Review: Coming from the vortex of unfurling knowledge that was punk music in growth, Amebix rose from the heart of hardcore into the birthing origins of the crustcore movement, fashioning from the rejected elements of music around them a basic yet literate style of poetic, anti-abstract, individualist hardcore. Power chords and strict rhythm riffing counterbalance melodies embedded within the transitions and verses of nihilistic music. In many ways not dissimilar to other pop from England, these songs twist themselves around an attitude wrung from thematic conflict which is revealed late in each piece. Aspects of drone and primalism accent the rawness and directness of the music.
Lyrics follow punk topics like armageddon and emotional politics, yet musical support while monolithic in establishment of background to change in motif is endlessly giving in its ability to shift between views of one idea before finding its opposite and doing the same within it. Techniques for harmonization and basic counterpoint in use here have matured in the present time since this recording, alongside the more emotionally self-conscious and polarized identities which are expressed by this music and imagery. While the sentiment truly peaks toward the end of the album, this primitive emocore is, although as much the essence of this music as its more hardcore parts, the artistic second part to the savagery of its inner angst at a social encroaching-ness irritating but not unnerving with existential fear like the beast within human social reasoning. Its strength is its ability to transfer radical opposites into an energy which by characteristics of its structure channels focus toward a repeated melodic figure involving drone or subtly dissonant harmonization, a structure which endures in music of disparate natures from Burzum to Absurd.
Gnarled and softhearted simultaneously, this album comes with a cover of midieval warfare that would satisfy any black metal demons, giving significance to this symbolism with its own music that slowly degenerates into rock music or heavy metal stylings over time. "Right to Ride," from the final recording session of this band, is nearly a Motörhead cover and shows this influence closing in after earlier more intense works. While this effect is discouraging, the tracks from 1985 on this release show hardcore in the fullest bloom of youth while ambitions were still discovering new territory to explore, before learning what they must master to become territorial explorers.
Production: Grubby but representative studio production.
Review: What made punk music dynamic and vertiginous as an artistic movement was that it united the idea of a frontier, where laws did not apply, with the concept of a society dragging itself down through too much disorder described as order but really conforming to an ethic of convenience which made people sheep. As a result, the best of punk was a cry from hell where irony took a backseat to a desire for authentic chaos to fragment the illusion and show people a sense of power in the opposition to control, and the best punk works often were those which aimed less at being an entertainment product for credulous teenagers than short bursts of insurgent artistry from outsiders who, removed from the social chain, could see the illusion of both order and social disorder masquerading as a civilization.
1. Battery Humans (4:07)
2. Control (4:01)
3. Progress? (3:37)
4. Sanctuary (4:14)
5. The Church Is For Sinners (3:15)
6. Sunshine Ward (5:49)
7. Moscow Madness (1:51)
8. Winter (5:32)
9. Beginning Of The End (3:34)
10. Carnage (4:59)
11. Curfew (2:40)
12. Belief (2:53)
13. No Gods No Masters (3:48)
Early recordings compiled from Amebix would later be described by rock historians -- a group no serious historian will address because they report marketing as truth -- as crust punk, crustcore or punk hardcore, but that musical category was solidified on later works and not these more challenging, less consistent, more ambitious early releases. Amebix created a scattershot of technique and song conception that nailed so many categories it is difficult to document them all: post-rock, with its lessened drumbeats over which melodies emerge slowly from the gentle strumming that plays distortion itself like an instrument; speed metal, from the abrupt riffs riveted by chant-cadence vocals; black metal, from the use of minor chord progressions to move between power chord shapes and produce a summary atmosphere by sweeping through the harmonic topography thus generated.
Before punk became fully self-aware, and fully self-conscious, it was its own frontier. Amebix exploit this with ambitious song structures based around the patterns of conversation, as a guitar lays out a riff and then comments on it, joined by bass and drums fragmenting the conversation and then manifesting in another pattern which is united to the first after a transition when a semi-final riff state emerges, and then transitions back to the first. While like many punk bands Amebix create a theatre of their music that allows lyrics to promenade after background values are defined through sonic symbol, in this case it is more like a rock opera where each instrument is a voice that finds synchronization at the conclusion of recombination.
Unlike the neutered emo to follow, however, Amebix do not pacify their music. It is lawless, yet longing for the order that laws intended to serve; it has a strong moral basis and where it deviates into a now-dated sense of pity or altruism, its underlying direction is toward a civilization that grows beyond its problems. To this end, every bristling abrasive riff elides into a pattern like the wind singing inverted phrases in the ears of a rider of a galloping horse, giving a sense of vertigo and hope through the power of life itself. This attitude, that appeals to our souls beneath political or moral logic, coupled with the vastness of what is attempted here defines this CD as a classic that even surpasses later more homogenous releases.