jokester, the levity and humor became even more genuine. Likewise, I have been making massive steps in my own life finding peace, love, and calm. Especially over the past five years or so.
So that brings us to today. On my train ride to work I had enough time to give Empath a full listen (it's a bit over an hour long). The first two tracks are composed of an intro of island music and angelic choir singing and the second track is the lead single 'Genesis', a schizophrenic journey sampling a good chunk of all the musical styles Devin has played over his career. There's also kitties!
Then there's the third song 'Spirits Will Collide', a super cheesy arena rock love ballad with the Townsend twist. Lyrically it's a love song. But not a love song to another person, but through clever wording it's a love song to the self. But never mind that for now, not important.
Maybe it was my state of mind at the moment or whatever idk, but the very simple line 'Don't you forget you are loved' belted out in that power ballad style brought me to fucking tears, on the train, with the other passengers looking at me like wtf is up with that guy. Whatever. Going back to that song after my initial couple album spins, lyrically and musically it has already solidified itself as one of the most beautiful and powerful songs I've ever heard.
Throughout the rest of the album Devin takes through a journey which he tells his life story in a way. Various genres come up, often in the same song and in matter of minutes. To put it lightly this is an eclectic and eccentric body of music. From chill island music to death metal to disco to opera to ambient to Broadway show tunes it's all there.
But it flows. It's chaotic, but not with confusion. This is alchemy from a person who has learned to accept his inner chaos and love himself (or is trying damn well to do so). Something I will continually strive for probably my whole life. When he expresses rage and anger it comes from a place of love instead of a place of hate and confusion. Again, something I strive for in my own journey of improving my self.
By the time I got to the end of Empath, through the music memories of what I've done, been, became, lost sight of, found, loved, lost, etc passed through me. A beautiful reflection of a large part of my life. From 'I fucking hate everyone' to 'Don't you forget you are loved'. Again, nearing work I'm in fucking tears again.
And I don't think my reaction to this album will be only from me. It was definitely written first as a personal piece of art, but he did have his fans in mind as this is not a record I would immediately suggest as a first foray into Devin's massive discography (though if you're up for a challenging album do give it a shot, wtf do I know). He knew many of his fans have been on journeys like himself. He's basically telling everyone to look back but don't wallow, learn, move forward, love, create, change, search, live, love, love, love love, and love yourself. Shit, I'm almost in fucking tears again as I write this. I love you.
It's amazing the power art has on us. Video games, paintings, films, dance, books, etc. Support artists and create art in whatever capacity you have. Even if it's giving great hugs or drawing stick figures. You never know who it will touch.
So yeah, Empath is a great album and I really just wanted to tell you that. I wrote this as kind of a stream of consciousness thing so sorry if it kinda doesn't make sense or is cringy. Pardon bad grammar and spelling. I'm only going back to add a photo or two. If you do have about 15 minutes to spare, please listen to the two tracks I'll link below.