Amplifier – ‘Tripping With Doctor Faustus’ (Rockosmos) Print E-mail
CD Reviews
Written by Rich Hobson   
Monday, 10 July 2017 04:00

Amplifier - Trippin artworkLanding onto the desk of Über Rock in an explosion of earth-shaking riffs and giddy arena rock aspirations, it’s safe to say Amplifier might be one of the best kept secrets in British rock. Formed in 1999 and now onto their fifth album, Amplifier trade in nothing less than total rock domination, ‘Tripping With Doctor Faustus’ popping and sizzling in all the ways you could want from a floor-filling anthem-creating machine.

 

So who the hell are they? A cursory glance tells us they formed in the north in 1999, making them the spiritual successors to not only Oasis (debatably one of, if not *the* the last Huge UK rock band) but to the Brit Rock movement. Do they live up to the hype? Boy oh boy do they! Bucking the all-too-common trend for turning guitars down in favour of piano-led ballads and milquetoast faux-rock by way of pop radio singles, Amplifier hone right in on the soft grey matter between your ears as they pummel the brain into submission with a relentless barrage of all-kickin’, all-rockin’ world-beaters.

 

Pegged with prog sensibilities, Amplifier’s closest sonic relatives sit somewhere between Rush and Audioslave, possessing the imperious ambition of the former and the straight up musical virtuosity of the latter. Ambitious to a fault, the production quality throughout 'Tripping With Doctor Faustus' is something to marvel at, each instrument and performance shining incandescently whilst never coming across as ostentatious, or worse still overproduced and polished. Instead, what we get is something that cuts across as pitch perfect, its edges just touched up enough to give the band a wicked glint that betrays their no quarter approach.

 

 

The guitar kick in for opener ‘Rainbow Machine’ could be lifted right from stadium rock’s 80s heyday, a howl of guitar that would do Whitesnake’s ‘Still Of The Night’ proud going headlong with a Who-style bombastic drum fill that lets you know right from the off where you stand. From there, its all big riffs and crowd-baiting vocals, the band sounding every bit as big as any 70s stadium-filler ever did. Short sharp shocks of rock are in short supply on the album, but the longer run time serves the band well, allowing them time to lets riffs and fills breathe and build atmosphere, really driving home the feeling that this isn’t your average ready-for-YouTube rock aspirer.

 

What Amplifier are aiming for is a much loftier goal, drawing on the spirit of some of rock’s biggest names to cement themselves as a bona fide rock n roll band for 2017. Tinges of psychedelia colour the edges of songs like ‘Kosmos (Grooves Of Triumph)’, the song alternating between a massive, anthemic feel and something which has most definitely tasted the electric kool-aid, melding the styles together seamlessly for something which is big and brash but never predictable nor cookie cutter.

 

That doesn’t mean the band can’t roll out a Queens Of The Stone Age sexy slider, though. Flick on ‘The Commotion (Big Time Party Maker)’ and you’ll find a bass tone which is deliciously decadent, evoking the sound of Homme and co. way before they got a little too lost in the desert. Tone is a key ingredient to '...Faustus', the band experimenting from track to track whilst still maintaining a core sonic which never strays so far as to alienate the listener.

 

The biggest shift to occur in the record comes just past the halfway point, with the out-and-out folksy three-minute ditty ‘Anubis’. Though perhaps a little out of place alongside the enormity of the album’s other tracks, ‘Anubis’ shows that Amplifier aren’t a one-note band limited to just pumping out riff-slinging rockers. Follow-up ‘Supernova’ continues along this more subdued vein, not quite straying into ballad territory but slowing the pace down massively for a track which enjoys some big production and classical sounding backing that evokes flavours of David Bowie or Radiohead.

 

 

Album closer ‘Old Blue Eyes’ throws up one last surprising sonic comparison, with a swamp-happy bass that could be lifted from the likes of Black Sabbath or the NOLA sludge metal scene. Closing the album out at a polar opposite to its crowd-pleasing opener, Amplifier go for the unpredictability factor to prove themselves as a band with plenty of vision and more than enough musical prowess to pull their vision off.

 

Clocking in at just under an hour and loaded with the numerous shades of rock in its many forms, Amplifier’s Tripping With Doctor Faustus ticks all the boxes for what you could want from a prog-minded heavy rock band with stadium ambitions. Put together in a package that will please the ears from start to finish (a wayward trip down folk lane notwithstanding), this is the kind of album that you wish more big hitters in the rock game could come out with. Considering the success of toe-dipping rock acts like Royal Blood, it feels like Amplifier are more than deserving of a shot at the title of ‘Hottest New UK Rock Band’ with an arsenal that far outshines the mainstream competition.

 

Trippin’ With Dr Faustus is released on Friday (14 July).

 

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