Amplifier is possibly the best example of what the word "progressive" actually means. The band has progressed with each album they have made and basically reinvented themselves each time, while still maintaining a sound that is their own. In 2011, the band released the epic, double album "The Octopus," which featured extended pieces and a massive sound. Last year, the band shifted gears and surprised everyone by releasing "Echo Street," which was extremely melodic and somewhat subdued. For those expecting something similar to "The Octopus," they were in for a bit of a rude awakening. "Echo Street" is an immediate album with melodies that are instantly memorable and quite easy to hum.
Now just a year after that masterpiece, Amplifier return with the album that was thought to be the "Octopus" follow-up: "Mystoria." For those expecting it to be similar to either of those previous releases, or any before that, once again Amplifier have changed the script. "Mystoria" is a fun, rocking affair with the guitars turned up, the drums pounding and the band out to have a good time.
The album kicks off with an instrumental called "Magic Carpet," which is a great title since the band seems to take flight with a dual guitar attack -- trading licks back and forth and a wide open, "pedal to the floor" playing style. If there was a progressive rock anthem for 2014, this would fit the bill. While "Echo Street" was about the friendly melody, the key to each track on "Mystoria" is an easily identifiable riff. In some cases the riff is courtesy of the bass guitar, like on "Cat's Cradle," which allows the guitar to sound like an Andy Summers reggae riff. On "Bride," there are hand claps that you will feel compelled to do. It's so catchy.
"Open Up" uses odd synth sounds that could easily tie it to "The Octopus," but its bright nature and carefree pop style make it a better fit on this album. "OMG" has a great bass riff that allows the guitars to evoke a Middle Eastern vibe over the top. The pinnacle of the album comes with the closing tracks. The imagery of "Crystal Mountain" effortlessly leads to "Crystal Anthem" which, like the opener "Magic Carpet," takes off and soars, bringing the album to an uplifting finish.
Amplifier are poised to fill the gap left by bands like Porcupine Tree and Oceansize, who understood the importance of a great song and that each album should have its own identity. Progressive rock is not about how many notes you play or even if they are all layered perfectly. It's about the attitude that a band should always progress and push themselves to do different things and grow. Amplifier always manage to do that and never lose their unique sound in the process. "Mystoria" is further proof that this is a band to be reckoned with.