I’ve been putting off writing about Empathy Test’s new single “Monsters” for a while now, though I did include it in my favorite songs of April.
The song caught me off guard on first listen. It’s still rooted in classic synthpop, but it takes Empathy Test’s dreamy, sparkling synths in an entirely new direction that falls somewhere between darkwave and indietronic. There are live drums! And those drums are powerful, at times threatening to swallow the song whole. But a mesmerizing synthline holds it together, reverberating across the course of the song, as the unmistakable voice of Isaac Howlett reminds you this is Empathy Test.
The other reason I haven’t written about “Monsters” is that spectacular cover image. It depicts some otherwordly figure cloaked in darkness, emanating fog. I wanted—needed—to see more. Empathy Test promised that a video was in the works.
That video, directed by filmmaker Calum Macdiarmid, arrived today. “Monsters” is Empathy Test’s first music video, and it’s a fucking masterpiece.
The video opens with a couple arguing in their car. They pull into a darkened garage where they’re confronted by the mysterious figure from the cover. I was not disappointed. The figure thrashes about wildly, climbs upon their car, vomits a milky substance on the windshield, and ultimately takes possession of the couple.
There’s a lot to unpack here. I detect elements of a toxic relationship, perhaps the “monsters” of the title refer to the way we treat each other. The creature’s face remains hidden—is the monster him, her, a manifestation of our destructive tendencies? There’s also an unexpected sensuality that emerges in the back half of the video, particularly as the characters are made naked and vulnerable. Perhaps we rely on the monsters inside of us to show us how to feel.
It’s creepy, it’s sexy, it’s absolutely compelling. Everything about this video is top-notch. The choreography is spectacular. The actors playing the couple are phenomenal, their expressions carrying a range of emotions across 5 short minutes.
The video does a remarkable job of making me like a song even more than I already did. We probably won’t see a better music video this year.
“Monsters” is the title track from Empathy Test’s third album. I cannot wait to hear the rest of it. It’s coming out May 22.