Hearing Aide: Ampevene’s ‘Ephemagoria’

Complex isn’t always good, but in Ampevene’s case, it’s raw, emotive and highly expressive. The Albany-based quartet will unveil their latest live album, Ephemagoria at The Hollow Bar + Kitchen on Feb. 9 with the helping hands of their friends in Cousin Earth. Having teased fans along the way with the releases of “Valencia” and “Rometheu,”  the complete live effort commands attention from its earliest, distorted notes. Over a 10-track sonic highway, the prog rockers take listeners for a noisy ride as they blend blatant psychedelic rock influences with their own gritty flair and unique cocktail of spellbinding genres. 

Branching off of Gabe Stallman’s solo project as a guitarist, Ampevene is completed by Stallman on guitar and vocals, Mack Hogan on bass, Brian Fahey on drums and Ava Smith on keys. Seeing a minor lineup change, Fahey is the current drummer who took over for Darryl Kniffen, the recorded drummer on the album. The first few tracks come as an attack on your senses, kicking off with a myriad of sound and distortion as an 8-minute journey unfolds within “Florida.” While the group is undoubtedly influenced by psychedelic rock before its time, (think Pink Floyd’s Syd Barrett era) Ampevene channels those visceral tendencies and matches them with the gripping mood and scaling of metal progressions and often hard to compute math-rock.

Just when you get settled into a groove, it doesn’t last for long before you’re tossed into new kaleidoscopic arrangements and time signatures. The first half of the album relies solely on storytelling through music before a 12-minute “Rometheu” introduces the first glimpse of vocals on the album, although that’s not the pinnacle of the track. While fleeting, Stallman’s vocals are comparable to the tone and echoing of groups like Circa Survive and the Mars Volta, with the latter covered later on the album. With the first and fourth beats emphasized in each measure, the song picks up speed with compositional mastery as the foursome jerk the steering wheel into fresh segments, a common thread throughout Ephemagoria.

“Hill” comes as a hard-hitter with all the focus placed on tight drumming at the album’s peak with an explosion of sound before introducing the first cover in a somber, slowed down version of Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” With a new age take on a beloved classic, the warped arrangement and unique style almost makes the song unrecognizable at times, if not for the lyrics. A second cover comes as a crisp version of the Mars Volta’s “Goliath,” mimicking the song’s natural sound and Omar Rodriguez-Lopez’ distinct vocal inflections.

The live album as a whole features classic and never before recorded Ampevene songs as well as covers, capturing the feel of a live performance at The Recording Company in Esperance, NY, and mixed by Tim Lynch with mastering by Alan Douches of West West Side Music. Ampevene has the raw talent of making their multi-segmented tracks seem like effortless jams spliced together at all the right, unexpected times. With the ability to entice fans to try to follow along and eventually surrender to the flow, the quartet seems to have mastered their live presence and execution while diving deep into guitar solos, exploratory jazz segments and thrash metal elements.

Catch the high-energy release Friday night when Ampevene takes The Hollow stage at 9:30 PM!

Key tracks- Rometheu, Hill, Tumultuous