EMPATHY TEST – Empty-Handed

Sailing the synth-pop seas

Having made their mark through the cunning strategy of releasing not just one, but two debut albums at once back in 2017 (see TEC review previously), London-based electropop outfit Empathy Test (aka Isaac Howlett and Adam Relf) have gone from strength to strength.

Those albums (which Empathy Test performed live in their entirety at London’s Underbelly in November 2017) received critical acclaim for the band’s ability to craft heartfelt synth-pop that could embrace mood and melancholy. They’ve also established themselves as a powerful live outfit, commanding the stage at the likes of Amphi Festival, Infest and more recently Artefaktor Live. They’ve also become a popular support outfit for acts such as Mesh, VNV Nation, Covenant and DE/VISION.

There’s a slow-burning quality to ‘Empty-Handed’ which serves up some brooding synth-pop, the inspiration of which the band summed up thusly: “It’s about being unable to give a partner the emotional support or commitment they need and the feeling of emptiness that comes with that”. It’s something that’s carried over from lines such as “I thought I’d run but I’m not free” and the idea that a partner can walk away, employing the title of the track in the process.

As a song, ‘Empty-Handed’ has an urgent energy that also has an evocative quality capable of touching the heart as well as the head. Lyrically, it also employs a lot of imagery associated with water, which results in powerful lines such as “The wave that came has broken/And the void has swallowed me.” That visual image of brooding seascapes is something that the band have utilised previously (as on the wistful ‘Safe From Harm’) and is always the go-to metaphor for troubled love as classics such as ‘Song To The Siren’ have demonstrated.

‘Empty-Handed’ follows on from the release of ‘Holy Rivers’ last year (see TEC review) – and the band have plans to release two more singles ahead of another crowdfunding initiative for their anticipated third album.

Coupled with another new song, ‘A River Loves a Stone’, the new release will also feature remixes of ‘Empty-Handed’ by TRAAPS and Ari Mason.


Empty-Handed is due for release on 20th June 2019 and is available to pre-order via: https://empathy-test.bandcamp.com/album/empty-handed

Details on their forthcoming live shows are available via: https://www.empathytest.com/shows

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Paul Browne

Paul spent his formative years indulging in fanzine culture before branching out to graphic and web design in later years via his Arc23 outlet. Responsible for the creation of the original Official OMD Website, Paul also spent over 10 years administrating the site as well as providing sleeve notes for many of the OMD reissues.

Publications that have featured his contributions include Electronic Sound, Metro, Japan Update Weekly, J-Pop Go, Wavegirl and OMD Messages.
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