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Amplifier - The Octopus (Album Review)

Wednesday, 19 January 2011 Written by Ben Bland
Amplifier - The Octopus (Album Review)

Starting with atmospheric swells of noise and electronic beeps, 'The Octopus' is a complicated beast to say the least. Itís taken Amplifier four years to make and itís a behemoth of a record. Over two full discs, Amplifier have brought the music world a double album of overwhelming proportions.

Perhaps what Amplifier has created with 'The Octopus' is a valid contender for the crown of being the Ďleast cool album of all timeí. Is there any way that this record could be less in tune with the zeitgeist of popular music today? Itís two hours long for starters and thereís not really much present that you can imagine blasting out on Radio One next week. In fact this album is one of those records you have to listen to as a whole. Take even the strongest songs on this record, such as 'The Wave' or the rifftastic 'Interstellar' and they sound good...but just good. Listen to them all in their right place and they sound brilliant. Most of the songs even have defiantly Ďproggyí titles; take the delightfully labelled 'Trading Dark Matter on the Stock Exchange' for starters. There are more guitar effects on this record than itís possible to comprehend. Everything is pushed to the maximum but not in a show-off way at any time. This isnít taking Ďprogressive rockí in the same way that the likes of Dream Theater take it. Despite the fact that 'The Octopus' sees Amplifier seemingly finding that there are no boundaries to how comprehensive they can sound on record, this is more an album of restraint than anything else. It feels like Amplifier could spend half the time playing wild solos if they wanted to but that they feel like that is not their calling. There is undoubtedly talent to making a record that is so expansive in its sound, yet so controlled at the same time.

ImageOf course 'The Octopus' is not the perfect record. There are moments that drag a little bit and where the band is perhaps trying to be a little bit too ambitious in their musical vision.† Moments on the second disc donít quite come off, with the likes of 'Golden Ratio' perhaps not being quite unique enough to stand apart as strong songs on the record. Meanwhile the more serene side of the band, shown in 'Oscar Night // Embryo', perhaps isnít quite as convincing as the trio are when bludgeoning their way through with their sludgy, stoner prog riffs. To be completely fair to the band though these moments can perhaps be seen just to suffer in comparison to the majesty of this albumís highlights. It can hardly be expected, after all, for Amplifier to follow up the genius of, say, 'Planet of Insects' with track after track of equally brilliant progressive songwriting. Maybe it is all too overwhelming to accept the excellence of the whole thing, so we canít. Perhaps after a year of listening, all the bits that donít quite make sense now will click into place.

So yes, I suppose it will be all too much for some listeners. There is very little to grab hold of on the record, very little which has a direct immediacy to it. Instead it is necessary to focus on the music. If one does apply such a focus then the rewards are ever so great. Do not listen to 'The Octopus' as background music...there really is no point in doing so. If you are ready to take the journey that this record is willing take you on then you need to submit yourself to the full majesty of Amplifierís sound. This is music for the widescreen HD generation. Open your ears and open your mind...and let the octopus in.

Stereoboard Album Rating: 9/10†

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