(released for general sale on January 31, 2011)
Once upon a time there was a heavy rock band called Amplifier. They released thunderous anthems and songs like O Fortuna, Motorhead, Panzer, The Consultancy and Mongrel's Anthem. They showed excellent musicianship with tracks like Glory Electricity, One Great Summer and UFOs and all the while they threatened to throw off the unjust tag of heavy metal band and be proclaimed as the next great thing in progressive rock.
The Octopus does exactly that. Amplifier toy with us. They pretend to be something they're not. Amplifier are the newest champions of prog whether they like it or not! Let's also get one thing straight; there are prog metal bands like Opeth and Anathema and Amplifier are not a prog metal band. In fact, we just have to forget this 'metal' tag once and for all. There are heavy rock bands out there and there are now heavy prog bands too - it's a fact, don't forget it.
The Octopus is a bitch of a record. as much as you love it, it smacks you in the teeth. It has moments where you just wonder if its just a bit of filler and the album could have just been a long single album; then it hits you with tracks like Interglacial Spell or Interstellar and you realise that you need some reticent moments. It is important for those quieter, almost after thought pieces of music such as The Runner, Utopian Daydream and Embryo - they help break up the epic tracks; giving you time to rethink, to digest what a monster Sel Balamir has constructed/created.
But this isn't just a lovefest; there are tracks, including the title track, that are not immediate; tracks you have to work with. The Octopus sounds fabulous; all kinds of range of guitars from gutsy to staccato, interesting bass lines, clever drumming, intricate effects and a balance between light and dark that shows just how much this band has progressed from its early days, but it also needs you to work with it. Some tracks have a meandering feel, while others you want to go on for longer; but I think its all part of the big picture that's being painted - concept albums are like that.
It might be that they're all getting older (and therefore wiser), but this double album that could have wasted a lot of time and effort like parts of Insider did, just seems to rattle along for over two hours that seem a lot less time and in my humble opinion, a band that turns two hours into less time has achieved what they set out to do.
Is it a concept album? I was asked what I thought it was about and I honestly couldn't tell you, even though Balamir told me himself (but I think that was a wind up). It certainly doesn't sound like a concept album about a world run by sentient octopuses who farm humans. it does sound a little like an ode to the human condition; possibly an examination of the future of humanity, or perhaps a hope that for all the shit that inhabit our lives there is also a future, whether humans will play a part or not.
There is only one track under 5 minutes - that's the opener. 7 tracks that can be described as epics - the highlight for me at the moment being Interstellar. But tracks such as Trading Dark Matter on the Stock Exchange, White Horses at Sea/Utopian Daydream and Fall of the Empire all have the ability to be put on constant rotation; but so do most of the tracks on the album. it is a phenomenal achievement - but I would say that, I'm a big fan.
Sel Balamir, Neil Mahony and Matt Brobin have been plying their trade for over 10 years; they don't appear to have a record company any more and that is a real shame because this album would have been a great addition to any label. It's the kind of thing KScope should be putting out and throwing the full weight of their support behind. It might be a labour of love; it's taken them over 4 years to produce and one wonders how the hell they managed to survive. The Octopus is a great album; it fully deserves people like us to part with our cash and help these guys pay their mortgages. The deluxe version comes with a 72 page graphic novel; but that's been sold out. But if you like your prog heavy, your metaphor skewed and want something you won't tire of quickly, I recommend this big big time! Oh, and any album that manages to sample Montgomery Burns deserves your cash!
8½ out of 10