John Frusciante – The Empyrean

Band: John Frusciante
Album: The Empyrean
Genre: Rock
Label: Record Collection

Track Listing:
1. Before The Beginning
2. Song To The Siren
3. Unreachable
4. God
5. Dark/Light
6. Heaven
7. Enough of Me
8. Central
9. One More of Me
10. After The Ending

John Frusciante, the 20th century guitar virtuoso and Red Hot Chili Peppers’ axeman, has served up his 11th (yes, 11th) solo release, “The Empyrean.”

While Frusciante’s experimental, Hendrix-like style of guitar playing has given him the amount of acclaim and success he enjoys today, that same “experimental” spirit causes this album to feel borderline self-indulgent. The album focuses less on Frusciante’s guitar playing and more on his eccentric compositional and songwriting ability. Frusciante’s signature licks are still there, but you frequently have to wait for the songs to build before they reach their potential.

The album opens up with “Before The Beginning,” a fantastically epic 9-minute jam that showcases the guitar virtuoso at his finest. “Unreachable,” the driving “Central” and “Enough Of Me” are highlights of the record, with healthy doses of Frusciante’s guitar at the forefront of the songs. Unfortunately, aside from these exceptions, the remaining songs seem to lack the same type of energy that fans would generally associate with Frusciante.

Musically, much of the record contains a mellow 70’s vibe – from the songs themselves to the chosen Lo-Fi record production. The Rhodes-heavy “Heaven,” and “Ah Yom” in ways inject a bit of familiarity into the record with their old-school sound. But when this is combined with the slow-building songs and Frusciante’s tendency to shred, the result is an overall lack of cohesiveness with the record.

Frusciante’s frequent demonstration of a lack of vocal capability also takes away from the album. Can he carry a tune? Yes. Can he captivate you with his voice? Not at all. The vocals rarely add to a song, leaving plenty of dull, unmemorable verses and choruses. The melancholy “Song To The Siren” features a droning vocal line, while “After The Ending” and half of the 8 ½ minute “Dark Light” damn near feel like Phil Collins B-sides. A majority of the vocals are also slathered in reverb, delay and other various effects, which seem to harm rather than enhance Frusciante’s voice.

If you are a fan of Frusciante’s previous 10 albums, chances are “The Empyrean” will not disappoint. However, for Chili Peppers fans looking to dive into the brain of its heralded guitarist, do not be shocked if you are disappointed. While the album does do justice to showcase the amount of compositional talent and diversity that Frusciante has, it lacks the energy and cohesiveness that Chili Peppers fans have come to know and love.

*Written By: Drew Behringer*
Grade: 6.5/10

James Shotwell

James Shotwell is the founder of Under The Gun Review. He loves writing about music and movies almost as much as he loves his two fat cats. He's also the co-founder of Antique Records and the Marketing Coordinator for Haulix. You should probably follow him on Twitter.

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  • It’s worth considering. I mean why not. I read this post twice and have to agree with the angle here. Quite clever

  • are you serious?

  • are you serious?

  • Thank for your post

  • First reaction when i saw the before and after: awesome.

  • Great post!