Album Review: THE AMENTA - Revelator
Artist: The Amenta
Genre: Industrial/Extreme Metal
Review by Mothlord
Few bands in the world of metal, let alone extreme and alternative music notably take the time to create such striking and lasting contemporary statements as The Amenta have. It is with great excitement and anticipation that the band shakes off the frost of a long hibernation to reveal Revelator. A hibernation not even know to have been happening as the band quite ambiguously ceased activity in 2013 with no clearly stated reality of the future of the band and a possibility of permanent cessation. Over lengthy career of now four full length albums, several EP's and compilation releases, The Amenta have pushed forth along their own path with a visceral and gripping take on extreme metal. Their creative presence is rich with layers of profound and insightfully expressed philosophical and psycho-socio-political critique that intertwines with a depth of aural aesthetics in interplay with endearingly punishing music constructions. Each prior album has had a unique and intentional palette both visual, sonic and thematic. And with the impending release of a new record, they have been stated by the band to be considered part of a trilogy seen to its completion. Occassus, the most closely related to blackened death metal, layered with eerie synth work, bombastic guttural bellows and mythologically and poetically symbolic critique of modern society and culture.
Non resonates with a colder, more cerebral and abrasive industrial tonality. Like a groaning, rusted mechanical apparatus painting images of dystopian, abandoned ghettos and forlorn alleyways, embellished by a throat strained prophet at the pulpit preaching the ills of western urban decay.
Finally, Flesh is Heir, turns inward in reflection to two sides of the human psyche, organic and visceral. The first full length fronted by still reigning frontman Cain Cressel. Whose scathingly endearing shrieks and wails first demonstrated on the V01d EP, coalesce with the more human sense of melody and sample usage. And now finally, Revelator.
"Crushed by Te Deum and Dies Irae." A swill of palm muted tremelo swells into an explosion of bombing blast beats and layered shrieks. "An Epoch Elipsis", the second most released single and recently released music video hearkens to the most traditional motifs in The Amenta's arsenal as the opener to the album.
Amidst a horror psychedelic churn of cold synths and groaning frequencies is the albums first taste of vocalist Cain's experimentation with grandiose and disturbed melodically sung segments. As a new listener to The Amenta, this might seem wholly in place and in context for the band but this is something only used incredibly sparingly in past. Demonstrating further the sentiments the band has put forth that "Revelator" is a new era for the band creatively, unshackled from their own expectations. Not utilised in any welcoming manner, it is sickly and feverish like the throat caressing tones in a delirium.
Following this is a sudden and dramatic descent into cavernous and reverberating atmospherics a staple of the The Amenta's sound but this time the utility feels more intentional in directing the listener into a reflective space that serves a more introspective purpose. It is if the meat and bones of the song have been stretched apart to inspect the tendons, ligaments and sinew between in no hurried fashion and to accommodate the listener to participate in this endeavour. Upon repeat listens to Revelator I can make note of this being a particular design choice to the pacing of songs through the album. There is much more distinction between passages, and potency in their use throughout. It is not only the atmospheric space created, but space in how each passage functions. The song ends in a grand and epic melodic segment with guest lead guitar supplied by Joe Haley of Psycroptic. I can picture the tall and looming spider like figure of frontman Cain slowly waving his arms like a maddened conductor high on a ketamine binge as the reverb tails of dry tone guitar rings out in the final moments. "Cog dollared, sintaxed" "Sere Money", is the first released single and music video for the new record. And as a long time fan of the band it was one that took me by surprise though I had readied myself for anything. It has since become a favourite song now of mine which hearkens to another statement by the band is there was a hope and belief in creating songs that at first are shocking, strange and defying expectation. That later make a new sense to the listener, that find their respect by their own merit.
The song lurches into a manic stomp of primal drums and near blackened rock driven guitar motif that made me ponder whether any influence from long time friends to the band, Ruins, drummer David Haleys black metal band took seed. This is underpinned by a shrill swimming synth that is highly infectious and evocative, it is grotesquely radiant. The song feels even more viral in its ability to lure and take hold of the listener with a twist in the peaking zenith of the track with a very unnerving sleight of hand darkened tritone chord change. This change is driven by the focused pulsating drums rhythms of David Haley alongside bassist Dan Quinlans grossly groaning bass tones that build into the sound of an apocalyptic swell of rioting dissenters with Eric playing triumphant octave chords alongside and Cain's shrill operatic whines.
