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See a Short BiographyMilestonesor:

Empathy Test kicked off 2020 with a headline set at Owls 'n' Bats festival in Detmold, Germany. In February, the band returned to Germany for another festival performance, this time at E-Only Festival in Leipzig, with Remi Garrier standing in for Chrisy on drums. Despite some technical issues, the band again put in a strong performance.

A September 2020 headline German tour with support from The Foreign Resort, (Netherlands), was announced immediately after the E-Only Festival set.


Meanwhile, behind the scenes, the band began recording third album, Monsters, with non-performing founder member, Adam Relf. Monsters took its name from a track written by Isaac, Oliver and Chrisy during a sound check in Hamburg on 31st October, 2019. An iPhone recording of said track formed the basis for the sound of the new record, with its thunderous live acoustic drum sound and organic sounding synths.

Chrisy recorded live drum parts for the new record for the first time, writing the beat for Monsters (the track) and elsewhere performing and expanding upon demoed beats written by Adam Relf. Meanwhile, Oliver wrote synth parts for new tracks Making Worlds, Skin and Love Moves


On 1st March 2020, the official Indiegogo crowd funder for the Monsters album began, with a target of £4K in order to fund the release. This was the same target set for releasing two albums in 2017. This time, it took just 20 minutes for the band to hit their target. A few days later, the Indiegogo project reached £16,000. 

On 6th March, Empathy Test flew to Stockholm, Sweden. It was the band's first show in the city and a headline one. What they didn't know, was that it would also be the last time they would play together, or even see each other, for over six months. The set can be viewed in its entirety in this fan-made video.

Covid-19 then caused a national lockdown that left all the members of the band bar Isaac and Adam, who were by this time living just 10 minutes apart, isolating in different parts of London. For a moment, it seemed like the crowd funder was over, but little by little the money continued to trickle in and eventually the band beat their 2017 total of £26K with a little over £27K.

The first pressing of 300 black vinyl sold out before the album was even released. The subsequent red edition also flew off the shelves, prompting Empathy Test to commission a third run of neon green vinyl. Sequestered at home for the foreseeable future, Isaac decided to once again deal with the mammoth task of sending out all the orders singlehandedly, shipping over a thousand orders in approximately three weeks. 

A radio edit of Monsters was released as a digital-only single on the 24th April, 2020 and was given away as a free download on the band's Bandcamp page. While some were dismayed by the inclusion of acoustic drums, the overall response was overwhelmingly good. The track premiered on PopMatters, who described it as sounding "absolutely enormous. Driven by thundering drums and layers of clean, analogue synths, the band somehow sounds both thrillingly expansive and unnervingly claustrophobic".


On May 3rd, Monsters (the track) was chosen as Track of the Day by Little Indie Blogs. Meanwhile, Backseat Mafia said that the track had "such a stadium filling vibe it would be criminal if this band – simply on the strength of this song – didn’t go on to fulfil this destiny". Czech Republic's Sanctuary, who would invite the band to play their festival Prague Gothic Treffen the following year, also featured the track, and Synthpop Fanatic added it to their "10 Best Synthpop Songs of April 2020".


XS Noize said the track saw the band "at the height of their powers, with liberal doses of dark electronic atmospherics, Chrisy’s extraordinarily thunderous percussion and a lyric which deals head-on with the modern-day curse of anxiety and loneliness".

May 2020 saw the release of Empathy Test's first ever music video, which was filmed in London with award winning director Calum Macdiarmid, in August 2019. The video had originally been shot for another track, Empty Handed, but when the band saw the results they decided that the video didn't work for that track. Adam declared that either the video needed to be completely re-cut, or the only option was for the band to write and record a new track which would work with the footage. In January 2020, Isaac replaced the audio of the video with the iPhone demo of Monsters and it worked almost perfectly.

The Monsters music video premiered via Earmilk on 7th May, two weeks before the album. Earmilk described it as "a masterpiece in provocative imagery". Again, public reactions were mostly full of praise, but a few individuals were confused and shocked by the sci-fi horror-esque content, with one YouTube comment calling it "a disgusting piece of shit", much to the band and director's delight. The video was also nominated for a Berlin Music Video Award in the "most bizarre" category and was included in Electrozombies' "Best Synth Pop Music Videos 2020" and Synthpop Fanatic's "10 Best Synthpop Music Videos of 2020".

As well as the previously announced German tour, the band also had UK (May) and American (October) tours almost ready to announce. However, it quickly became apparent that neither tour was viable under the current conditions. The UK tour was postponed until November and then abandoned completely, while the USA tour was postponed indefinitely. The German tour was moved to January 2021 but eventually had to be put back again.

