Review Summary: The dirty side of purity.
As the millennium came to an end, nu-metal was beginning its fast ascent to the top of the heavy metal world. Like any rise in the popularity of a music genre comes a stagnation period that follows swiftly behind. Bands that follow these money-grabbing times tend to all latch onto one similar sound. And with any rise in the popularity of a genre, comes a band that always grinds against the conventional ways of the mainstream. Seeing as there are countless examples to prove this, let’s not waste any time and rather showcase a band that simply jumped ship from the nu-metal genre and quite possibly released one of the most downright livid examples the sub-genre ever had to offer. We’re talking about Amen ladies and gentlemen; a band that makes Slipknot’s testosterone level look like Mary Poppin’s on uppers with their Clash-like, riot inducing protests and the noise of a train wreck spilling its flammable transport and igniting. Sounds exciting to these ears!
From the ashes of the groovy Snot (three of five members joined Amen after the band split up in 98), comes a sound that shares little resemblance to the previous funky-punk nu-metal band. Stripped down, raw, and unforgiving is the tone set on the opening song ‘Coma America’ that comes out blazing with its simplistic, yet effective use of charged power chords. Even though this enraged mood is prevalent throughout the entire album, all 14 tracks somehow differentiate from one another with nuances of detail that shine through with the usage of a noisy fuzz so to speak. Anyone who knows a thing or two about nu-metal, the name Ross Robinson should sound quite familiar. Producing such angst-filled albums such as Korn’s and Slipknot’s S/T, Robinson puts his familiar grungy production and twists of noise on this album as well. This isn’t like your Converge noise overtones; instead it comes in many forms whether it’s through feedback, scratchy harmonics, or jarring power chords. Another noticeable feature throughout each song is the great variation in speeds and changeups. As mentioned before, Amen are not afraid to put the pedal to floor with songs like ‘Coma America’ and ‘Drive’, but they can turn things around and bust out a huge mid-tempo groove that comes in many ugly colours as well (Check out the wall smashing tunes of ‘Down Human’ and ‘I Don’t Sleep’ for a kick start to your day). Combine these details with a huge variation in tempo speeds and rhythm changes and the listener will begin to realize that Amen are almost creating their own sub-genre of nu-metal that doesn’t suck (Nu-punk-metal sounds kind of cheesy, I know).
Any fan of punk or heavy metal knows that a band needs a bigger-than-life frontman to really project an understanding of what the band is driving at. It’s worth noting that Casey Chaos easily fills these shoes and represents the essence of every conviction of his politically charged lyrics (at least he’s convincing enough on this album). Known for his rather short fuse and ugly on-stage antics (at one show, Chaos slashed his arms with broken bottles and allowed his fans to indulge in his blood, rich in purity), Chaos knows how to make the music charge forward. His lyrics are seen through a set of glasses with broken lenses; violently eyeing the world as if it was shattered into a million pieces. Examples of this can be seen though the songs titles alone (the awesomely title ‘Coma America’). Examples of lyrics don’t need to be given here though, seeing as every song deals with anti-political stances against corruption, religion, and the mind numbing effects of governmental brainwashing on the youth. While some may simply laugh or pass this band off as another Rage Against the Machine, Chaos’s delivery could turn heads just as well with his convincing rage through throat ripping screams, shrieks and a militant tone that could make the US army march in unison.
It’s a shame to think of what Amen could have become if it wasn’t for a sub-genre of music that collapsed in on itself with an oversaturation of Linkin Park’s, Papa Roach’s and Korn wannabes. Amen’s passion towards keeping classic punk alive speaks volumes and instills the fact that nu-metal had a beating pulse at one time. As a testament to Snot as well, the three previous members certainly joined the right band and followed up with an equally impressive set of tunes (somewhat in the vein of Snot too if you think about the integrity both of these bands possessed). With Chaos leading the charge and direction of Amen’s S/T, the perfect touch was added in making this a genuinely pissed off album. Pissed off indeed; Amen deliver a one-two punch to the face with their s/t debut.