Manchester’s Progressive/Space rock outfit Amplifier’s 5th album continues with the line up of founding members Sel Belamir (guitars/vocals), Matt Brobin (drums), along with newer recruits of Steve Durose (guitar) and Alex ‘Magnum’ Redhead (bass/vocals). This is a shorter concise album consisting of 10 songs in 45 minutes, especially when compared to 2011’s sprawling concept album ”Octopus”. This is not to say ”Mystoria” isn’t packed with inventiveness, creativity and diversity. I couldn’t find a definition of the album title although it sounds vaguely familiar. This extends to the music at times with nods to Soundgarden and traces of Rush, and Pink Floyd but it’s also a lot more in scope.
It all begins with the instrumental ‘Carpet Ride’ the opening segment a cross between Rush ‘Spirit of Radio’ and Holst’s ‘Mars’. It had me fearing this is a prelude to an album’s worth of self-indulgence. Thankfully, it leads to ‘Black Rainbow’, which bursts into attack with a meaty heaviness and driving tempo.
Things get even better with ‘Named after Rocky’ a catchy infectious driven guitar riff reminiscent of Soundgarden taken from their classic “Superunknown” album. Yes, it’s that good. The compact conciseness of the songs continues with ‘Cat’s Cradle’ and ‘Bride’. Both tracks posses the quirkiness of a heavier XTC with wonderful melodic guitar and vocal harmonies. Several listens and these songs work there way into your head. ‘Bride’ is superbly complex without losing its catchiness with its audacious handclaps in the chorus, and it might just be my favourite song on the album.
The same can be said with ‘OMG’ combing infectious textures of sound. Sel’s vocals are used throughout the album like a musical instrument, blending in and interspersing with great affect alongside the guitars. ‘Open Up’ combines Rush “Grace Under Pressure” style guitar sound with a heavy moody riff.
The album ends with ‘Crystal Mountain’ and ‘Crystal Anthem’. The former demonstrates the band’s mellow and lighter side. It runs into the latter a step up into a heavier sound and full of momentum building crescendos.
”Mystoria” grows on me with each listen. There is some wonderful playing throughout the album by all members whether its attention grabbing bass lines, complex drum rhythms, heavy riffs or captivating guitar solos. It is full of melodies, textured sounds and diverse musical ideas. The wide and varied influences help mould Amplifier’s sound producing a rich and broad listening experience. This is an album for the headphones, a musical ride. They can effortlessly combine heavy driven guitar riffs with lighter shades of sound and sometimes all within the same song. Amplifier has produced at times a very good album by a band at the top of their creative output.