The Empyrean

Jan 20, 2009
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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. Frusciante describes it as a concept album (about two characters that exist in the mind of one person over the course of a lifetime) but esoteric knowledge is not a prerequisite to understanding it. On repeated listens, the record reveals itself as a veiled narrative about the struggle to create, the desire for achievement and validation, the temptation to exist. In truth, all of Frusciante’s solo albums have been concept albums of a sort, acting as a filter for his personal philosophy and a commitment to realising the world of his imagination. And, at its heart, the story of The Empyrean is his story too.

Frusciante joined the Chili Peppers as an 18-year-old guitar prodigy. With his affecting songwriting and a guitar style that sought to marry technique and intuition, he helped the band become, within four years, one of the biggest acts in the world. Disgusted by the straitjacket of success, Frusciante’s head flipped. He quit the group in 1992 and, soon after, released Niandra Lades and Usually Just a T-Shirt, an album of haunted compositions that recalled the raw, fragile solo work of Syd Barrett and Skip Spence. […] [/one_half]