Amebix "Sonic Mass" CD/LP/Picture DiscPosted on Monday, October 3rd, 2011 @ 6:37am » permalink
The legendary Amebix has finally returned with their first new material since way back in 1987 (on Easy Action Records)! Typically thought of as one of the ultimate crust punk bands, "Sonic Mass" should demonstrate once and for all just how grandiose the band's artistic vision truly is. It's far more epic in scope, and has much more in common with Neurosis and especially Killing Joke than it does anything that would ever be considered "crust punk", that's for sure. And I'll be completely honest: Upon first listen I wasn't so sure about all of this. Things start out slow with the melodic bass runs, martial percussion, orchestral synths, and half-spoken/half-sung vocals of "Days", and it can be a bit confusing. It's a big change to digest, especially since the album contains a number of surprises, and is loaded with complexly layered textures and subtle details that take time to sink in. There's a huge range of dynamics represented. There are moments during tracks like "God of the Grain" that are actually reminiscent of the looser, more dissonant playing of the band's early classics – it's just that the well-polished production values and additional textures make those elements less instantly recognizable (a fact hinted at by the "Redux" EP last year). But then you've got a piece like "Sonic Mass Part 1": A stunning display of dark folk combining acoustic instrumentation with sparse piano and Steve Von Till-like crooning. And "Here Come the Wolf" has an unexpected dose of surging catchiness to it that takes everything in yet another entirely different direction. As a whole, the album sways to and fro from softer, darker atmospheres to heavy, churning rhythmic grooves – accented by an assortment of samples, synths, experimental noise textures, and unpredictable vocal approaches. But I think I'm still digesting the big picture, really. This album has the unique potential to land the band some new fans right off the bat, whereas longtime Amebix followers are highly encouraged to give it repeated listens before jumping to conclusions. It took me about a week to get from "Hmmm, I don't know…" to "Yeah, this is impressive. There's really something happening here." And whatever that something is, it absolutely cannot be pigeonholed into any specific genre.
It's impossible not to hold a great deal of respect for this band, and I hope that "Sonic Mass" won't be the last new music they're inspired to create together…