Amplifier - The Octopus
At some two hours long, Amplifier’s new opus The Octopus is a bit of a marathon to get through in one sitting; as with just about all prog double concept albums, there are periods in which the album stretches on and on in meandering passages of not very much, but at least The Octopus does a good job of bringing things back home again.
Lead single ‘The Wave’ constitutes the first high with a swelling, catchy chorus that verges on post-rock with a healthy dose of pop sensibility thrown in for good measure. Whilst the title track is not much more interesting than a nine minute bass track (think ‘Strip The Soul’ by Porcupine Tree and you are virtually there) with a few wobbly bits of guitar that only threaten to cut free, ‘Planet Of Insects’ immediately raises the bar again as the Amplifier really let lose for the first time. Album highlight ‘The Sick Rose’ opens up the second half of The Octopus with a great combination of Arabian-esque musings and heavy guitars – albeit alarmingly similar in feel to Dream Theater’s ‘Home’ at times – setting the backdrop for a wonderfully bizarre William Blake poem.
But this helps to illuminate a reoccurring nag with The Octopus: too often it sounds very similar to something else; frontman Sel Balamir periodically does a great vocal impression of Steven Wilson, and tracks like ‘Trading Dark Matter On The Stock Exchange’ and ‘Interstellar’, whilst damn fine tracks in their own right, could well be fellow Mancunian proggers Oceansize.
Despite these niggles, Amplifier have produced a very accomplished, and ultimately enjoyable album in The Octopus; the second disc is decidedly the heavier of the two, and as such the band do seem more at easier as the distortion is turned up. ‘Golden Ratio’ shows an insightful use of dynamics as it rises and fall with such grace; and closing track ‘Forever And More’ is a triumphant celebration to end proceedings - a final, joyful release.