Review Summary: After seven years as a band, Amebix craft a near masterpiece with their debut LP.
Going into this review, I imagined putting my thoughts about this album onto paper wouldn’t be very difficult. I knew Amebix had a very unique sound, but I didn’t think it would come to these proportions. I’m not exaggerating when I say this review took over a month to get to this point, so without further ado, let’s dissect this album a bit. Amebix are known for pioneering the crust punk genre, which has always stayed deeply underground. Lots of the modern crust bands still use old-school methods such as tape trading to get their music heard, due to this underground status, but the music itself is also quite interesting. The general sound involves growled or shouted vocals, a mix of extreme metal and hardcore punk in the instrumental section, and very raw production. Now, Amebix on the other hand, certainly possesses this sound, but they put a very unique spin on it.
Amebix had been a band for seven years at this point, releasing three EPs and getting their music out through word of mouth. After finally signing to Alternative Tentacles though, they would release their debut LP. At this point, their sound had evolved into something that was truly one of a kind, with one of the most intense atmospheres I could think of. Going into this, I expected punk rock that would be bordering on thrash metal, which is sometimes inside this, but what I found was more similar to Neurosis than anything else. The atmosphere they present is very war-like, with plodding tempos, growled vocals with very dark lyrics, and the overall density of sound, again, in the vein of Neurosis, who formed years later, and cited Amebix as an influence. Now, enough comparisons, but Arise
is quite literally one of the most unique metal albums I’ve had the pleasure of hearing, due to this indescribable atmosphere.
As for the actual instrumentation and all that, the songs are generally somewhat dynamic, with very dissonant guitar playing, shouted vocals, and great drum work. Arise
is definitely not a riff-based album, but it does have lots of tasteful riffs that will satisfy any metalhead. Beyond this, the album is still very hard to describe, due to its unique sound. The drum work is occasionally tribal, which adds to the war-like atmosphere. Lyrically, the album is somewhat typical of the crust punk genre, with lyrics detailing real life topics such as war, oppressive governments, and mental illness. Certain songs are very loud and fast, such as “Axeman” and “Largactyl”, but others verge on Pink Floyd-ish such as “Drink and Be Merry” and “The Moor”. The slower songs generally have more atmospheric value to them, with some Joy Division influence being felt quite strongly. The faster ones borrow more from Celtic Frost, as to be expected. All these elements combined, create a very rich, yet black atmosphere, which could basically be described by the cover.
So, there you have it. I would not hesitate to call this one of the most important, influential, and just plain greatest punk rock albums ever. Amebix possess a sound I still haven’t heard quite replicated, only through bands such as Neurosis, once again. I went in expecting thrash metal influenced punk rock, and what I got was much different, and almost genre-less. The only thing keeping this from being a full on masterpiece is that the amount of fast songs isn't balanced out by slow songs, which results in a lack of much diversity. But, every song does it's job well enough. The atmospheric value is where Arise
truly succeeds though, with the album cover describing it best. So overall, one of the more difficult reviews I’ve ever written, and one of the best punk rock albums ever.