(This Sunday, DGR steps forward with our weekly look back at metal from yesteryear.)
I’ve been waffling a bit with the idea of contributing more often to the series of Rearview Mirror posts that we’ve been doing here at NCS. I genuinely love the idea of being able to deep-dive on a song at random, but I’ve also wanted to let other folks share their hidden gems out there without me vomiting my taste all over the site, especially as my own archive of ideas consists pretty much of bands I’ve already taken a healthy opportunity to write about on this lovely page.
However, there is one group that has been haunting me, that I’ve been thinking about a lot as of late, and that is Australia’s The Amenta. If you’ve been following NCS for a while, you’ll know that I’m a pretty unabashed fan of the band. Tim Pope gave me one of my favorite interviews ever, and the group’s 2013 release Flesh Is Heir ranks among my favorite discs — it is a noisy, harsh, and abrasive listen that seemed just slightly ahead of its time, especially as now it seems like more groups from Australia are breaking out into the limelight.
But, the thought still lingers for me, and I really wanted to throw us back to Flesh Is Heir to try and expose as many people as possible to what I thought made this disc so fantastic in the first place. Plus, this is a better venue to do that than my other idea, which is just the occasional post that would boil down to me yelling, “THE AMENTA ARE FUCKING GREAT YOU GUYS WHAT THE HELL”…which would probably be the most “Web 2.0” disposable bullshit I’ve written. So maybe I should just keep that one in my back pocket in case I’m ever recruited by one of the many content-farms out there these days.
Flesh Is Heir marked a turning point in a couple of respects for The Amenta. One was that it was the full-length album debut for vocalist Cain Cressal. He had previously gone back and re-recorded a bunch of older material with the band and was part of a release known as V01D as well as the Chokehold EP (which also contained one hell of a Godflesh cover), but as for a fully brand new, shiny platter of a disc — Flesh Is Heir was it.
If there was one reoccuring theme for The Amenta, it was that the band had a hard time pinning down vocalists, and over the course of their career so far, the band had almost as many vocalists as they did albums, especially as they continued to march forward into their abrasive blackened/death/industrial sound that was so hard to define for so long. The Amenta struck gold with Cain — of thrash/death band Malignant Monster (…still waiting on the followup to Yours In Murder here). They found a vocalist who was highly magnetic and distinctive, and also willing to submit himself to whatever abuse the band put him through for the sake of visual flare — which more often than not led to him being covered in all sorts of varying garbage for the group’s music videos.
Flesh Is Heir is also where The Amenta’s sound really coalesced, and in doing so, they created a violent hurricane of a disc that was nigh-unstoppable until the moment it suddenly ended — like someone throwing all of the breakers on a wind tunnel at once.
I’m sure this is the case with a lot of music listeners, but for me, there are times when listening to a disc where the album clicks and moves from being just a good listen to something much, much greater. During the review process for Flesh Is Heir, I would make multiple runs through the disc and find myself really enjoying the front half, from the grooving, soon-to-be-live-staple of “Ego Ergo Sum” to the bone-grinding noise of “Teeth”. The disc was packed with heavy stompers in its front half, but it wasn’t until I reached the series of tracks that continues from “The Argument” all the way to album closer “Tabula Rasa” that I truly realized The Amenta were onto something special.
For one; each song has an ambient noise track in between it and the next one, meaning that the back half of Flesh Is Heir is very dynamic, with some hefty peaks and valleys. Very few songs these days manage to capture exactly what the title suggests, but I’ll be damned if “The Argument” didn’t sound exactly like its title. It sounds like the two distinct sides of The Amenta getting into a war of words with each other and Cain playing both parts. You have the grinding industrial noise turning absolutely feral on the death metal side of the band, and the shouting match makes for a heavy-as-hell song that spills over into the meditative “Cell” — a piece that finds itself interrupted by what feels like an aftershock from “The Argument” about halfway through.
In my mind, “Disintegrate” is one of those songs that is a pure adrenaline rush. It’s probably the most death metal The Amenta ever got on Flesh Is Heir, but the track has the ability to shear the listener’s skin off. It’s an explosion whose energy is just waiting to be released, and the whole song is so hammeringly fast and heavy that rocking out to it is almost like being possessed. Following “The Argument” and “Cell” is practically the perfect spot for a headbanger like “Disintegrate”.
Finally, we reach the closng pair of “Palimpsest” and “Tabula Rasa” — two tracks forever entwined: one defined as a manuscript page and the other playing with heavy philosophical ideas. “Palimpsest” is another quiet track, the calm before the storm, and it eventually gives way to what would become my favorite song from Flesh Is Heir. “Tabula Rasa” is the epic of The Amenta’s song collection — it begins with an almost militaristic snare march and above it hovers Cain, shouting orders at the listener, before the song becomes a bone-shattering blast-fest. Basically “Tabula Rasa” has two moves, oppresively heavy and obliteratingly heavy, and it also closes out Flesh Is Heir by just suddenly coming to a stop. But after all the thrashing about from the previous collection of songs, maybe that is what we as listeners needed? The final moment of calm?
Either that or the band assumed we were dead.
So, let’s spend this fine Sunday making a run through the last half of Flesh Is Heir — one of the best closing collections of music that I’ve come across. I promise, I’ll try to pick something a little bit more “in the past” than 2013 next time around.