I’ve long wanted to hear a solo effort by my favourite guitar player. I like him not only for his guitar playing (Duh!), but also for his restraint despite virtuoso technique, emphasis on the song and his knowledge of harmony and arrangement. All of those, it seems coagulate into a very different dish when it comes to his solo records. This one in particular, has blown my socks off because of its Beatles-esque concept and vision. The Chili Peppers are my favourite band, but this one listen to John Fru’s solo work has made me question just why he is with the Chili Peppers. It almost seems….limiting.
It’s evident from the excellent (bass-free!) “Before the Beginning” that melody is paramount for this man. I detect some of Maggot Brain in the track. I’m especially fond of the volume spikes and attendant noise when the pick hits the string during the solo. It starts relatively slow and quietly, but climaxes with absolutely horny high-pitched feedback-laden soloing. Fan-effing-tastic. The Maggot Brain fixation in the soloing continues on “Unreachable”, which has the strongest melodies and is the strongest ‘song’ in general on this album.
As far as the entire sound of the album is concerned, it’s pretty much exactly like the cover of the album. It’s lush, layered, complex and not easy to completely get a hang of in the first go. The lyrics, by comparison deal with a heavy subject in a straightforward manner. They seem like a pretty honest articulation of Fru’s views on god and the nature of existence, with “Dark/Light” taking the form a monologue by god. It seems that Fru hasn’t even tried to phrase the lyrics to the melody, but somehow, they fit in well, especially with his singing. He is not a singer with an exceptional range, but one with exceptional depth of emotion. This is especially prevalent on the cover tune “Song to the Siren”. Where higher pitches are needed, he switches to a wonderful falsetto which has already memorably been explored By the Way onwards.
But forget all that I have said so far. That’s all rubbish. What you do need to know is that this is extremely trippy music and is by far one of the best albums I have heard in the past year (At the point of writing this line, btw, I was less than halfway through the album). I only wish that the last track “After the Ending” was more grandiose, as this album surely deserves it.
John Fru has suggested that The Empyrean “be played as loud as possible and it is suited to dark living rooms late at night.”……….sadly, I wasn’t able to experience this album without a light on in a dark room as I was writing this review. But will be come back for more? Yes. Again. And again. And again. This sounds VERY right!
– El Bajista
Brilliant. More PROGRESSIVE/ART/PSYCHEDELIC Reviews HERE.