The Empyrean review by John Frusciante

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  • Released: Jan 20, 2009
  • Sound: 8
  • Lyrics: 9
  • Overall Impression: 8
  • Reviewer's score: 8.3 Superb
  • Users' score: 9.6 (260 votes)
John Frusciante: The Empyrean
15

Sound — 8
John Frusciante has always has always been a free thinker musically, not to mention embodying the persona of an anti-rock star off the stage. Hearing the Red Hot Chili Peppers' guitarist's latest solo album drives that point home even more so, and you should prepare yourself for a bit of a trippy experience. The Empyrean is the farthest thing from anything you would hear in RHCP, instead hovering somewhere between folk rock and psychedelia. Of course, if you've heard any of the solo albums that Frusciante has released since the mid-90's, then you know this is revealing nothing new. Perhaps the best info about The Empyrean was given by Frusciante himself, who said the album should be played as loud as possible and it is suited to dark living rooms late at night. The first track Before The Beginning sets the bar very high, with this instrumental emphasizing Frusciante's laid-back, effects-driven guitar. While most of the other tracks give the spotlight as much to vocals, piano (electric or otherwise), and percussion, Before The Beginning allows you to just appreciate the David Gilmour-esque delivery of the guitar work. While the track does reach a huge crescendo at the end, it takes on a cool, low-key vibe for the most part. Given that pretty much every other song features vocals, an instrumental is a welcome addition. It's apparent early on that Frusciante's vocals bear a striking similarity to Cat Stevens (now known as Yusuf Islam), and that can a times make for a much mellower experience in itself. It's not the traditional rock style, but it's likely that Frusciante's fans will still be able to appreciate the unique delivery. He's at his most moving in his rendition of Tim Buckley's Song To The Siren, which is easily one of the most haunting tracks on the album and shows off Frusciante's wide vocal range. Rock lovers might be taken aback by how quiet the mix is, but it's still a powerful tune. Frusciante got it absolutely correct when he stated that you should probably play The Empyrean at a specific time in specific surroundings. Although guest musicians Flea, Johnny Marr, and Josh Klinghoffer offered their skills to this project, it's obvious still Frusciante's oddly beautiful baby. The Empyrean is not like a RHCP's album that is chock-full of possible hit singles, but the track Unreachable does come close. Out of all the tunes, Unreachable is one of the most accessible between the hummable chorus and the infectiously grooving electric piano line. At the other end of the spectrum is the bizarre Enough of Me, which features a solo that is purposely all over the place. It should be mentioned that this is one of the tracks that Johnny Marr performs on, which means that the song could be a result an experimental session. If the solo wasn't coming from Frusciante or Marr, you might even question the guitarist's skills. Enough of Me is just one example of why The Empyrean is an album that needs to be listened to in its entirety. Its otherworldly sound will either immediately connect with you or leave you scratching your head in confusion.

Lyrics — 9
There are no throwaway lyrics on The Empyrean, and you know that these were songs that came straight from Frusciante's heart. With titles like God and Dark/Light, you can immediately expect something much deeper than a Nickelback album - or even a Red Hot Chili Peppers record for that matter. Unreachable delivers some of the most thought-provoking ideas with lyrics such as, Reach into the darkness for what you can find; Travel great distance in your mind; The world gets stronger as you start trying things; Turn around towards me and walk away from dying. As was mentioned earlier, listening to The Empyrean takes you on quite a journey.

Overall Impression — 8
Buzz around The Empyrean has been generally positive from Frusciante's dedicated fan base, but the general public might not find it an easy pill to swallow at first. There are some odd mixing choices (at times the drums are way up in the mix, at other times the vocals come blasting through), and it all adds up to a wacky, but interesting listen. The guitar work is at times understated and quiet, but it confirms that Frusciante has put the songwriting first. If you're not willing to commit to a trippy, often moody listening experience, this won't be the album for you. But if you're someone who thrives on experimentation and has been pleased with Frusciante's past solo work, you'll likely find The Empyrean another inspired creation.

