Amber Run – Philophobia
Philophobia is an album that leads you down more twists and turns than you’d first expect. Just when you think you’ve made up your mind about it the band do something to shift your perspective. Looking at the cringeworthy artwork I was worried that the whole album was going to be a total misfire, but as the rising tension of the opening instrumental lights the fuse for the fierce riffs of ‘Neon Circus’ my fears begin to abate. As it turns out however, this was just the first of many twists in the tale from these longstanding Belwood favourites.
Sadly what follows is a run of songs that are enjoyable, if a little unremarkable. Tracks like ‘No One Gets Out Alive’, ‘What Could Be As Lonely As Love’ and ‘Carousel’ are just missing that extra spark to bring them to life. You get the impression that they could possibly become live favourites in time, but in their current form it feels like the band is operating on autopilot. It’s a feeling that pervades much of the record. Philophobia doesn’t have the passion, the dynamic between light and dark, that made For A Moment so enticing, nor does it have the joy and playfulness of their debut. It’s not a bad record by any stretch of the imagination, but when stacked against two great records it’s bound to fall short. It’s just not as cohesive or as purposeful as their previous releases.
For the first half of the record it feels like the band has taken two steps back, but with a few gems hidden away at the tail end we get a tantalising step forward to compensate. ‘Entertainment’ catches you off-guard like a growl from the shadows. With raw riffs and a bass line straight out of Royal Blood’s book, the kind you feel deep in your gut, it’s stands out as their heaviest song to date. From a calm atmospheric opening, ‘Medicine’ gives way to a brief but brilliant flash of one down right gorgeous guitar tone that feels like a beam of sunlight carving its way through the clouds.
The real album highlight however is ‘The Darkness Has A Voice’. It bursts out of the blocks with all the zeal and ambition that felt like it was missing from the rest of the record. With a driven and energizing rhythm that makes you want to take on the world, interwoven with understated synths and some blistering guitar (the band’s best to date in fact), it is the complete package. Possibly their finest work to date.
Were it not living in the shadow of two superior albums I may have liked Philophobia a lot more. As it stands though, while it won’t be anyone’s first choice when it comes to Amber Run albums, it is still a worthy addition to their catalogue. Besides which, while it may not stand quite as proud as its predecessors, it is still head and shoulders above most of Britain’s current indie scene.