On Twitter last night (December 2), Townsend revealed that Kroeger would appear on the album, along with guitarists Steve Vai, Mike Keneally, Kiev-based orchestra Lords of the Sound, and frequent collaborators Anneke Van Giersbergen and Che Dorval.
While some people in Townsend's mentions were quick to dismiss Kroeger's involvement, more inquisitive minds asked further questions about what this collaboration would sound like. Townsend revealed that Kroeger features on "a tiny part in a brutal song," adding that the appearance is "more of a token of the conversations we've had than a significant part."
Townsend elaborated that Kroeger was important to Empath's process, explaining, "He represents something. Aside from the fact we get along, he represents something that I didn't understand, and the ramifications of those decisions. What it takes to be him is unrelentingly intense in ways I never would have anticipated."
Townsend also noted that Kroeger "is heavy as hell in a way I am not," adding, "To be simultaneously so successful and so hated is something few could handle. It's so far from what people like you or I could know that it holds an unbelievable intensity."
Townsend continued, "I think lots of musicians think it's easy to write commercial music, but upon interacting with someone who really knows how, I realize 'fuck... that's a talent. I can't do this stuff, he's just being him. I need to focus on being me instead of chasing what people ask of me now."
While Empath is currently in the mixing stage, Townsend has long been teasing snippets of the record on Instagram from recording sessions. Additional guests spotted in those posts include Anup Sastry (Monuments, Intervals) and Morgan Ågren, the latter of whom played with Townsend and Dorval on their 2014 self-titled LP as Casualties of Cool.
Vai first collaborated with Townsend in 1993, enlisting the Canadian for vocal duties on his Sex & Religion LP from that year. The two came together again on Townsend's 2006 LP Synchestra, with Vai contributing a solo to "Triumph." Vai also provided narration on Townsend's 2013 live album The Retinal Circus.
Van Giersbergen first collaborated with Townsend on 2009's Addicted! LP before going on to appear on 2012's Epicloud, 2014's Z2 and 2016's Transcendence. She also appears on The Retinal Circus and Townsend's 2012 live album By a Thread.
In addition to playing with Townsend as half of Casualties of Cool, Dorval has appeared on both Transcendence and Townsend's 2009 LP Ki.
While at work on Empath, Townsend has also been steadily rolling out a series of career-spanning vinyl box sets. He also delivered a new live album celebrating the anniversary of his Ocean Machine: Biomech LP.
Listened to the roughs of Empath on the flight and it had me teared up the whole way. I haven't had this visceral a reaction to the work in many years. To think It all stemmed from taking a vacation! my god, what an intense period this has been. I'll remember this past two years.— Devin Townsend (@dvntownsend) December 3, 2018
Thanks to some further guests, Anneke Van Giersbergen, Che Dorval, Chad Kroeger, Mike Keneally, Steve Vai, Lords Of The sound orchestra... it's been total catharsis and tied intrinsically to the process of working through this transformation. It's a lovely, complicated, weird one— Devin Townsend (@dvntownsend) December 3, 2018
This is like reading one of those "One of these things is not like the other" lists.— Sean Williams (@sylkicks) December 3, 2018
There's a common thread between them all.— Devin Townsend (@dvntownsend) December 3, 2018
In what sense? I mean, I suppose you know them all personally so it's a different thread you would see than what an outsider would. I mean, obviously to the lay eye Chad Kroeger would seem out of place, so it's interesting that he was integral to your process.— Sean Williams (@sylkicks) December 3, 2018
He represents something. Aside from the fact we get along, he represents something that I didn't understand, and the ramifications of those decisions. What it takes to be him is unrelentingly intense in ways I never would have anticipated.— Devin Townsend (@dvntownsend) December 3, 2018
Yeah. He helped me figure out some things I was hung up on. In a peripheral way he was a part of this so it seemed obvious. I don't have many people to talk to about the oddness of this industry who can relate and offer advice.— Devin Townsend (@dvntownsend) December 3, 2018
Interesting conversation about Kroeger - one rarely considers his experience in the light of what's generally said about him and his work. I'm really looking forward to seeing how he fits into your project, Devin, I think it'll be fascinating.— Kevin Lanthier (@k_lanthier) December 3, 2018
It's literally a tiny part in a brutal song. It's more of a token of the conversations we've had than a significant part. It's just hard to overstate the realizations about what I should be focused on that I gained by hanging out for a few days with him.— Devin Townsend (@dvntownsend) December 3, 2018