Monday, January 12, 2009

Amebix - Monolith

Considering how many Amebix patches you can see on kids at any given crust punk show, you gotta wonder why more of those bands don’t sound like this. In his “Rise of Crust” article, Felix Von Havoc pointed out that bands inspired by hardcore and grindcore, like Doom or Napalm Death, should be more specifically referred to as Crustcore; while bands like Amebix and Hellbastard represent the original usage of the term Crust Punk. This makes sense, because it is apparent that bands like Amebix are way more influenced by Hellhammer, Hawkwind and Motorhead than by Discharge. At the time of hearing this album, it had been a long while since I had started losing interest in hardcore Punk; beyond jamming the occasional Black Flag or Bad Brains to kick start some fun.
When I heard “Monolith” I was totally in love right away. This was just as feral as any great Hardcore record, but with a dark atmosphere that was captivating and cinematic, the riffs were oblique and powerful drones, the rhythms were hypnotic and driving, the vocals were growled like a reckless young Lemmy, and they even had a band member named A Droid who played synth and keyboards.
There are obviously some real characters behind this music. The entire record gives you the feeling of gritting your teeth on a speeding motorcycle ride through some post-apocalyptic wasteland. Every instrument is played and mixed at epic proportions. At the front of every mix is the thundering bass and grinding vocals of The Baron. His moody songs are visionary tales of hopeless futurism mixed with fleeting images of glory through the eyes of a broken survivor. There is something terrifying about this ride.
Amebix were a controversial band, all of their albums were way too dark and heavy for the punk scene of the time; and “Monolith” was their ultimate swan song. After the “No Sanctuary” 12” EP and the full length metallic crust masterpiece “Arise”, 1987’s “Monolith” found the band making one last grasp for the perfect realization of their unique vision. Imagine if Hawkwind sounded EVIL, or if Motorhead sounded EPIC, or if Venom was twice as heavy and never corny, or if Black Sabbath was twice as fast with half as many riffs, or if Hellhammer traded in their Satanism for sci-fi biker anthems. There are actually very few traceable and obvious influences that can be accurately cited when discussing Amebix. There were a few other bands at the time, who were attempting similar mixtures of extreme metal with squatter punk, like Hellbastard, Deviated Instinct, and Sacrilege; all of whom are well worth checking out. Then there was a second wave of bands that used the Amebix template to good effect; such as Axegrinder, Apocalypse, Acrostix and Misery. More recently, quality bands like Sanctum and Stormcrow have also cited Amebix as a major influence. In the end, still there is nothing that sounds quite like the sci-fi caveman heavy metal of Amebix.

The classic Amebix logo, based on a self-portrait by Austin Osman Spare.

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