Sound — 8
Amplifier once again return with another rock album following the successful "The Octopus" and "Echo Street." As their fifth LP, "Mystoria" continues Amplifier's rock-driven musical craft with more an emphasis on being a rock album to its core rather than an atmospheric space rock album like their previous work. For those familiar with their debut "Amplifier" and post-album "Insider," "Mystoria" brings back those rock riffs but without much atmosphere.
Regardless, "Mystoria" sounds very clear and crisp. Put on your best headphones or turn on your high-def speakers and experience knocking drum beats and splashes coupled with crunch-distortion and wails from guitars. Vocalist Sel also gives the album its unique flavor with a smooth but still aggressive voice, similar in tone to his singing in previous records, which compliments the rock-hard atmosphere of "Mystoria." I was very impressed with the quality in "Mystoria" because of its variable highs and lows fused in every song making the album an enjoyable rock experience. Durose's guitar crunch, Readhead's deep bass tones, and Brobin's drumming pattern all mesh together nicely with Balamir's vocals and guitar.
Lyrics — 8
Sel Balamir has always sung philosophically with his song lyrics having complex meanings. Nuances in his words are what set Amplifier apart from other rock and rock-influenced bands. "Mystoria" continues this tradition with lyrics that keep you in pondering thought and motivate you to look them up online - easily found on their homepage amplifierband.com.
However, this album's lyrics are not as mysterious or quirky as "The Octopus" featuring the philosophy of intergalactic space cephalopods and domination. "Mystoria" still contains some "mystery" (intentional?) and will leave you wondering what it is about.
Overall Impression — 9
Amplifier fans may be split upon listening to "Mystoria." I did not expect this non-atmospheric-centered rock approach from them. Though it is mainly a rock album with very little prog rock influence compared to "The Octopus" and "Echo Street," it is still worth a listen. New Amplifier fans may appreciate the unique qualities of this rock record. Below is a breakdown of each song:
The album opens up with "Magic Carpet" followed by "Black Rainbow." I consider these songs to be evil twins since "Magic Carpet" features an intricate web of guitar riffs with the signature Amplifier quirkiness which then leads into a distortion-laden and straightforward "Black Rainbow." The two twins compliment each other nicely.
"Named After Rocky," arguably the album's single, is a rock-lover's haven with a catchy chorus and satisfying interlude/outro guitar solos. "Cat's Cradle" and "Bride" follow the similar pop-influenced path without sounding mainstream-influenced like "Named After Rocky." This song trio keeps the album's rock spirit burning.
"Open Up" really does open up with lots of crunch and brings back good memories of "The Octopus." It took me a while to adjust to this song until I became reminded of Amplifier's previous work and listened closely to the lyrics.
"Meld (Summer of Love)" is a bonus track featured in the special edition and is my personal favorite track. The guitar melodies, smooth vocals, and drum rhythm brings a feel-good vibe to your ears. Imagine a soulful song with am edgy twist of rock... presto! "Meld (Summer of Love)."
The next duo includes bass-driven "OMG" that brings back some of the signature Amplifier uniqueness with atmospheric guitars similar to "Echo Street" and the complex music patterns. "The Meaning of If" follow suit as the shortest song of the record but packs a punch with plenty of crunch guitar and thoughtful lyrics making one wonder what is the true meaning of "if."
Like "Meld," "Darth Vader" is another bonus track has the element of being a bipolar song since its aggressive and harmonious personalities. This song grows on you and its lyrics keep you guessing about robots and Darth Vader.
The final song duo is a set of brothers, "Crystal Mountain" and "Crystal Anthem." The first song is a mellow ballad that gives a much needed break to the rock rhythm of the album's flow while the second song brings back the edgy tone.
Overall, this album is what a rock-centered album should encompass: roaring riffs, fantastic rhythm, and unique flavor. Those used to Amplifier's progressive rock and space rock attitudes might find "Mystoria" to be a bare album and will need to give it a couple listens to appreciate the band's new approach. I would definitely recommend this to anyone looking for non-traditional rock album.