It was also suggested by the PR company running the band's album release campaign, that the release of Monsters (the album) be postponed as well, because the only thing anyone was talking about at that moment in time was Covid. However, Isaac said that the band had promised the fans an album and that now was as good a time as any to release, when they had a captive audience stuck at home bored and thirsting for new music. It's worth noting that the majority of the press was actually secured by Isaac.

Monsters (the album) was released on 22nd May 2020 to much fanfare. Long time supporters Brutal Resonance gave the album 9/10, as did Release Magazine, Czech Republic's Sanctuary, and the Ukrainian Gothic PortalSideline gave it 8/10, while Altvenger praised Isaac's "hauntingly melancholic vocal deliveries" and the album's "beautifully constructed choruses". 


ReGen Magazine praised its "production value, lyrics, and overall musicianship". Swedish website Hymn (in Swedish) also praised Chrisy's drumming, Isaac's vocals, and the "timelessly melancholy melodies", while Synthpop Fanatic included it at number one in their rundown of their "Best Synthpop Albums of 2020...So Far".

Possibly the best review of the album however, was one of the first, which came from USA's Sounds and Shadows. The in-depth feature was written by three members of the Sounds and Shadows team, editor Ken Magerman describing it as "powerful magic", while his colleagues Damien and Katy said they were "hooked on this record within seconds" and that it was "a synthwave banger from the first smash on the drums".


By the end of the year, Monsters found itself in Sound and Shadows, The Periodic Table of Synthpop and the Electricity Club's best albums of the year lists, and inexplicably, in the best albums of the year on, showing it had an appeal beyond the Synthpop and Darkwave scenes. 


Interestingly, it was album track Fear of Disappearing which came in at number 3 in Synthpop Fanatic's 100 Best Synthpop Songs of 2020. Elsewhere, Empty Handed made it into Magnetic Magazine's 15 Best Synth Tracks of June 2020. Magnetic Magazine praised the band's ability to "break free of the mold and apply a continuously fresh perspective to dark synthpop". "The scene", they wrote, "could use more Empathy Tests". 

Releasing an album during a global pandemic proved a mixed blessing for Empathy Test. While the critically and commercially successful release brought in the much needed funding to keep the band afloat, Isaac in particular found that without the ability to tour the album, the buzz surrounding Monsters seemed to fizzle out after a few months. As he later stated in an interview with Reflections of Darkness, "inevitably, the buzz from the album started to die out, and without any touring to keep it alive, it soon began to feel like the Monsters was going to sink without a trace".


However, the band's German booking agent, Jan Winterfeld, had, with the help of Kulttempel Oberhausen, secured the use of a circus tent (capacity 1K) in Gelsenkirchen, Germany, which they believed could hold 300 while still following new Covid -19 social distancing rules. Empathy Test was booked for a headline show as part of the resultant Konzertsommer Im Reviere 2020. Jan Winterfeld then booked a number of dates, mostly outdoor events in Germany with one date in Switzerland, where Covid restrictions were not so prohibitive.

In August 2020, as the UK lockdown was eased for the first time, Isaac, Chrisy and Oliver began rehearsing the new album tracks at Chrisy's practice space near Finsbury Park, London, for the first time since the album's May 22nd release. On 28th August, they set off on the five date "Socially Distant Tour" of Germany and Switzerland with Chrisy on drums, Oliver on keyboards, and Elliott Berlin on the sound desk.

The tour began in the circus tent in Gelsenkirchen, with Hamburg's SONO supporting. Reflections of Darkness's Nastja Iz was there to witness Empathy Test's return to the stage. She wrote: "To hear all the songs form ‘Monsters’ live was pure magic. Empathy Test create with their music an enchanting bubble that you can hide inside".


Gelsenkirchen was followed by an indoor show at OXIL in Zofingen, Switzerland, a rainy evening at Schrødingers Open Air in Hamburg, Germany, another performance at Reithalle Strasse E in Dresden and finally, a storming slot at the NCN 20202 Special, where the audience had to be reminded afterwards, that dancing during Covid times, was not allowed.

Reflections of Darkness were again in attendance, but this time it was Eva Lhum on writing duties. She described "the whole gig" as having "a wonderful enthusiastic feeling - on the stage as well as in the audience. A driving and exciting energy". Empathy Test was "truly an exceptional band," she continued, "whose gig left me with a most wonderful and positive feeling. Let’s keep our fingers crossed that the postponed ‘Monsters’-tour can take place next January and February". 

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