Release Date: Jan 27, 2009
Record label: Adrenaline
Genre(s): Indie, Rock
Beyond the reach of pop charts and radio formats, Red Hot Chili Peppers guitarist John Frusciante has carved out a parallel world as a solo artist over a series of intensely personal and brilliantly realised albums. His 10th, The Empyrean, is his most ambitious to date. The title takes its cue from a term used by Dante, Milton and Keats to describe the highest point in heaven.
It's nothing special to see a guitar player from a famous band put out a solo project. What's rare is for that musician to have such a distinguished career outside of his day job. John Frusciante, the guy responsible for some of the Red Hot Chili Peppers' best riffs, has released 10 increasingly daring solo records. His latest, The Empyrean, is an engaging collection of brilliant soundscapes, fancy guitar work and some intriguing electronica flourishes.
After lying low for a few years after a tremendous burst of activity in 2004, John Frusciante is back with another solo album, Empyrean. It starts out with a fantastic instrumental called "Before the Beginning": a great minor key guitar solo, replete with echoplexed drums that was surely inspired by "Maggot Brain." After that, it's back to the kind of introspective songs that have characterized much of his solo work. His singing is actually pretty remarkable considering his initial forays into vocals.
Review Summary: Frusciante's latest acts as a meeting point for all of his previous work.John Frusciante as a solo artist and John Frusciante as the Red Hot Chili Peppers' guitarist have proven themselves to be two vastly different concepts. RHCP over the past decade have become one of the biggest bands in the world and in turn has slowly lost what originality they once had. Frusciante since his 1992 departure from the Chili Peppers has been crafting extremely personal solo releases that build on his plethora of influences from Funkadelic to Kraftwerk.
While John Frusciante may have been the driving force behind the better albums of the Red Hot Chilli Peppers’ later period, the enigmatic guitarist’s solo work is renown for being wildly uneven and often painfully experimental. However his more recent releases, particularly 2004’s Shadows Collide and 2005’s Curtains, finally saw Frusciante harness the wandering Syd Barret-ness of his earlier records in preference for songs which were more focused and consistently melodic. Unfortunately his latest effort and 11th solo record, The Empyrean, while containing moments of resonance and including guest spots by Pepper Flea and Johnny Marr, once again has the artist reveling in self indulgence.