Arguably, the concept album is a rite of passage for prog-rock acts, especially if said concept album has an impenetrable, bonkers storyline. It’s taken Manchester’s Amplifier until seventeen years into their career to write their concept album, ‘Trippin’ with Dr Faustus’ about Faust making his deal with the Devil… or something. As with most prog-rock concept albums, the story is batshit insane and not particularly well-illustrated – but that’s okay.
Musically, ’…Dr Faustus’ won’t shock any Amplifier fans, featuring the same thick, grungy guitar tones, soaring vocals, and progressive, complex song structures as their previous work. It does move away from the heavier approach of 2014’s ‘Mystoria’, but keeps things concise, with most songs under the 7-minute mark. Even the only track that breaks this mark, ‘Freakzone’, makes use of this time by splitting itself up into several sections, getting notably heavier about a quarter of the way in and introducing a galloping bassline later.
’…Dr Faustus’ generally pairs heavy riffs with lighter, jangly ones, on songs like ‘Rainbow Machine’ and ‘Silvio’, a combination that works well because of the great guitar work throughout the album. The guitar work on ‘Horse’ is especially great, underlining the song’s loud/quiet dynamic.
A lot of ’…Dr Faustus’ sounds pretty similar, and Amplifier don’t do much here that they haven’t on previous works, but certain tracks break the monotony. For example, ‘Anubis’ features mostly acoustic guitars and is notably more pleasant-sounding than the rest of the record, while ‘Supernova’ builds up atmosphere with creepy-sounding keys, which make its eventual graduation into the more bombastic heavy-prog that Amplifier are known for more impactful.
With ‘Trippin’ with Dr Faustus’, Amplifier may not have created a masterpiece, but the album is a fine addition to their discography. It exemplifies what they do well, and will appeal to fans of progressive rock. The fact that it’s a concept album isn’t too important, but what is important is that it’s full of enjoyable, forward-thinking prog-rock songs.
‘Trippin’ with Dr Faustus’ by Amplifier is out now on Rockosmos.
Words by Alan Cunningham (@funeral_polis)