Amplifier
Mystoria


4.0
excellent

Review

by Raul Stanciu STAFF
September 8th, 2014 | 55 replies


Release Date: 09/08/2014 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Signaling a new direction for further exploration

Amplifier have never been a stagnant band, it's in their policy. Each record represents a separate entity where they develop different ideas, always creating a complex listening experience. Over the past decade, these guys have upped their skills, changed musical directions and even reinvented themselves on the reflective, Porcupine Tree-inspired, Echo Street. In the midst of all these decisions taken, Sel Balamir & Co. have successfully pieced together some admirable, intricate puzzles, culminating with the double LP, The Octopus. Since then, they have started stripping layers and trimming the excess, finally narrowing it all down this time to 45, concise minutes. Their most condensed affair so far, Mystoria, could easily be a prequel to the self-titled debut or a more focused, hook-laden Insider, as each cut is very immediate and packs a lot of energy.

Much like their heavier peers, Mastodon, Amplifier have learned to work within a pop format in the past year, yet retaining their unpredictable nature. There are a myriad of riffs, all mashed together, with sudden changes and weird detours, which make for a really interesting journey. Opener, 'Magic Carpet' sounds like a sonic roller coaster, where guitars are piling massive riffs, readying the listener for the lethal 'Black Rainbow'. This is probably the closest the guys have come to the early works and it feels so good to hear them churning such chunky grooves again. At the same time, it could very well be the result of the new undertaken approach. Instead of developing the tunes separately, the band locked themselves in the rehearsal room and jammed until the album shaped itself. Luckily, this method has proved to be quite effective as there are a few surprises along the way. For example, the aggressive, 'Named After Rocky' shares some inspired, labyrinthine grooves complete with several cool solos, whereas 'Cat's Cradle' is arguably their most playful moment, reminiscing 'The Consultancy' in a lighter form. Sel and Steve insert some dirty leads here and there, but overall, the song is possibly the first Amplifier one that would make you dance.

Even though the band doesn't shine as bright on the second side of Mystoria, there are a couple of gripping moments here as well. The one that surprises most is 'The Meaning Of If', the shortest cut penned by them so far. It borders on punk in its delivery, with no pompous prog additions along the way. Clearly chopped off a longer jam, it fades in with a slick groove, on top of which Sel drops the lyrics with attitude. Purists might find it incomplete at this length, but if they approach the record with such a mindset, they'll be let down before they get to this track. Moreover, the two-part finale, 'Crystal Mountain' and 'Crystal Anthem' provide a nice sense of closure to the album. The former is a low-key lullaby, akin to some of the low-key material on Echo Street, but with a more unsettling tone, while the latter is another manic head banger with melodic vocals that provides a suitable ending to this immediate album. Also, 'Open Up' and 'OMG' are consistent numbers that offer some quirky rhythms and often explosive riffs. Both are comprised of formulas that have been tried and tested before, so there's nothing new. They aren't necessarily highlights, but are catchy and worthy of several spins, plus it shows how high were the standards raised by the band over the years.

While Mystoria doesn't really benefit from such heavy, memorable tracks like the debut (remember 'Motorhead, 'Panzer' or 'Consultancy') or those remarkably pretentious heights of The Octopus, it proves the band made efforts to work within a more digestible format and signals a new direction that can be further explored. To truly enjoy the record, you need to leave some of the prejudice behind. I was anxious for a return to form or at least a brooding, epic affair, yet after repeated listens, I understood what this is all about. Instead of rehashing the past, I appreciate Amplifier for having fun in the studio and moving forward. Have some patience, these guys might just create another classic in the near future.



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Comments:Add a Comment 
insomniac15
Staff Reviewer
September 8th 2014


3472 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Unfortunately, there's no Soundcloud or Bandcamp streams to add. Awesome album, nevertheless!

Named After Rocky (official video) - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RblO4B6h2tc
Black Rainbow - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wSsm1Bk-cPU
Open Up - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VDdWkXa4yWE
OMG - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YcLachXCzdw
Crystal Anthem - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SkGVIz3Q_HM
Bride - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BoR8_JM_zBM
Magic Carpet - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_VUT4eJp_pc

Digging: TV on the Radio - Seeds

Voivod
Staff Reviewer
September 8th 2014


6276 Comments


The album is streaming at play.spotify.com.