While "Sere Money" is a standout track in the wider context of Revelator it also seems perfectly symbolic for what The Amenta have hoped the achieve on this record. At a cursory glance this is the most accessible and approachable the band has been in many ways. Stripped back, with more clearly identifiable changes in songs, easier to follow and potentially more inviting by extreme metals standards “Sere Money” is the first track I was able to access lyrics too and is emblematic of the rest of the albums approach. Lyrically and thematically, there is such a density of literary references, double entendre and poetic wordplay that at face value it borders on overwhelming. Dare I say, though there is a restraint in the onslaught of double kick, blast beat and much more abrasive and frenetic guitar work throughout the album.
There is greater creative space left for the multilayered swell of ideas in the lyrical content that is richly rewarding to sift through and pondering over album wide. Now, I would not normally devote such extensive space in a review to lyrics, but I feel it lends a great service to the inspection and appraisal of this record to do so. Lyrics are a generally under appreciated aspect in album reviews, and for a band who has such intentional and well thought out messages and concepts it would be criminal not to spend a segment doing a highlight. I have been privy to a full set of album lyrics but will focus on a segment from “Sere Money”. By The Amenta's standards, the lyrics album wide are still leaden with evocative symbolism and striking critique of social aspects. But notably the wordplay on “Revelator” plays a lot more with the twist of double meanings and phrasing’s.
It was this particular segment that struck me, and upon research into the various references I was taken aback by the depth of knowledge stored to create deep and layered metaphor.
The fisher king distributes
Poisson and anti-doubt:
“Fight for the right to bare arms.”
…(Or conceal, conscript or cross them.)…
“Sinking scrapheap ships.”
…(And their shivering boarders)…
...(of common filth)…
…(the weak shall inherit the work)… "The Fisher King", is a figure and symbol in Arthurian mythology and literature also known as the maimed king. Last of his bloodline, impotent, custodian of the holy grail. It is also suggested that his lands suffer from his impotence reducing it to barren wasteland.
Poisson, an obvious verbal wordplay on poison not known unless you read the lyrics that find connection to the holy grail being a miraculous relic bestowing happiness, sustenance and vigour when drank from. Poisson however, is a mathematical equation relating to the probably of low chance events occurring, and the distribution of said events in a large population.
Lastly, Anti-Doubt. In a modern political context, with relation to the Fisher King which could be implied to be representative of a political or powerful cultural figure creating a culture of zealous belief that is founded in a oppositional basis to widely accepted beliefs. It may be a reference to the growing culture around Fake News and conspiratorial thinking propagated by said leaders and figures. These oppositional beliefs fertilised by reasoning based on a poisson calculation of a possibility of some extreme events as fear-mongering. And perhaps said happiness and sustenance from drinking from the holy grail, as wielded by the Fisher king, is a blinded, fabricated and deceitful kind of bliss potentially leading to a consequence of pestilence in a physical or cultural sense within the population.
It is also entirely possible there is no singular intended figure or recipient of criticism and discussion and this may be applicable to a ritualised process of behaviour in society itself as utilized by varying individuals, collectives and systems to enforce control psychologically on civilians. Sere Money. Sere meaning withered, so a withered currency or transaction.
Ceremony, perhaps a commentary on a pestilential manner of control.
A deceptive Hegelian Dialectic.
As I wind this segment up, I reiterate that a lengthy exploration of these lyrics is necessary as The Amenta are a band whose lyrical content is part and parcel with the musical output.
There are a myriad of well thought out references, themes and nuances in language, behind the gestalt presence of the creative output that are well worth exploring to those inclined to do so and there is a richness of self reflection one can participate in if they choose to do so.
It is exciting to see obscure connections being used in a potent manner, that does not present pretentiously, but perhaps devilishly instead. With space for interpretation. Perhaps even lending itself to the oft scathing criticism of human nature and an inferred sense that your lack of interest is to your own detriment when you don’t dig beyond surface appearances.