48 comments sorted by best / new / date

    IggyMorrison
    Seems like I'm not the only one who thinks that John sounds a lot like Cat Stevens, at least on the mellow songs. Even though this album is not going to sound a lot like the Peppers JF is a musical mastermind and every solo album has been awesome so yes, I will buy it
    zapatista89
    cena_911 wrote: Hey guys who do you think is a better guitarist John Frusciante or Noel Gallagher?
    ladies and gentleman you are a again reminded not to feed the troll
    IggyMorrison
    Definitely Frusciante, cena_911. I respect Noel but JF is more innovative and creative and technically much better. Just an opinion though
    DieYouBastard
    John's solo music has never received the publicity or the credit that it deserves. It's incredible, and an awful lot of people are missing out on it.
    zekk
    Clutch32192 wrote: is thsi sold at like walmart & places like that
    What the hell are you doing in walmart in the first place? I got it, its amazing! Frusciante NEVER disappoints. Honestly, I'm more excited about this and any form of tour he might do then I would be if the red hot chili peppers started putting out more music.
    Zangetsu 101
    cena_911 wrote: Hey guys who do you think is a better guitarist John Frusciante or Noel Gallagher?
    Frusciante. Frusciante's a musician, Noel's just an arsehole. Heck I don't even like John but Noel... Aargh!
    shinnanigan
    cena_911 wrote: Hey guys who do you think is a better guitarist John Frusciante or Noel Gallagher?
    Frusciante is deffinately a better guitarist, but as far as songwriting goes theyre both pretty good
    Andragon
    you know, I don't defend Nickelback, but dissing them on a good album's review from the UG Team is weak. I've listened to a few tracks. Good stuff.
    cuige
    Andragon wrote: you know, I don't defend Nickelback, but dissing them on a good album's review from the UG Team is weak. I've listened to a few tracks. Good stuff.
    They weren't dissing them! They were just using them as an example!
    androidred0100
    cena_911 wrote: Hey guys who do you think is a better guitarist John Frusciante or Noel Gallagher?
    Do you really think that's a fair question to ask on a Frusciante album review? Everyone here is gonna say Frusc because they're all here for him. Those that WOULD say Gallagher are probably nowhere near this article.
    Kel_the_Gr81
    cena_911 wrote: Hey guys who do you think is a better guitarist John Frusciante or Noel Gallagher?
    Frusciante
    pl0x
    Just listened to "Before the Beginning" its absolutely amazing =P
    Somnambulance
    cena_911 wrote: Hey guys who do you think is a better guitarist John Frusciante or Noel Gallagher?
    John Frusciante=one of the best rock guitarists of the age. Noel Gallagher=crap and still jealous that he couldn't top Graham Coxon (not by a long shot).
    sidvicious_91
    cena_911 wrote: Hey guys who do you think is a better guitarist John Frusciante or Noel Gallagher?
    Noel gallagher. Really, theyre both truly amazing. But listen to some of Noel's solos. great shit, and champagne supernova's ****en awesome
    GodbowstoMath
    This is one of the best reviews I've read on UG. Good work, I've only heard one track off the record so far, and I really dug it. Frusciante always seems to make records I can crawl into and explore deeper than a lot of other stuff that's come out in more recent times.
    cisco444
    cena_911 wrote: Hey guys who do you think is a better guitarist John Frusciante or Noel Gallagher?
    John Frusciante is better cuz all solo stuff and with RHCP is the best past 2 decades Nice review..I can't wait for the release..I'm gonna prepare my room for a nice trip with his sons.
    NewsoftheWorld
    If you haven't bought the album,and I encourage you to do so,but you want to listen to the album already,it's on his Myspace page.
    Phexius
    This album is okay and I'm sure it'll grow on me, but I just wish he didn't make it a concept album. I would love to hear him make songs that are like the previous solo albums. It's about the 5th time I've heard the album and I still think that Unreachable is his best song. John Frusciante is stil God.
    bananaboots_989
    IggyMorrison wrote: Definitely Frusciante, cena_911. I respect Noel but JF is more innovative and creative and technically much better. Just an opinion though I agree Noel hasnt got anything on JF he is jus way to good i agree wiht all of you...now all we need is a good tab of unreachable
    Bluesy_Guy
    I already listened to some tracks on this CD, and I love it. I'm definitly picking this baby up ASAP.
    cena_911
    Hey guys who do you think is a better guitarist John Frusciante or Noel Gallagher?
    deezal
    IggyMorrison wrote: Definitely Frusciante, cena_911. I respect Noel but JF is more innovative and creative and technically much better. Just an opinion though
    I agree Noel hasnt got anything on JF he is jus way to good
    NightEmbers
    Im gonna guess it has something to do with him hangin out the Omar and the Boys from TMV
    cuige
    Great review....I liked how you acknowledged that fans will love it! I've read reviews that just dismiss it as it doesn't fit into the mainstream! I'm getting this album as soon as possible!
    Mr E
    I've only listened to the samples that can found around and about, but I'm so looking forward to this. I can see this being a love/hate album. I think I'm gonna love it!
    Aziraphale
    Shadows is perhaps my favourite album of all time, but a lot of the stuff he's done has kind of left me very unaffected. I prefer his vocal/pop songs, because his sense of melody is above all what I like about him. His instrumental and more experimenting stuff is not my thing at all.
    Genghis_khan
    Great review... ordering the album right now. For sure it will be my best way to start this yeafrmusically speaking.
    korinaflyingv
    I love this album so so much. Some tracks are just like a more interesting version of chili peppers, some are just... something new altogether. The vocals are amazing.
    Quantonyne
    i never knew he did solo work. I feel like i have missed something good. I really want to get this cd, i am listening to Unreachable right now and i love it.
    metaldog_USMC
    His stuff is such a trip. From all his drug history, he is but the shell of a man. All he can do is sing and play guitar now. Listen to him in an interview and you'll know what I mean. Just picture a funky Keith Richards.
    David_Bowie=GOD
    his albums are usually great, so this one probably will be too. that picture on the main page makes him look like a little gaywad though. lol