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Amplifier – The Octopus

Amplifier, Octopus

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 2 out of 5

THE third album from Manchester three-piece Amplifier is a self-consciously big record. But big isn’t always best.

A progressive rock epic that is resolutely panoramic in outlook, The Octopus clocks in at a mighty two hours and is divided across two CDs or three vinyl records. It’s heavy on big guitar solos, futuristic keyboard arrangements, medieval trumpet interludes and chanted vocals that explore the meaning of life, love, the universe and beyond.

And it took three years to complete, with the various band members – Matt Brobin, Neil Mahony and Sel Balamir – proclaiming it to be the best thing they’ll ever do.
Given its structure, comparisons abound with similarly weighty concept albums from the likes of Pink Floyd and Queensryche with a touch of Genesis and Zeppelin thrown in for good measure.

But while they’re true in part, Amplifier are keen to reiterate that this is very much their own work, no matter how un-cool and progressive the final results remain… or, as the band put it, complex.

“It’s the idea of something controlling you. Something closer to you than your skin but you’re not even aware of it,” they insist.

Similarly, they want it to develop a mythology of its own, where the music becomes more about The Octopus than Amplifier.

If that sounds pretentious, then it’s one of many criticisms the album struggles to overcome. Another is its length, which stretches to hopelessly self-indulgent lengths.

Admittedly, there are moments of note such as The Sick Rose, which kick-starts the second CD in rousing fashion, or White Horses/Utopian Daydream, which helps to draw CD1 to a close.

But in the main this is a lengthy, self-indulgent affair that belongs to the prog-rock lovers only. Songs such as Interstellar sum up the overall failings… emerging as drawn out and repetitive and awash with trippy sound effects, chanted and barely audible vocals and a knowing sense of the bizarre.

We personally couldn’t care about the cosmos and the universe, or songs that profess to send you travelling faster than light in order to be truly free. Or which carry names like Minion’s Song or Planet of Insects.

Save for a few highlights, Octopus left us drained and underwhelmed. And with songs that last in excess of 10 minutes in some cases, it’s a very long time to feel that way.

Track listing:
Part One

  1. The Runner
  2. Minion’s Song
  3. Interglacial Spell
  4. The Wave
  5. The Octopus
  6. Planet of Insects
  7. White Horses at Sea/Utopian Daydream
  8. Trading Dark Matter on the Stock Exchange

Part Two

  1. The Sick Rose
  2. Interstellar
  3. The Emperor
  4. Golden Ratio
  5. Fall of The Empire
  6. Bloodtest
  7. Oscar Night/Embryo
  8. Forever And More