The new album from Philadelphia based Empath is a combination of a number of genres. Alex Tearle reviews.
The band create a sound that is immediately distinctive but definitely needs some refinement. Empath have clearly tried to make something original here, and their ideas can be really interesting to listen to, utilising some very cool samples to create a completely unique sound. Empath are unlike anything I’ve heard before, which is fantastic to see in an industry flooded by bands that churn out album after album that sound the same.
Empath are at their best with creative samples and off beat riffs, making songs that can be really catchy and often quite surreal. Tracks like House + Universe, Elvis Comeback Special and Corner of Surprise combine some of the best elements of bands like Sundara Karma, Slowdive and Velvet Underground to create layered tracks with a variety of influences. It’s this combination of ideas and concepts that make Empath a band to watch, but this album feels unpolished.
the vocal style often feels a little indecisive
Where songs like House + Universe argue the band’s style is refined and successful, songs like Genius of Evil and Born 100 Times feel like very weak inclusions on the record. At times, Catherine Elicson’s vocals are hard to hear and muddy, creating a sense of confusion rather than surrealism.
The vocal style often feels a little indecisive too, with a heavy amount of autotune on Passing Stranger (which sounds quite unsatisfying) but much more assured and confident singing on Diamond Eyelids, a track in which the vocals are absolutely fantastic. This all feels quite disappointing, proving the band are not yet as refined as their counterparts; it feels almost too artsy at times.
some of the tracks on this album are below par and only really merit a single listen
The musical talent can be quite mixed too, with excellent drumming on tracks like 80s but very lacklustre, unsatisfying offbeats used on tracks like Passing Stranger. Though Empath are incredibly inventive and talented, some of the tracks on this album are below par and only really merit a single listen, a shame when considering some of the more successful songs the band has produced.
This is not to say Empath don’t have potential. The album feels as if the band were really going with whatever gave them inspiration. Empath routinely prove anything can be used to create music, utilising samples from a 90s children’s keyboard, a cassette of nature sounds, sounds from Minecraft and an air conditioner, among other wacky and interesting sound files. The motif of a person walking on gravel to signify the end of each track is unique and cool, a concept I hope is kept for future records.
Samples are used effectively on tracks like Bell, in which background sounds add to the overall scale of the track, making the band sound huge and impactful. Guitars are also a strong point of the album, with a great ‘math rock’ style riff used throughout the final song Paradise. It’s moments like these that make ‘Visitor’ feel like a great record, but they aren’t enough to make the album feel like a completely successful package.
I did enjoy my time spent with ‘Visitor’
Empath are artsy and different, creating a record that feels like a combination of a few too many ideas. Where at times their sound is convincing and well produced, a few glaring errors hold the album back from success. I feel as if I’ll never quite understand what the band were aiming for, but I did enjoy my time spent with ‘Visitor’. With this album, Empath have proved they are a band to watch, but be prepared to be confused and sometimes disappointed.
‘Visitor’ will be released on the 11th of February.
Featured image courtesy of Alex Watkin. Permission to use granted to Impact. No changes were made to this image.
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