Ampere - Like Shadows [12-inch] (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick


Like Shadows [12-inch] (2011)

No Idea

From the perspective of a listener unfamiliar with screamo and its background (or at least the old-world definition of the term, before it was hijacked by scores of kids that hang out in malls and follow Warped Tour around the country like teenage Deadheads), a band like Ampere is an awfully tough sell. Their music is extremely chaotic and difficult, and intentionally so; however, there's also something really exhilarating about its reckless abandon. Maybe said exhilaration lies in its heaviness, or its unpredictability, or its brevity. Maybe it's all three. There's certainly something to be said about a band that can release a 13-minute full-length and have it sound this accomplished–to make 13 minutes feel like a full-length. Such is the beauty of Ampere's attack on Like Shadows.

Like Shadows functions strongest as a whole, so much so that it seems unfair to have to single out specific tracks on it (but we'll do it anyway). "(We're) Stranded" begins and ends with distortion and heavy feedback, and the 20 seconds or so in between is pure, calculated noise. The drumming is almost inhuman in its franticness, the guitars sweep by but never really riff or noodle, and the vocals are abrasive and largely unintelligible (a lyric sheet was, sadly, not provided for this review, but given Ampere's history of melding fierce DIY ethics and old-world philosophy into their message, it's worth tracking down). It leads right into "Escapism Pt. II", where the band take a relative breather in the name of pure tension-building, making a few seconds feel like minutes but hardly dragging.

Melody, if one could even call it that, is seamlessly integrated into Like Shadows' longer tracks. Although "Of Nightmare Reality" begins about as spastically as any other song on the album, the transition Ampere make from that to driving, pounding noise is nothing short of impressive, and again, serves only to create tension to lead into the next blast of chaos–in this case, the "Bullshit Sloganeering"/"Chasing Ghosts"/"The Submerged Truth" trifecta, which barely leaves any breathing room in their combined 104 seconds. There's also a moment in "Statement of Capitulation" where the band seemingly break down (no pun intended), and though it's hardly a quiet refrain, it's downright serene compared to what surrounds it.

Like Shadows lets up a bit toward the end, relatively speaking. "Flightless" contains a slower build and at a hefty one minute and 26 seconds, Ampere let the song naturally breathe a little bit with largely positive results. "For Automation" is perhaps the most conventionally heavy song on the record, with the drumming drawn back a bit and the guitars louder and more caustic than ever. Ditto for closer "Tiny Victories", which jumps from spasticity to near-stillness to vociferousness, remaining captivating throughout. The same could be said of Like Shadows as a whole: It's loud, aggressive and uncompromising, which makes it difficult to digest at first, but upon repeat listens, the intricacies of Ampere's craft become more apparent and the album becomes more engrossing than one could like ever imagine, leaving behind accessibility and convention in favor of something far more original and exciting.