Review Summary: Progress can be seen as Amplifier begins experimenting with new sounds and styles, but in the end monotony holds this album back from being a top notch release
Sel Balamir- Guitar/Vocals
Neil Mahony- Bass
Matt Brobin- Drums
I first discovered Amplifier shortly after I had first heard of Porcupine Tree. After quickly digesting most of Porcupine Tree's discography, I began attempting to find their contemporaries to see if anyone made music even remotely similar. I came across Amplifier through their single, "The Consultancy" from their self-titled album, but I found that release to be boring and monotonous. After finding satisfaction in bands such as Oceansize, Anathema, and others, my curiosity returned enough for me to want to see how Amplifier progressed in their next full length album, Insider. After several listens, I can say for certain that while they have progressed a great deal in terms of song writing and variety of sound, Insider at times suffers from the same overuse of sound.
On Amplifier, I thought their weighty sound dragged the album down rather than becoming a defining characteristic of Amplifier. I enjoyed most of the songs on the album, but giving the disc a full listen proved to be too monotonous for me to stand. On Insider, it is apparent that they're beginning to understand the power using other sounds to make their typical, powerful sound even stronger. Instead of plodding along in the deep, bass heavy sound through the entire disc, certain songs provide relief and show that Amplifier can excel outside of its comfort zone.
The beginning songs on the cd, the instrumental Gustav's Arrival and vocal opener O
Fortuna have the intensity and power of sound attracts many listeners, without forcing it or letting it become stagnant. In my opinion, Matt Brobin's drums sound too thin, and detract from the massive sound that Amplifier makes use of. Regardless of the production, the individual performances surge with energy, especially in the constant aggressive barrage coming from the drumming.
The title track, Insider, is the first example of an attempt to back off the throttle a little bit to provide a different sound, but I don't think it goes far enough to really be effective. What would be a standout song instead sounds too similar to stand out at all.
While there are not many weak songs on the album, (RIP comes to mind first), songs like Mongrel's Anthem, What is Music?, and Map of an Imaginary Place are the casualties of a sound heard too constantly. The relentless waves of sound that push through songs like these give me a sense of drowning, and while some may like that I find it too incessant to really enjoy.
The best tracks on Insider are the songs that mix new ideas with the Amplifier's characteristic sound. The result are songs that make me excited for their new release. The independence of the bass guitar on Strange Seas of Thought gives the song another dimension in which to grow, instead latching it directly to the guitar part as it typically is on the album. Procedures features a heavy pop sound you would expect to hear from Biffy Clyro, not Amplifier. The pop groove gives the band a new way to add excitement to their music, and doesn't dilute the song at all in terms of creating a uniquely Amplifier sound. The melodies of Hymn of the Aten are some of the best on the album, and the sitar-like guitar that provides enough diversity to make the entire song an interesting listen.
Insider shows a band that has progressed from album to album, but they have much farther to go before they can be considered one of the top bands making progressive heavy rock. There are moments that are infectious in their creativity and execution, but there are still far too many stagnant songs that push the listener to boredom.
Seven Seas of Thought
Hymn of the Aten