Release Date: January 5, 2010
Reviewed by Evelyn Miska
Most rock and roll fans will be aware of John Frusciante due to his time in the Red Hot Chili Peppers. What some may not be aware of is his extensive solo career and the fact that The Empyrean is his eighth solo album. The Empyrean isn’t an album that will grab listeners in the same way that some of those hits by the Red Hot Chili Peppers do, but the collection of songs has a lot of strengths in a different sort of way. Frusciante demonstrates his tremendous virtuosity on the guitar all the while making some extremely intriguing music.
There is a clear psychedelic influence to the album and it comes through immediately on the slightly tedious opening song, “Before The Beginning.” Clocking in at nine minutes, much of which is a very slow build and purely instrumental, could be a risky beginning to The Empyrean. Some listeners may not be willing to go past this track, but if they do, treats like “God” are in store. While the whole album is quite strong, “God” is one of the standouts. Some might be surprised that Frusciante can hold his own on the vocals and this song displays this well. Former bandmate and bassist from the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Flea, makes a guest appearance which adds a nice bit of funk to the song too.
Picking up a little where “God” leaves off, “Dark/Light” incorporates some gospel style on the backing vocals while, at the same time pulling in some electronic influences as the track progresses. Even though this one is almost nine minutes long, it less esoteric than “Before The Beginning” and not nearly as tedious. “Enough Of Me” is another highly appealing song, and again shows off Frusciante’s vocals and guitar work in a good manner. Like a number of the other tracks, there is a blend of soul and psychedelia that makes things remain intriguing.
Frusciante may best be known by people for his non-solo work, but this album makes it rather clear why he felt that it was best for him to strike out on his own. While his part in the Red Hot Chili Peppers was important and likely influenced his current musical choices, it’s clear that there’s much more to Frusciante’s talent.