Review: Ampline – “Passion Relapse”

If you like your underground rock jagged and rugged and raw, you’d best tune in for Ampline’s Passion Relapse.

Out last week on Sofaburn Records – sometimes you plan to review a record “on time” and sometimes you get the flu, y’know? –the new LP from this guitar-driven Ohio trio is vintage Ampline: dirgy and gritty in all the right ways but, above all, surprisingly engaging and authentic. Frontman Mike Montgomery – who has busied himself recently as one-half of the exquisite R. Ring – channels a number of genres on the disc, which packs 10 songs into 28 tight minutes. There’s more than a touch of Ramones-style punk on opener “Shrunken Heads,” creeping metal on the ominous title track, a moment or two of Sonic Youth-ish noise (“Edger Chaos”), some Husker Du posturing (“Drip”) and, finally, multidimensional post-rock, occasionally sped up to the pace of lightning (the brilliant closer “Stab”). Part (to be fair: much) of the sonic dimension is due to Montgomery’s guitar-work; the bass and drums are solid and straight-forward but that guitar is a fluid and dexterous and blistering thing. At times, some of Montgomery’s refrains are so wire-bending they call to mind the spirit and textures, if not the juicy reverb, of modern surf.

Best tracks? That’s a tall order. Some noise has been made about this being a concept album and, while I cringe at the thought of an overblown “opera” blurring the raw beauty of this thing, you can catch thematic and musical threads here and there. The throttling segments of “Stab” throttle, for sure, and the entire song makes the record’s second half feel like a worthy extension of its opening salvos. (“Edger Chaos” doesn’t hurt, either.)

My favorite moments on the record, or at least the ones I find myself returning to, though,are the spirited punk of “Captions” and, of course, the opener. “Shrunken Heads” encapsulates everything that’s great about Passion Relapse and it does it in under two minutes. There are the mutating guitar scales, a throttling pace, enlivening vocals, sure sure — but there’s also the dimension of a band that knows how to paint outside the lines. Like I said, if you like your rock with personality, grab this one. – Justin Vellucci, Swordfish, Jan. 31, 2018

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