Amplifier – The Octopus

When attempting to craft a truly landmark-worthy statement in music, the trend in rock music is generally to create something in excess. Be it a groundbreaking concept piece, or a sprawling double album, the formula often rests on how much ambition is involved. Such is the case of UK rock group Amplifier, with their third album, entitled ‘The Octopus’. A vast output of material topping the two hour mark, Amplifier’s attempt at a prog rock masterpiece is quite good, although a much more effective experience may have been insured, had the album not drawn on an hour past it’s welcome.

Although many bands (particularly those within the ‘progressive’ scene) try their hand at double albums, few are ever able to feel quite worth the length and investment, with even the best bands letting some filler slip by into the final product. With that being said, ‘The Octopus’ feels like a compilation of an excellent psychedelic album and a decent alternative rock release, with the songs meshed together to give some semblance of flow. Unfortunately, while ‘The Octopus’ is graced with a few absolutely majestic pieces of music, the less convincing tracks give the album that much less of an excuse for being so long, leading one to believe that the band may have been better off releasing this double-disc opus as two separate albums.

With a sound that is easily associated with fellow Brits Porcupine Tree or Oceansize, Amplifier do manage to take their roots in prog and merge it with a more accessible alternative rock sound to appeal to a demographic beyond the underground progressive music circles. However, despite quite a few songs that don’t sound too far from the sort of British alternative rock that has stormed the media as of late, Amplifier’s fundamental influences are quite easily located in prog rock. From the first disc’s soundscapish opener ‘The Runner,’ hurried footsteps in stereo almost immediately rings with Pink Floyd’s ‘Dark Side Of The Moon’, and implies that the band is attempting to write something just as epic. As well, ‘Interglacial Spell’ carries a very Middle-Eastern undertone that is synonymous with Led Zeppelin’s ‘Kashmir’ (incidentally from their own double album ‘Physical Graffiti’). However, many of these little homages feel plainly derivative over clever, and as a result, it’s as if ‘The Octopus’ cannot handle the pressure of holding the company of such giants.

That being said, much of the music here is quite good. The best moments are without a doubt however, the spacey, psychedelic voyages the band takes with such numbers as the title track ‘The Octopus’, ‘Trading Dark Matter On The Stock Exchange’ (graced with one of the greatest guitar solos I have heard in a while), and the final track ‘Forever And More’. All in all, the first disc is quite a bit stronger than the second, although the album’s sheer length does undeniably work to deter the overall enjoyment of the music.

While ‘The Octopus’ does not reach the echelon of the masters, Amplifier certainly demonstrates their ambition with this vast double album. At two hours long, one can expect a pretty daunting task getting into this album, but as with all good music, the songs here do grow and ferment with time, proving that while not a masterpiece, Amplifier has put just enough good things in the album to make for a great, if not truly excellent listen.

Tracklist:

CD1:
1. The Runner (3:38)
2. Minion’s Song (5:51)
3. Interglacial Spell (6:25)
4. The Wave (7:00)
5. The Octopus (9:17)
6. Planet Of Insects (5:49)
7. White Horses At Sea / Utopian Daydream (8:55)
8. Trading Dark Matter On The Stock Exchange (11:33)

CD2:
1. The Sick Rose (8:58)
2. Interstellar (10:18)
3. The Emperor (6:40)
4. Golden Ratio (5:16)
5. Fall Of The Empire (8:29)
6. Bloodtest (5:18)
7. Oscar Night // Embryo (7:44)
8. Forever And More (9:23)

Line-up:

* Sel Balamir – guitars, vocals
* Neil Mahony – bass
* Matt Brobin – drums

with:
* Charlie Barnes – piano
* Rose Kemp – vocals (1,4 CD2)
* Mike Vennart – backing vocals
* Claire Lemmon – backing vocals
* Denise Johnson – backing vocals
* Kemal L. Freaktide – voice of Satan
* Tom Knott – trumpet

Links:

Amplifier official website

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