“Mystoria” (released 8th September) is the fifth studio album from Manchester-based Amplifier. With 15 years of the band’s existence behind him, frontman Sel Balamir is a prolific songwriter and follows the philosophy of “never repeating myself”. Following ambitious projects in their discography, the intent with the latest was to produce a straightforward blast of rock and to have fun. So – no overdubs – no smoke and mirrors. As Balamir describes it, “we’ve really stripped away all extraneous fat from our sound and boiled everything down to the lean essence of pure rock”.
Fans have a choice of formats, with a Standard version, a Media Book version and also vinyl. Two extra songs appear on the Media Book version. “Named After Rocky” is the first single to be released from “Mystoria”. I must say it doesn’t strike me as the obvious single by any means. It’s one of the more complex tracks and some other candidates are more commercial and radio-friendly. Having said that, it’s got some great guitar riffs.
One of those candidates for a single release is “Cat’s Cradle”. Full of catchy hooks, it might have broader appeal, but isn’t typical of their usual output and admittedly wouldn’t reflect the album as a whole.
In a similar vein, everything above could also be said of “Bride” – a feel-good tune that definitely passes the old grey whistle test (ask your parents). Then, there is “OMG”, building and building with a compelling central riff and pleasing layers of sound, carried aloft in a psychedelic finish. Strangely, I had an urge to do the Egyptian Sand Dance to this (ask your grandparents).
The musicianship from all four members on this record is superb. If you like can’t-keep-still rock, tinged with psychedelia, and waves of epic guitar rolling up your spine, you will appreciate this. Nowhere is this more in evidence than the opening instrumental track, “Magic Carpet”.
If you want to play frantic head-banging air guitar, push “Black Rainbow” to number 11. Great percussion and bass underpins “Open Up”, complementing the menacing lyrics. Featuring some acoustic guitar and sympathetic percussion, “Crystal Mountain” is a departure – a slower paced, gentle love song that allows you to float and take a breath. Finally, “Crystal Anthem” has more terrific guitar work, invoking a spacey feel in its parting farewell.
Amplifier is only doing two more dates in the UK this year, so if you want to see them live, they’re doing a November gig in London and one in Manchester.
Get Mystoria on iTunes: