Mancunian psych-rockers Amplifier have plugged in and jammed out their fifth full length studio release, Mystoria. It’s ten tracks of occasionally trippy and very riff-oriented retro rock. But is it any good?
Opener ‘Magic Carpet’ whisks us off with a running guitar riff and a warm bass buildup before expanding into big, powerful chords, synchronised guitars and plenty of layering. There’s a steady buildup of tension, some nice touches of both prog and classic rock, and a nice uplifting tone, but it’s all hampered by slightly roughshod production and an air of too much cheesiness. ‘Black Rainbow’ is bassy, bluesy and pacey. Sel Balamir’s vocals are complementary to the scuzzy bassline and impressive cymbal flourishes, and although things slow down a little around the middle eight, the subtle variations on a key riff are very listenable.
‘Named After Rocky’ showcases the bands occasional dabbling with doomier riffs and textures, something that also appears on ‘OMG’ and ‘Open Up’. There’s a steadier, surer pace on show, some very well implemented vocal harmonies and some excellent layering. ‘Cats Cradle’ is perhaps the most varied and experimental track on offer, with a weird section that sounds almost like someone wrote the theme to a kid’s TV show on acid. There’s some dreamy guitar textures, but it seems a little too out there, almost a miss-step.
There is definitely a lot to like here, including the well executed one/two punch of ‘Crystal Mountain’ and ‘Crystal Anthem’, the former a lush melodic meander through various light guitar passages and the latter a punchier, faster 70’s style romp. That said, there are a few niggling issues bring Mystoria down.
Although the tones are consistently good, at times the band seem in dire need of a ‘less is more’ approach, with too many guitar effects competing for the top of the mix, and a bass tone that is sometimes a little farty, Although the layering keeps things interesting, sometimes it is a little overwrought, over-complicating some transitions and structures, sounding a little awkward. The overall production values, although clear, lack a certain bite or punch that would create a richer dynamic experience for the listener. A band this far into their career should not let a mix make them sound occasionally like amateurs.
This said, it’s a solid effort from a group who know what they want to say, how they want to say it, and that they aren’t merely a collection of old ideas and influences. It might not go all the way up to 11, but it is worth a jam or two.