With an explosive track opener like ‘Monsters’, Empathy Test clearly sets out their vast ambitions for their new album, also called ‘Monsters’. And these ambitions are decidedly and unequivocally met in what is a brilliant, bold and very exciting album.
Empathy Test, in this album, tread a fine path between outright commercial accessibility and a pure indie ethos: there is beauty and pop sensibility yet there is also an indefinable level of grit in the themes and lyrics. This is an album that evokes anxiety and disquiet while uplifting you with its melodic strengths and evocative emotions.
Many of the songs deal with very contemporary issues – witness ‘Incubation Song’ with its dark synth splashes and closeness evoking suffocation and and isolation prevalent today. Darkness and obsession leavened by the driving, percussive beats and synth sweeps. ‘Fear of Disappearing’ highlights the dark side of our dependance on social networking in a throbbing arpeggiated spine and a thick synth burble.
Indeed the synth-strong sounds certainly evoke the very height of eighties where the post-Kraftwerk boom saw the marriage between the cold, emotionless synth sounds and effervescent uplifting pop – think Depeche Mode, Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, Alison Moyet, late Joy Division and New Order. And this is an ensemble in which Empathy Test comfortably fits.
Opening track ‘Monsters’, the single, is a thunderous, emotive and spine chilling beginning (reviewed by Backseat Mafia last month) that in no uncertain terms sets out the fact that Empathy Test is an impressive and irresistible force.
What is important too, is that this single, as impressive as it is, is just one song of an album filled with pulse-quickening, heart exploding anthemic tracks – all augmented by singer Isaac Howlett’s impossibly angelic, melancholic, euphoric vocals. He has a tone that breaks your heart while uplifting you with the celestial choruses and the driving synth underbelly.
Songs like ‘Stop’ perfect this antithetical force: its statuesque, imposing and yet is so brittle and delicate: achingly beautiful. A term that indeed fits the entire album.
‘Holy Rivers’ encapsulates the sky-high emotions of the band – dramatic, poised, with hooks that would light up a stadium.
The album ends with the song ‘Love Moves’, which is a fittingly explosive and dramatic finish to an absolutely delightful, artful album. With a melancholia deeply infused in Howlett’s gorgeous yearning vocals, it renders you immoveable with sadness and emotion.
For me, ‘Monsters’ is one of the contenders for albums of the year so far. Celestial and incandescent.
You can get the album here or through the link below:
Empathy Test are:
Isaac Howlett (Vocals)
Adam Relf (Production)
Christina Lopez (Drums)
Oliver Marson (Synthesisers)