(DGR reviews the new album by Australia’s The Amenta.)
It has been a long and interesting wait for fans of Australian group The Amenta – whose new disc Flesh Is Heir was just released a little bit earlier this week (and is streaming here). Officially it’s been almost five years between the group’s full releases, although the band have kept up a steady stream of EPs and singles (such as the VO1D EP which was released in 2011 and is still available on Bandcamp as pay what you want) in between n0N and now. However, even between VO1D and now, three years have passed with only a couple of small releases in between. The group’s releases were becoming very promising and mature, too, so when time came for the official release of Flesh Is Heir, it was easy to assume that it was going to be a big time in the band’s history — and so it has proven to be.
Flesh Is Heir is a massive and incredibly dense album packed into forty-five minutes, with moments ranging from calculated ferocity to sheer chaos in the blink of an eye. It doesn’t sound polished; it sounds distorted and disgusting. Man, what it does offer though is a crushing bit of extreme music that whiplashes from industrial, to death metal, to black metal, to every spectrum the band could come up with in between – so long as they could blast and scream over it.
Some absolute devastators reside on Flesh Is Heir. I know, it seems like a given since the band does reside within the broad spectrum of death metal, but a couple of the songs on Flesh Is Heir still manage to transcend the overall feel of the album and just hammer the listener into mush. “Teeth” (which the group made a music video for) features an impressive bombing run of drums and guitars about halfway through the song that almost comes to define it – despite it serving as something of a bridge within the stuttering chaos of that song.
“Disintegrate” is the band’s most straightforward take on death metal and even it descends into some frightening synth work that adds to the overall epic feeling that The Amenta give off. Closing track “Tabula Rasa” is a decidedly epic turn on what the group does, as it builds over a militaristic march and blast before finally just bellowing out sheer flame.
Opener “Flesh Is Heir” somewhat does the same thing as vocalist Cain bounces between speakers like a wraith that has somehow infected your headphones. It’s also part of a really good trilogy of songs that it makes up along with “Teeth” and the middle song “Ego, Ergo, Sum”, which has a huge groove and is probably the closest this album comes to anything ‘approachable’ from the outset…unless you want to count the skin-crawling ambiance of pieces like “A Womb Tone” (which has a heartbeat layered over some light doom-fueled piano) or “A Palimpesest”.
There’s a pervasive layer of electronics in The Amenta’s music, especially on Flesh Is Heir. Not the type of synths that usually involve heavy keyboard playing, but an ever-present, unnerving static/distortion that can make a person feel like they are suffocating under the weight of sound. Throughout much of Flesh is Heir, it feels as if something is waiting off on the horizon ready to flay the listener, as if the band had discovered a frequency that humans can’t hear yet makes the hair stand up on your arms – so that even the quiet moments on the album feel oppressive and loud.
The band’s music sounds like it is covered in the filth and murk in which the band so willingly immerse themselves in their music videos. It’s an integral part of what really makes Flesh Is Heir (and overall the band) work. That loud, static-filled wall of sound really helps differentiate The Amenta and adds so much to what they do that the complicated label of “industrial blackened death metal” doesn’t quite fit all the way – but it is as close as we can get.
The Amenta’s ranks are made up of a very talented group of musicians, yet the music always feels reigned in. It’s not simplistic – they went for the same effect on the V0ID release – the music feels feral (especially given vocalist Cain’s snarl and high yelp) and caged-up, yet still violent enough to cause fear.
Few bands can conjure images of a barren and destroyed landscape and the cataclysmic event that caused it within the same release, yet The Amenta manage to do so on Flesh Is Heir – sometimes within the same song. These guys sound like the end of the world with their overbearing music slowly suffocating any reprieve that the listener might have had. They manage to hybrid many extreme genres into one overall ugly morass that can take some serious getting used to.
They are one of those bands who can easily obfuscate themselves under the weight of their own ambition – sometimes letting their music fall apart into sheer noise –but they have so much to offer if you’re looking for an adrenaline-fueled rush at the end of the world. A lot of bands like to portray their music as nihilistic, but Flesh Is Heir is one of the few pieces of music that feels like it was actually born of it, not fabricated for the maximum amount of evil that the performers could choke out of their instruments. The music backing it might not be the most overtly complicated, but it always feels like it is on the edge, ready to leap out and strangle someone. It’s a noisy and ugly release that comes high recommended on this end.