DEVIN TOWNSEND – Devolution Series #3: Empath Live in America (Album Review)

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I’m not sure what it is with prog metallers who bear the initials “D.T.” but they really do love flooding the market. That’s not necessarily a bad thing in Devy’s case, but the number of live albums he and his many musical conduits have released is frankly exhausting, and many of the setlists are frustratingly similar to one another. Add to that Devy’s use of backing tracks to replicate that infamous wall of sound, and we end up with stacks and stacks of live albums where the backbones are nearly identical. One of Devy’s many saving graces is that he forces so much wiggle room into performances that might otherwise be indistinguishable. We saw that wiggle room manifest as a stage production for the ages in “The Retinal Circus,” and a freaking orchestra in an ancient Roman theater in “Ocean Machine: Live in Plovdiv.”  “Empath Live in America” keeps us on our toes by tossing out the backing tracks, click tracks, and even fixed set lists entirely.

“Devolution Series #3: Empath Live in America”

Recorded during the Boston stop of the ill-fated “Empath” tour in Spring of 2020 (and if you remember Spring 2020 fondly, I’m raising a finger at you and it ain’t my thumb), “Empath Live in America” stands out among Devy’s expansive live discography for being so absurdly free-form: every concert threatened to descend into absolute discord, and absolutely none of them did. Instead, audiences were treated to an actual live band playing deft arrangements of some of the most complex music Devy had ever written. I’d also dare postulate that the scaled-back band who played the truncated “Empath” North American tour did greater justice to certain songs – “Why?” comes to mind – than the European counterparts we heard on “Order of Magntitude;” that we hear them attempting “Earth Day,” which the band had not learned or even heard, is testament to the boldness of this move. We need more of this in live music!  Consequently, the vibe on “Empath Live in America” is looser even than my moral code, and in keeping with Devy’s character, entertaining as fuck. I’ll never tire of seeing this man perform.

Devy’s acerbic wit and disarming self-deprecation are a big part of the reason he gets away with releasing as much live material as he does, but make no mistake: “Live After Death” this ain’t. “Empath Live in America” is absolutely not a shameless money grab, but like the rest of the Devolution series, it’s geared strictly at the diehards, completionists, and potentially at music historians. For those subsets, “Empath Live in America” is required listening because it documents the first steps of what I hope becomes a prevailing attitude in metal – live music ain’t really live music if you need a laptop for it to happen.

Order “Devolution Series #3: Empath Live in America” HERE.

Released By: Inside Out Music
Released On: June 9th, 2023
Genre: Progressive Metal

Musicians:

  • Devin Townsend / Guitars, Vocals
  • Mike Keneally / Guitars
  • Nathan Navarro / Bass
  • Diego Tejeida / Keyboards
  • Morgan Ågren / Drums
  • Ché Aimee Dorval / Vocals, Acoustic Guitars

“Empath Live in America” track-list:

  1. Intro
  2. Evermore
  3. Supercrush!
  4. March of the Poozers
  5. Why?
  6. Hyperdrive!
  7. F*ck around section
  8. Ih-Ah!
  9. GIGPIG Jam
  10. Forgive Me
  11. Love?
  12. Kingdom

Pre-order “Devolution #3 – Empath Live In America” HERE.

9.0 Excellent

Live music, as live music was intended to be performed: live, by humans

  • Songwriting 9
  • Musicianship 9
  • Originality 9
  • Production 9
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