Review Summary: Say Your Prayers
Anyone who considers themselves a fan of rock, punk or metal should attend at least one gig where they genuinely fear for their personal safety. Mark it down as a rite of passage. I've had a few such scrapes but strangely the one that sticks most in the mind is a festival set by Amen back in 2001. If I recall the band didn't stop to draw breath once just ploughing from one intense song straight into the next and the crowd were going totally bat***; I exited the tent breathless and exhilarated with a four inch bleeding scar running down my back and a set of bruised ribs. At the time Amen were lumped in with the nu-metal scene but if I wasn't too convinced before the gig then afterwards I was certain of it; this was yer old fashioned punk outfit, just one with a harsh metal sheen applied on top.
When the band were supporting the Sex Pistols on their 2002 reunion tour Glen Matlock famously stated that Amen were 'angrier than we ever were' and you can believe it. The Pistols were as much an artful pose as anything, yes the addicts lifestyle would claim Sid Vicious, but was anyone truly surprised when later in his dotage John Lydon exposed his utterly butterly heart in a series of television commercials" Similarly Iggy Pop and Marilyn Manson are men who're just as much at home gripping a 10-iron as a microphone; it would take more than a change of slacks for Casey Chaos to get a golf club membership, we're talking twelve months of intensive reversion therapy and even then I'd not rule out the need for a lobotomy. Make no mistake what we're dealing with here is a genuine 'danger to himself' fruit loop.
In term's of influence Chaos is built from one part Iggy, to one part Manson to two parts Glenn Danzig. Yes, there's more than a hint of the 'Evil Elvis' to his vox, an ingredient that adds some welcome personality to what could have ended up a very standard punk delivery otherwise. Saying that, Casey's scream is quite something to behold, every single word he delivers on this self titled debut sounds pained like all the while he's pissing gallstones out through his pee hole.
Unsurprisingly both Chaos and his band are most impressive when the music is ramped up to its absolute most visceral level. Opener 'Coma America' crashes in on galloping drums and barely lets up for its duration, Casey building his intensity until he signs off with screeched 'I am out's like a rabid animal. The breakneck 'Drive' and 'TV Womb' are similarly violent, both crashing past in a flurry of hooks and sloganeering sound bites. The heaviest moments of all are stored up for the crushing finale of 'Resignation/Naked and Violent' where the band finally abandon any last vestige of melody and just unleash.
The remainder of the album sees the band drop the pace and here's where they lean heavily on attitude and overall aesthetic; like 'Appetite for Destruction', 'Never Mind the Bollocks' or 'Raw Power' this album has a delicious film of filth that coats every note and rescues some of the weaker compositions. Indeed the album only truly takes a dive when Amen smooth away their rough edges and make a play for a standard pop punk sound, an approach that renders them toothless and devoid of any discernible personality. Songs like 'Private' and 'Fevered' are conventionally fine but noticeably pale in comparison to what surrounds them; with albums built on aggression less is usually more and both could have been left on the cutting room floor for the greater good.
Bands of this type frequently have issues following a raw and incendiary debut release; sometimes the added production polish and genre explorations dilute their bite (see Korn), while other times an act will lock into a holding pattern of releasing lesser versions of that same album ad infinitum (see Rage Against the Machine). Amen predominantly went the former route, slowly adopting more and more of the typical pop punk 'safety clip and pink hair' tropes until they ended up somewhere altogether less exciting. Perhaps the band just found themselves in a happier place than before, or maybe that anger wasn't quite as authentic after all; either way it matters not, at the turn of the century this lot sounded like they really meant it man.