A Deal with the Devil is the central theme to the Christopher Marlowe play ‘Dr.Faustus’, and Amplifier main man Sel Balamir in his inimitable style explores the relationship between Man and the ’ultimate baddy’ in their most recent album… at least I think that’s the gist of it, but in essence this is just a kick ass trippy rock album full of power and grooves. I won’t bore you to tears with a detailed analysis or seek to find the ‘deeper meaning’ of this album. You just need to dive in, so here’s my impressions.
The trip takes off as Rainbow Machine swaggers in with machine gun drums and a crunching groove. Balamir is effortlessly cool in voice and on guitar as Matt Brobin’s drums explode joyously. Catchy and rocking with Beth Bishop’s backing vocals helping lift the voices heavenwards. Rainbow by name and Rainbow by nature, this is a technicolour musical powerhouse, “Let’s put the afterburners on” indeed.
A drone segues us into the Freakzone, and whilst Rainbow Machine took us skywards, Freakzone rolls in like a psychedelic tank – relentless, heavy and kaleidoscopic with absolutely bloody enormous drums and a killer bass line from Alex Redhead. Nothing can stand in its path.
A musical “Psychedelic Pill for holding up the Sky”, pop this one in your ears and strap in, it’s going to be some ride. Dr. Faustus wanted to explore beyond the usual confines of human knowledge and laws so he delved into the black arts, and this opening feels like the band are taking you on a similar trip to the darker side.
This remarkable opening trilogy of songs continues to hit you between the eyes and ears as Kosmos (Grooves of Triumph) initially chimes in with synths and then a wall of thunderous sound descends to consume all. This is a song which does exactly what it says on the tin – Grooves. Our own musical Faustus, Sel sings:
I got a Fuzz Guitar, Oh my Goodness Gracious,
And a Grizzled Heart, That’s designed to take us into the stars.
… and one can hardly argue , especially in the marvellous atmospheric effects laden, guitar break.
For the faint hearted, the fairly relentless nature of these opening songs can start to batter the skull, so it’s almost a relief to find another side of Amplifier shimmering in the latter part of the album. The acoustic beauty of Anubis, with added light from Beth Bishop’s guest vocals, is a welcome foxhole in which to retreat and has echoes of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. Sci-fi synths and a simple but effective bass line brings us into the shimmering Supernova, which also showcases Balamir’s fine vocal range. Majestic and poised this Supernova slowly builds and builds with titanic drumming and a mind-alteringly wonderful fuzz guitar solo finale.
In all honesty the journey of this trip does not end as powerfully as the start with Silvio and Old Blue Eyes, but maybe the growling guitar and strange vocals of Old Blue Eyes are the ‘come down’ – after all, there’s always a price to pay if you make a deal with the devil, isn’t there?
Amplifier continue in their unpredictable ways. As a live act they are absolutely scintillating and on record they are adventurous and diverse in their styles over the years – after the high energy of previous album Mystoria and now the more relentless and psychedelic Trippin’ with Dr. Faustus perhaps they may have fully mined that musical seam for now – who can predict what direction they may go with their next album, but you know it’s always going to be one Hell of a ride… which seems apt for Dr. Faustus, doesn’t it?
01. Rainbow Machine (6:28)
02. Freakzone (8:22)
03. Kosmos (Grooves of Triumph) (6:42)
04. The Commotion (Big Time Party Maker) (6:10)
05. Big Daddy (5:15)
06. Horse (6:41)
07. Anubis (3:45)
08. Supernova (4:35)
09. Silvio (5:21)
10. Old Blue Eyes (6:09)
Total Time – 59:30
Sel Balamir – Vocals, Guitars, Synths
Steve Durose – Guitars, Vocals
Alex Redhead – Bass, Vocal
Matt Brobin – Drums, Vibes
Beth Bishop – Vocals
Record Label: Rockosmos
Catalogue#: ROK 14
Date of Release: 30th June 2017