Let me get this out of the way first. I frickin’ love Amplifier. They are my favourite band. The first album each of my three kids ever heard (on the way home from the hospital most of them) was an Amplifier album. So, if this review sounds a bit gushy, it’s because it is and not because I’m being paid to write nice things (haha – getting paid to do this would actually be cool. Are you listening Planet Rock?). Anyway, to get an advance listen of the new Amplifier album – Trippin’ With Dr Faustus – is actually one of the reasons we started this radio show (well, not particularly just Amplifier albums, but, you know, FAVE BAND!) so, when the email hit my inbox, I literally convulsed with joy and had to have a little lie down, this was even before I’d listened. 2011’s The Octopus is in my top five albums ever (this list also includes Pink Floyd and Black Sabbath, so Amplifier are in good company there) so my hopes were high for this album and have my patience rewarded.
The band is comprised of Sel Balimir, the quick witted, silver tongued lead vocalist and guitarist. He recently started his own record label after some problems with previous labels, called Rockosmos (who have signed Awooga and Thumpermonkey as well as Amplifier themselves). Then there’s Matt Brobin on drums, Steve Dursoe, also on vocals and guitar and finally, Alex Redhead on bass and more vocals (yes, there are a LOT of vocals on an amplifier album).
During recording of The Octopus, the band wrote and recorded a track called ‘Silvio’, which “… didn’t really fit in with the Album’s universal themes.”. The story of Faust (albeit told through the life of Berlusconi) was the seed for the rest of the Trippin’ With Dr Faustus. Part of the allure of this album (both listening to and writing it) was that it was recorded on an old 2” Otari Tape Machine – a piece of retro gear that broke down as often as it worked, causing the album to take 18 months to make – in the bands own studio in Manchester. Instead of recording the album live (like 2014’s Mystoria), it was built up over time.
The blurb that came with the album states “the album instantly delivers the Amplifier twin calling cards of Massive Riffs with lyrical sentiments that go beyond space/time and the limitations of ones, zeros and polycarbonate manufacturing.” And, really, I could end the review here as that is exactly what it does, but then, how would I ever get a gig writing for Prog Magazine being that lazy?
My own, terse, yet accurate description would be “Massive riffs, lonely, building, guitars, new vocal style in places (inc. Lady vox), new guitar sound, traditional amplifier sound. Epic.”. The album opens with the first single ‘Rainbow Machine’, which contains vocals from Beth Zeppelin (whom the band met at a charity fundraiser) and, this really elevates the track to something magical, Beth also features on Big Daddy too. The addition of the extra female vocals adds an element to this album that I really hope Amplifier repeats again in the future. ‘Freakzone’ and ‘Kosmos’ both give me chills and remind me of The Octopus – big spacey, dreamy riffs (”Hey mistress freak – been living in a dream?”), Amplifier have never sounded so Floyd.
I cannot write this review without making a mention of the intro to ‘The Commotion’ – these are some of the fattest riffs I’ve heard open a song and, frankly, my face hurts with all the grinning. If you don’t nod your head to this one, you’re probably broken. One of the big, delightful surprises on this album is the track ‘Anubis’, when I first heard it, I had to check I was still listening to Amplifier and hadn’t accidentally put on a different band. It starts like a Johny Cash ballad and I did a comical double take. Once the song begins, Sel starts with the Simon and Garfunkel style vocals, I blinked and restarted the track. It’s actually pretty amazing and makes me hope that, one day, there might be an album with more of the same – “won’t you come let us be together cause life’s too short to remain apart we all need a hand to hold to and a friend to look up to” *Que Mike Sobbing into his Jack Daniels*
Look, this is a cracking album. It’s immediately accessible for new Amplifier fans, but is also very rewarding if you dedicate some time to it. It’s not a great leap of difference from previous Amplifier releases, which is good, but also has new, fresh elements which makes me excited for future releases. Don’t expect to just put it on in the background either – Trippin’ With Dr Faustus demands your full attention, and rightly so, it’s a wonderful tale, well told.
Tripping’ With Dr Faustus is released on June 30th on Rockosmos records and is available as a digital download from wherever you buy that stuff, but also as Double 180g Gatefold Transparent Vinyl (which I pre-ordered and is going to be DELICIOUS), a Collectors Edition Mediabook CD and a Standard Jewelcase CD. You can find Amplifier at http://www.amplifierband.com/ if you don’t mind having your eyes burnt out of their sockets and https://www.facebook.com/amplifierband.