ARTIST : Devin Townsend

ALBUM : Empath -The Ultimate Edition

LABEL : InsideOut Music

RATING : 7/10

WORDS : Ali Grice

It is a product of modernity that trends come and go with ever-fleeting ease, one-hit-wonders fly in and out of our radar and charts ephemerally immerse us in new artists until the next influence-cum-popstar takes their place. Albeit a worrying reality, rest assured we can be certain of one constant: A metal maestro under a name that is so ubiquitous with genre-bending, mind-blowing and frankly unpredictable prog rock with an expansive discography spanning decades. Sonic chameleon Devin Townsend is the world’s answer to the monotony of modern music, and Empath: The Ultimate Edition is the key to this.

Empath is a step away from his previous comedy offerings of Ziltoid The Omniscient, and instead throws us into a melting pot of every musical space Devin has ever inhabited. Pulling influence from his death metal project Strapping Young Lad and more modern releases under the Devin Townsend Project moniker, he has finally constructed his tour de force.

Choral quickfire rounds peppered with polyrhythms and ambient yet in-your-face textures meld delicately into thick layers of swaddling noise

Juicy fragments from all realms of Devin’s previous projects culminate in Genesis. Choral quickfire rounds peppered with polyrhythms and ambient yet in-your-face textures meld delicately into thick layers of swaddling noise. Sporadic blast beats pummel the song in uncontrollable directions, whilst the track slowly transforms into a circus soundtrack from hell. Satan’s very own fanfare.

Hevy Devy has recruited an ostentatious bunch to feature on Empath, including mega-talented past collaborators Steve Vai and Anup Sastry. The range of talent within the collaborator pool not only shows the industry-wide respect for Dev’s sonic endeavours, but the unpredictable pair-ups (including Chad Koreger from Nickelback) showcase his knack for innovation.

Unafraid to tap into his token comedy-prog, Sprite kicks off with a fairytale anecdote and shortly after paints the scene of a dystopian hellscape, rocking between R2D2 beeps and whistles and buoyant synth textures taking you into the clouds, before finally dragging you into the rocket-paced Hear Me. Trigger-like drum work is layered with sweeping sentences of drop tuned prog chugs.

Beautifully ridiculous and enticingly pompous, Why? takes us down the yellow brick road with a bittersweet fantasy interlude, conjuring up fairytale images with elegant strings and a bubbly woodwind section. On the other side the anthemic Spirits Will Collide and Evermore use Townsend’s vocals as a steering wheel through the dazzling array of instrumental prowess.

Bizarrely, Townsend has compiled a greatest hits album, except somehow with entirely new material

The Ultimate Edition is every muso’s dream. A bonus CD of yet-unheard demos alongside two Blu-rays which feature a 5.1 surround sound mix from Devin himself, plus the Empath documentary, the King music video and his Live in Leeds set (2019). 

The expansive selection allows you to experience 2019’s Empath outside the confines of headphones and indulge yourself in a truly vast, cinematic experience. Bizarrely, Townsend has compiled a greatest hits album, except somehow with entirely new material. The constant echoes to past projects creates this atmosphere of optimistic catharsis, allowing Devin to spread his wings.

Although guilty of sensory overload, this album is as much made for die-hard fans as it is new listeners who want a taste before diving deeper. A season finale that ties up all loose ends and brings in new watchers? Genius. 

Empath: The Ultimate Edition is a no-compromise expose of Townsend’s most enchanting moments; a time capsule of unadulterated deliverance.  

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