A beast of a thing! Listen to it here while you read this....
The beginning is important in all in all things...
The Octopus is a loose concept and the creation of Sel Balamir, Neil Mahoney, and Matt Brobin, who make up the Manchester based combo Amplifier. The evolving idea behind this appears to be the inter-connectedness of everything, or “...referencing the human condition, infinity and entropy, everything and nothing”. The band has recently created a website dedicated to this amorphous concept where all is not quite explained.... http://www.theoctopus.info/the-octopus
The Octopus is also the third album from Amplifier, a double CD two hour epic three years in the making, officially released to the general populace on 31st January 2011. Fans of the band have already bought the deluxe limited edition graphic hardcover book (written by Sel) and CDs. After becoming disenchanted with their treatment at the hands of various record labels, and to their eternal credit, the whole project has been accomplished entirely by their own efforts. Sel makes the comment that had they signed a record deal the company would have insisted that The Octopus be released as two separate albums, but the band see it as an aesthetic whole, so a double CD it is.
Sel Balamir, and probably the others too, but Sel is the public internet presence the fans see, has worked all hours sent dealing with a never ending stream of production and distribution problems normally dealt with by A&R departments. The easy bit was writing, recording and producing the songs!
I only hope that all the hard labour put into this project pays off for the band, both artistically and financially, as there is always the danger that a project like this could be the proverbial straw that breaks the camel's back - let's hope not.
Musically this album is by far the most adventurous effort from the band to date, and all bases from space rock to proto Black Sabbath metal via grunge to anthemic neo-stadium rock are covered. Can you label this band? Well they're not prog-metal á la Opeth at one end of the scale to Dream Theater at the other. Worthy but frequently navel gazing prog site http://www.progarchives.com/ has listed Amplifier under "Psychedelic/Space Rock" - wrong again. I would like to suggest that Amplifier are "rock-prog" in that although there are are proggy elements to their music, and the "space" label is largely confined to the lyrical element, it is merely a flirting with the genre, ROCK is really their home ground.
A brief history of time....
The music is introduced with a heartbeat from another dimension, later consumed by proto-grunge thrashing. We're living on borrowed time, and a killer lumpen-prole doom riff from the Sabbath cabinet invites us to step right up for the end of the world. Title track The Octopus gives room to breathe while we hurtle through space, the human DNA at the command of another race. The weaker bend to the will of strong on The Planet Of Insects. Yeah, I think I'm getting the picture now. The sonically epic Trading Dark Matter On The Stock Exchange features a skewed flamenco motif and gives visions of excess and obsession with the ephemeral; hold on to nothing, suckers.
A trip into deep space starts with The Sick Rose, a low tempo scene setter to the prose of William Blake. Things zoom off on a driving riff into the Interstellar travelling faster than light into the heart of the sun. The Emperor could almost be a 21st century Have A Cigar in reverse, straining for and railing against the excess. Watch out or the fucking system will suck you in and grind you down, and where do we go from here? Eventually it'll all come crashing down under its own weight as more heavy riffing presages The Fall Of Empire. You'll leave here with nothing at all. A heavy trip. We've all made errors of judgement chasing the metaphorical dragon, but hey, let's come down to Earth and lay waste to Hollywood and the American Way with our own anthemic Oscar Night, death to Hollywood. At the end, who do you want to become, Forever And More, grab your own star.
...have you found yourself where you once started from?
You have to work at this album, it's not an easy ride and it was never intended to be. Stick with it and you will be rewarded in spades. Amplifier are more than the band anyone thought they were.
If you've read this far and are still listening, why not buy the damn thing?
4 out of 5