I was listening to it just a few hours ago after I had read a positive review in Metal Hammer Greece, and now a sputnik review for this, cool.



Edit:

Good review Raul.

Digging: Varathron - Untrodden Corridors of Hades

insomniac15
Staff Reviewer
September 8th 2014


3472 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Thanks! Well, I can't access Spotify so that sucks. The album is great, although it takes a few spins to grab its hooks around you.

Luckily there's a stream here too - http://classicrock.teamrock.com/news/2014-09-08/amplifier-stream-mystoria-in-full

Zantera
September 8th 2014


111 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Can't wait to hear this.

RVAHC13
September 8th 2014


598 Comments


Looks exciting! Can't wait to check this out

Digging: Morgan Delt - Morgan Delt

RivalSkoomaDealer
September 8th 2014


937 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Dug Echo Street so looking forward to hearing this.

Digging: Old Man Gloom - The Ape of God II

Mad.
September 8th 2014


4059 Comments


Got my digibook in the mail today. So far it's enjoyable if having nothing on the debut or The Octopus. So bummed that they've lost the progressive / space-rock flair, that was IMO the strongest bit about Amplifier, they're almost a different band to Echo Street.

Still, there's some fun stuff here. Fingers crossed their next album is another masterpiece with some more complex ideas. What would be the best thing ever would be a massive concept album about SPACE

greg84
Staff Reviewer
September 8th 2014


7430 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Great review, Raul.

This is their best album since their amazing debut imo.

Digging: Wildbirds & Peacedrums - Rhythm

Mad.
September 8th 2014


4059 Comments


Do you not dig The Octopus Greg? :

greg84
Staff Reviewer
September 8th 2014


7430 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Nope. It's way too long for me to sit through.

Mad.
September 8th 2014


4059 Comments


Damn, what about perfect tracks like Interstellar and Forever & More though?

greg84
Staff Reviewer
September 8th 2014


7430 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I agree these tracks are great, but the album really drags as a whole. This is thankfully much more streamlined and dynamic.

Mad.
September 8th 2014


4059 Comments


I getcha, but I just love all the tracks on The Octopus too much to get bored. The total length of this album is almost an hour when you add the bonus tracks.

Anyone heard those tracks?

Zantera
September 8th 2014


111 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Personally I hold the debut as their best, The Octopus slightly below. While most of The Octopus is superb, it does have the disadvantage sometimes of being so long. Don't get me wrong, I love long albums. But the debut is an album I can throw on whenever I want, but Octopus requires a certain mood. I still think Amplifier+Astronaut Dismantles+Insider has the Amplifier-sound I love the most though. The style and sound they had on those 3 releases is just great.

They've been doing some other things, personally I really liked Echo Street and was very pleased with it, but I do miss the spacey and ethereal sound of songs like Airborne.

Mad.
September 8th 2014


4059 Comments


Agreed about the spacey/ethereal sound, what's your opinion on this Zantera?

ExplosiveOranges
September 8th 2014


3623 Comments


Sweet rev, Raul. This looks promising.

Digging: Apparitionist - Godspeed

insomniac15
Staff Reviewer
September 8th 2014


3472 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Thanks! It is. Although if you haven't checked out these guys before, it's best to start with the debut. Still this is their most accessible record.

@Mad - I think this album brings some of the good ol' Amplifier back, albeit in a more settled way. I was ready to dismiss it when it grew on me lol.

I love their debut and I also like Echo Street because I am a big Porcupine Tree fan (and a sucker for lovely melodies). The Octopus is great, but too long. Since each album stands on its own, we might get something totally different next time, who knows?

Zantera
September 8th 2014


111 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Mad. I haven't had time to hear it yet, but I'll probably get my copy in the mail this week. I know they streamed it/it leaked, but I would love to hear it with the two bonus tracks, so waiting for the media book version. ;)

Did you get one of the limited vinyls?

insomniac15
Staff Reviewer
September 8th 2014


3472 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I'm curious how Darth Vader sounds haha. It should be a great tune.

Onirium
September 8th 2014


2296 Comments


Great review, didn't know this band but it sounds great, I'm definitely going to check them out

Digging: Renaissance - Scheherazade and Other Stories



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