“The Empyrian” – The tenth solo album by John Frusciante is nothing but a culmination of raw emotions and haunting melodies. It is one of those albums that even after listening for umpteenth time still desires to be heard once more and it grows on you with every listen. John Frusciante is in the category of musicians whom you either worship as “God” or hate their guts for existing, there is no middle ground. “The Empyrian” was the last album by John before he delved into his obscure adventures in Electronic music. This album was rightfully deserving farewell from his usual melodic, and heart-wrenching guitar solo driven approach to music (Maybe John thought he couldn’t get any better – I sure hope not). This album indeed was the “Highlight” of his career, at least for many it was.
The album begins with a melancholic opening track “Before the Beginning”. A 9-minute instrumental with guitar parts that can literally make you lighter in the head. With stereo panning of guitars at odd-intervals. It’s obvious that John Frusciante had some influence from the song “Maggot Brain” by the Funkadelic. It is absolutely astonishing to hear John creating such sonic landscapes with distorted wah-wahs and his trusty sunburst-strat. The echoic drums and subtle piano chords makes the experience even more enjoyable.
The next track is “Song to the Siren”. This track is a cover of Tim Buckley’s song of the same name. For me this is the track where John feels most vulnerable and exposed, as if he has opened up his entirety for his listeners who has the power to interpret his music and his existence, any way they want. It’s an absolute masterpiece of a rendition.
Then comes “Unreachable”. One thing that is immediately noticeable is the bass line. Flea played bass on this track. If you like delayed wah-infused guitar solos this is the track for you. This is the track where John channels his “Inner-Hendrix”, that he always nurtured in him throughout his career as the guitarist for the Red Hot Chili Peppers, way more than his solo stuff which is more personal and less guitar-flashy (mostly). He sings
“Reach into the darkness for what you can find
Travel great distance in your mind
The world gets stronger as you start trying thing
Turn around towards being born away from dying”
These lines could be interpreted as an homage to his dark-drug-induced part of his life, where he almost died but ultimately gave life a second chance and according to him he was re-born and blessed by “The Gods of Music” with more creativity and a unique perspective on life. I always wondered if John hadn’t seen death such up-close and personal, how different his music would be today. Well at least he is not dead and that’s good.
“Central” is another standout track of the album. Josh Klinghoffer who is the current guitarist of RHCP laid down some heavy and profound drums on this track. This is a song that slowly but steadily builds up to an epic guitar solo. The orchestral arrangements during the breakdown gives us glimpse to the genius of John. Johnny Marr played acoustic guitar throughout the song that makes this ballad just more epic to say the least. Before the solo erupts, the drums pan in from the distance making a unique vortex of emotion.
The other noteworthy tracks in the album includes “Enough of me” (Mind-blowing guitar solo utilizing the feedback of the amp and Electro Harmonix Big Muff guitar pedal at the end) and “Heaven” (A beautiful, beautiful song).
This album basically takes its listeners to a roller-coaster of emotions and that is John’s prime intention. He doesn’t like “one-dimensional” music. He always keeps his listeners guessing about what surprise waits for them in the next track or even in the next verse. The example of this can be easily seen in the track “Dark/Light”. Where half-way across the song takes a unique turn to tell the least. “The Empyrian” is like John’s swan song to his avid followers. Hope he gets over his electronic endeavors and gives us another album of this caliber. Keeping fingers crossed.
- Before the Beginning
- Song to the Siren
- Enough of Me
- One More of Me
- After the Ending
Label: Record Collection
Release Date: January 20, 2009
Reviewed by Fahim