Review Summary: An album full of great ambition and determination, but too often leaves the listener asking “So What?”
On their self-titled debut album, Amplifier showed us some fantastic traits that hinted at a band with a lot of promise. “Space Rock” is such a weird term to use as it’s hard to describe what exactly that is. What’s even weirder is that one listen of their debut album and you can almost immediately point and say “THAT MUST be space rock”. Amplifier blends those spacey psychedelic sounds of bands like Pink Floyd with an edgy, grungy alternative rock style almost akin to Alice in Chains. They sound like a misplaced ‘80s band transported to the new modern age. While it definitely had its minor flaws, the majority of the self-titled album effortlessly fluctuated between soothing and airy segments to riffs that felt like refreshing cold water being thrown in your face. Even more impressive was how the band managed to do all that in single songs, not necessarily splitting those ideas up into separate songs. What is certainly evident though is the band sounded strongest when they play at their heaviest. Sel Balamir has such a keen ear for weighty riffs and adds just the right dose of heaviness, ensuring the sound is powerful without being intrusive.
sounds very much like an Amplifier album. It’s obvious the band wanted to further explore their heavier edge. You can hear how ambitious the band was when the title track kicks in. They truly want to pummel the listener with as many juicy riffs as possible. But in the end the album feels sloppy and crudely pieced together. There are too many segments that don’t make sense and far too much “rock”, not enough “space”. The first two tracks are great examples of what I mean. “Gustav’s Arrival” tries so desperately to kick-start the album with a bang, and does to an extent. However, it shows that Amplifier’s sound requires Balamir to be present vocally as well and in the end we get a stomping opener that seems somewhat hollow without any lyrics. “O Fortuna” finally gives us some lyrics, but the song again feels too straight-forward, full of hard riffs with vocals that don’t follow the pace properly. What little quirky deviations the song has feel forced and whatever “O Fortuna” has to offer, the song “RIP” sounds so similar to it that both songs no longer feel distinct or unique at all once they finish.
Pacing is also a major issue here. The best rock albums know when to ease off on the noise and give the listener a break. Amplifier certainly knows how to accomplish this too. “On/Off” was a lovely fluttering space rock track off the last album that relaxed the listener before leading into the ultimate climax of the album when “The Consultancy” starts up. On Insider
, there are only a countable amount of times where Amplifier gives us a break. One such example is the pointless little interlude that is “Oort”, and what do we get after it? While “What Is Music?” does start with a bizarre electronic beat, we just end up getting even more rocking soon after. Lyrics can sometimes be the saving grace, but looking at those final few tracks it’s safe to say the lyrics aren’t offering anything thought-provoking either, just a lot of “into the blue, up into the blue (yeah)”
and “sometimes you win, and sometimes you lose”
Amplifier is a great and promising band. They do in fact know how to make a good song; we’ve seen it before multiple times, and even on here. The song “Procedures” has a random and intriguing intro that shows Amplifier has a slight humorous side to them. It’s paced perfectly, offers the album’s grooviest riff, and the vocals and instruments share the track time harmoniously. It kicks ass and is one of Amplifier’s strongest songs, easily the “Consultancy” of this album. This is a band slowly figuring itself out and is one of the few rock acts around that you can still anticipate something great coming from in future albums, maybe that magnum opus we all knew they had in them? Who knows, but it’s not here that’s for damn sure. Insider
is the epitome of “average”. Almost every song is pleasant sounding with Amplifier’s signature characteristics, but most amount to nothing spectacular in the end; gloriously inglorious.