In some discussion with Tim Pope, we spoke about unconscious unison of stored ideas when writing lyrics trusting intuition to link together references and symbolism in a way that can have more than one meaning.
To quote part of my conversation with Tim: “In English, our words are weird combinations of other words of other languages. So words contain within them other words and other meanings. So the words are mutilated and re-contextualised to try to bring new meanings out of the middle of them.”
This lends once again to the understanding that Revelator is a deceptively approachable record by The Amenta's standards yet there exists a duality of meaning beyond the gestalt, sum of the whole. There is also the aforementioned contrasting duality between the band choosing to not sonically bludgeon as intensely as past records percussively and emotively with the most bleak and hostile tonal senses and behind that build ebbing layers and layers of intensity of thought.
And now I continue.
"Convicted for the crime, Of consciousness conjoined" Records by The Amenta are consistently populated by intermissions allowing for moments of more sombre reflection or more concentrated aural abuse through pure ugly sound.
"Silent Twin", ponders through the textural strums of gloom tinged folk acoustic guitar unsettlingly juxtaposed beside the thrum of leering and searing electronics.
Cain croons as if through a straining radio, in delicate and devilish manner that begin to reach depraved heights as the song opens up with further ominous depth driven by bass frequencies. His voice hearkens to powerful tenor wails of former Dimmu Borgir guitarist ICS Vortex or Strapping Young Lad frontman, Devin Townsend. Alongside this the guitar builds tension without the addition of distortion, like madness growing in a subdued and controlled manner.
"Convicted for the crime
Of consciousness conjoined.
Slipping cord that binds
Is knotted, is noosed on our necks.
She steals the light from me,
My night bruises her face.
(Another face boils
Under mine in the mirror)."
Lyrically there seems to be a discussion of some externally perceived problematic, other side to the self kept in the shadows and restrained lest it cause harm and destruction to the self or, perhaps more cumulatively the reputation of the self. The destruction of the self perhaps to serve another’s need or demands, relative to that reputational damage. Perhaps this is an exploration of meaning and intent hidden and masked, which seems to conveniently flow on conceptually from my previous discussion of these layers of ideas both consciously and unconsciously expressed and left open for another to dig, without an explicitly communicated intent for a cursory reading to latch onto.
The tone of the track perfectly intertwines with the play with these ideas as it seethes with a tightly wound and wilfully restrained feeling of decayed and dirt caked, grit teeth behind a pleasant facade.
And though it feels early in the album to be taking a detour and drop in momentum, it perfectly sets the pace for the next track.
"All kneel, elated.
Upon raging swell of clashing melodious guitars upon 6/8 rumbling drums, "Psoriastasis" satisfactorily explodes out of the swimming waters of prior tracks sonic ambiance. Touching on grandiose and decadent tones similar to tracks from previous albums like "Obliterates Prayer" met with "Nihil". This is a piece that commands sonically, steering towards the hypnotic in the restrained yet calculated metronome of pounding traditional black metal blast beats contrasted to lumbering double kick that paves the way for shrill and whirring melody in the dissonant yet melancholic guitar work to thrive.
Though "Revelator" may not be as far flung in the realms of speed, returned drummer David Haley has clearly utilized this refreshed pacing to consider how to make each passage feel emphasized with confidence and driven with power with an intuitively organic flow that does not abuse the wealth of space now provided that would be very easy for a drummer of his calibre and technical proficiency to do.
It seems that while some bands are criticised and derided for diluting themselves with age and veterancy. The Amenta instead command with calculated restraint in the hesitation to use all elements in their disposal immediately, and rest in a focused approach at song writing. This is not to suggest at all that there is less power and impact, or that the band comes across as weaker.
Rather, it is as if there is a deliberate withholding of the viscerally satisfactory impact of the expected and generic extreme metal tropes. Cards held close to the chest, with full knowledge of what they hope to achieve.
The burden of the body bodes
Of sin new and vain tangle; "Twined Towers", resonates seemingly tenderly where "Psoriastasis" was much more emphatic.
The tone of the song is slower paced and meditative in nature and hearkens in my mind to musical material and induced conceptual states of mind from the prior album, "Flesh is Heir" that spoke on the duality of the human psyche. The flow of the song seems to writhe gracefully with a nearly erotic melodiousness with dreamful washes accompanied by soulful bellowed cries from Cain. Whose diverse vocal work is demonstrated to be truly pushing the limits for how even an established singer can develop new utensils by which to paint a sonic and emotional picture.
