I want to like this band, I really do. You see, my best mate raves about them and I like to support struggling bands, so I've just pre-ordered their forthcoming labour of love The Octopus, which comes with 70 page book all made without the help of a record label no less. You have to admire ambition like that, and at £30 I'm hoping it's an improvement on their previous full album, Insider, released in 2006.
In preparation for receiving this mighty work, I thought I would give their sophomore effort Insider a spin. This is an album I've often overlooked in favour of their more immediate self titled debut. The three piece make a good fist of wall of noise guitar rock with the odd sound effect thrown in for good measure. The problem I have with this is a distinct lack of light and shade and a lack of dynamics which leads to it all sounding a bit samey from about halfway in. There was only one modern(ish) three piece guitar/bass/drums band who managed to keep my attention for the length of an entire album and that was Sugar, who understood a thing or two about writing a melody and creating a dynamic structure that kept you on the edge of your seat.
However, I don't want to create too much of a downer, as taken individually there is some good stuff on this album, it's just I find it hard work as a whole entity. The opening instrumental Gustav's Arrival is a feisty rifferrama that would not be out of place on a Metallica album. The title track is the best song on the album for me, and lyrically we are seeing a theme develop. Everything is not as it appears, or so we are led to believe. By the time we get to R.I.P. we are told that "only luck keeps us out of the coffin" - well it might if we were all steeplejacks, but this one then veers off into sci-fi territory, as do a lot of songs on this album. Nothing wrong with that, but I think driving force Sel Balamir (guitar/vocals/lyrics) would be better placed writing lyrics that actually have some anchor in the real world. Some of the lyrics on here make no sense at all "o Fortuna" being the maddest of the lot. In places, lyrically at least, they are in danger of turning into Muse, which although good for their bank balances is not something I want to contemplate. I think Sel reads too many comics!* Musically they are close to becoming heavy metal in places, another development I'm not too sure about. Strange Seas Of Thought is a highlight, with a recurring guitar motif woven cleverly into the fabric of the song. The lyrics are not bad either, even if a bit sub-Hawkwind. Elysian Gold brings us back to planet Earth with a hard rock love song no less. Oort is another driving instrumental, thank goodness, as with a title like that, who knows what universe the lyrics would head for!
In conclusion, not a bad album per sé, more a collection of some very good and some less good rock songs. Legend has it that bands suffer from "difficult third album" syndrome, but hopefully Amplifier are through that stage with their second album. I reckon I should have reviewed their much better debut instead!
* I've been told since that Sel does not read comics! He has a strange mind in that case.....
Go here to read about their much anticipated soon come epic, and hopefully not "difficult third album", The Octopus:
..and go here to pre-order The Octopus:
3 out of 5
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