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. He sounds confident and assured, even as the subject matter wrestles with dark thoughts and doubt. The songs tend to be fairly spare with guitar, electric piano, bass and drums with strings adding some lushness towards the end. Frusciante also uses the studio as an instrument à la Eno, adding cool treatments to nearly every song. Some of the songs are a bit mopey and the subject matter is often on the heavy end, but "Dark/Light" shifts gears nicely (dark to light?) where the heavy reverb and piano of "Dark" gives way to the cheesy rhythm box and falsetto vocals of "Light," which leads into a nice bass-driven coda with choir. "Enough of Me" also features Johnny Marr on guitar, and one of them turns in a really nice Robert Fripp guitar solo. "One More of Me" is just strings and electric piano with Frusciante seemingly trying to sound like Stephin Merritt. Frusciante has done a nice job of carving an identity completely separate from his main gig, and Empyrean fits nicely with his other solo albums.
AllMusic Review by Sean Westergaard