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Synth Album Review: "Vision" by Fatal Empath

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Karl has been a freelance writer for over 10 years. He's passionate about music, art, and writing!

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Initial Impressions

Fatal Empath’s Vision album has a feeling of airy openness that moves under the music along with tasteful jazz influences, unique synth sounds and a general feeling of warmth, haze and flow with moments of rising energy and driving beats to keep things fresh and alive. There’s something gentle about much of the music here and a feeling of interlacing sounds.

The open feeling of Vision is an important part of the album. The sounds all move in this wide open air that exists behind the tracks. The feeling of space allows the various elements of the tracks to expand into it and creates the sensation of flowing along and drifting through the air. As a result, the album touches the ears with a feeling of easily moving along and breathing with no sense of claustrophobia or tension.

Another element to discuss is Fatal Empath’s use of electric bass guitar on many of the tracks of the album. It adds a warmer tone than synth bass as well as providing that “string” feeling of more resonance and vibration. I like the fact that Fatal Empath chose to take that route rather than simply doing what might be easier.

The jazz influences on Vision are another element I like. There are melodic and harmonic moments that are distinctly jazzy with an improvisational feeling and chords that have interesting sounds to them. There’s a roving, wandering quality that keeps the ears intrigued but the jazz elements never overwhelm, they only compliment.

My Favourite Tracks Analyzed

“Drift” has the open, airy feeling that characterizes much of this album. Ethereal chimes move over top of a woodblock percussion sound along with light keyboard chords and a deep throbbing bass beat. I enjoy the organic feeling that this track creates with the background rush of water and there’s a gentle airy float to the track which is also ear-pleasing. A circular arpeggio played on delicate chimes moves in and through the music, glittering and light while the pulse of the bass keeps propelling the music forward. This track has a shining and easy flow to it that is suffused with light.

There’s a strong jazz component to “An Epiphany” as it opens on quiet sounds moving behind bright flashes of keyboard notes that have a jazzy wander to them. The beat that hits has a drum n’ bass feel to it and it complements the jazz chords that skip and jump over it. There’s the distant, smooth sound of strings and an instrument with a brass quality to it that swirls around them. I find the way the track begins to change interesting as there’s a dark flow of bass and something melancholy in the chords. The shadows build as darker, more tragic strings drift on past before the piece eventually brightens toward the end.

“Travel by Moonlight” opens on a quickly spinning arpeggio played on a high synth while the deep throb of electric bass joins the beat as it charges ahead. There are trumpet-like synths playing a melody that is both triumphant and energetic. The whole track has a feeling of progress and movement to it which is emphasized by a whirling, wheeling synth solo that leaps into the music. Every element of this track contributes to the sensation of flying swiftly through the darkness, lit only by the moon.

There’s a hazy, slightly distorted quality to “Radial Sun Showers” as it opens on a slightly hollow sounding synth and gentle bird song. The lead synth melody in this track has a gentle minor key sadness to it as it flows into the track, played on a medium high synth that has an intriguing quality to it, reminding me a little of brass instruments but with secondary qualities that are hard to pin down.

The beat has an uneven sensation to it that sometimes reminds me of a march, but without the same steadiness. This track does an interesting job of creating layers as a circular pattern moves through played on a high synth while the other musical elements swirl and interlock around it.

“Clarity” has a slinky quality to it that reminds me of a theme from a ‘60s espionage thriller. The sound of a snare drum is joined by the richness of bass guitar and then that snaking synth line moves in along with chiming sparkles that accompany it. Fatal Empath adds a fascinating sound with a guitar that has a twangy, sliding feeling to it that distorts slightly. 


The guitar is joined by a jazzy piano riff that’s anchored by the steady beat. The piano chords that come in have a cool feeling to them before the track moves into a segment where high, shining synths dapple and sparkle into the music. As the track closes, it finds a nice balance between piano sounds, electric bass, drums and synth.



There’s a gentle warmth to “Avantgarden” as it opens on the soft sound of rain falling along with slightly distant and distorting piano and lingering synth notes. A deep, smooth, slow beat pulses into the track along with the album’s signature electric bass sound. There’s a glowing synth that drifts over the distorting trumpet and piano-like notes that come fluttering through. 

This track has a jazz ballad feeling to it, albeit one that is hazy and shines with muted sunlight, as an easy piano meanders through the track’s open spaces. The high synth drifts, slides and glides along while that trumpet swims under it and the beats and bass provide support. I especially enjoy how moving and active the bass line is on the track



“Everything Is Backwards” does give the impression of a tape being run backwards as a gentle crackle of static and rising warm synth slide into the track. There are cutting pulses of sound that come sputtering through the track in waves to give that “backwards” impression. There are waves of synth that wash through as a drone moves along with them. As the track develops, a wash of very warm synth moves distantly and plaintively into the background over that hissing, backwards running track under it. There is drift here and a feeling of something indistinct and misty permeates the music.

Verdict

Fatal Empath has created a complex and unique synth music language on Vision. It has a feeling of breath and air to it along with flashes of warmth, a surprisingly organic feel to it and some moments that are touched by shadows. I enjoy the diversity of sound and musical textures on the album and I hope to hear more interesting material from Fatal Empath going forward.