This is played off of by disturbing yet sublimely contrasting distorted noise samples and wombing, crystalline synth work. This sonic quality seems relative to very vague and ambiguous symbolism in the lyrics which may be intentionally designed to throw the listener from what the meaning of the words are. They may not have any real meaning in exploring sexuality though able to be potentially inferred. But rather this collusion of wordplay and sonic elements may a way to represent, communicate and evoke an almost nostalgic symbol for the complexity, the messiness of some human interactions that is both endearing and captivating, but troublesome and tense and potentially even tenebrous.
I infer and lyrical exploration of growth and birth in the sense of a tumorous condition. But also to some kind of damning yet necessary dependence to another, be it to a person or to a concept. This is the longest track on the album and by The Amenta to date, sitting at 8 minutes in length. But in the shifting of these hypnotic passages time seems to near a standstill as I feel lured into the sway of the song that at times felt unfocused but willingly so, drifting listlessly as the listener is carried willingly upon waves of sound. Throughout this song and the rest of Revelator, I notice that the transitioning between ideas feels much more like the cinematic changing of passages, rather than transition between riffs. It feels like a tumour, shifting and spreading through the contained space of the body. And with each shift, or potentially act, the focus is given to a new limb, a new organ with its own purposefully intended identity sonically and thematically.
What rumour of the host
Does the tumour boast? Surprisingly grand, operatic and opulent, "Parasight Lost" certainly lends itself lyrically and sonically to John Miltons tale, Paradise Lost.
The story quite clearly informing the symbolism lyrically with a continual line through the song "fallen, still falling" likely a symbolic reference to Lucifer cast from Heaven to Earth and some fall and loss suffered by us in kind. The title "Parasight lost" a play on parasite, but also in deconstruction of the word it may imply some kind of additional form of sight lost. This is with suggestive symbology of the garden of Eden and the forbidden fruit, who bestowed knowledge to man, and thusly shame and a loss of divine ignorance with us cast out, parasites suckling at Gods bountiful teat still dependent in our exile.
And furthermore though poetically ambiguous to my complete discernment, perhaps it there is a further implication of entropy as a consequence of mortality too and an inevitable degradation of us. Musically I would dare to make a comparison to symphonic and operatic death metal outfit, Septic Flesh who operate with proud and dynamic tonalities and inflections, though The Amenta do grand coated in the sting of white noise and chilling sonics. This is driven by the unsettling use of guitarist Eric Miehs interjecting and jilted palm muted eight notes that lurch and twist and evoke a sickly tone.
The highlight of this song and a moment that has stayed with me through repeated listens of "Revelator" is just past the halfway mark where cybernetic oscillating synths are played off of by Cains mocking, spitefully childish and nearly sensual breathy oohs and aahs that struck me at first as bizarre and later as disturbing, and ominous. Through passages of further tumultuous and roiling guitar and drum work, we eventually leads to the climax of the song and potentially a favourite part of the album. Cain sings the lines "fallen, still falling. We fallways all" in a chanting manner along an extended double kick passage where drummer David Haley builds tension through escalating speed and vigour. Double kicks raise in speed and peak at blast beats while the song mounts with sonic layers of shrieking distressed guitars, synth and resonating gang vocal choir to a sudden and abrasive cut. - intermissions -
In brief transmission of stretched sonics like a Cello groaning in hollow chamber, chiming frequencies and sounds of distant clashes. "Wonderlost" is another interlude that serves as a droning industrial remission from the striking and ascendant intensity of "Parasight Lost".
I even perceive some slight relation to the ominous and looming synths for both the closing tracks of Occassus and N0n, (Sangre and Rape respectively) that foreshadowed an explosive resolution and climax to records end to which this interlude is similarly used.
The experimental sampling primarily led and performed by Tim Pope, both digital and analogy are consistently standout aspect on any record by The Amenta. They lend well to the pacing of the album and have always held the band apart from their contemporaries in creative a truly cinematic immersive fifth dimension to the music. "What remains after the clash,
Must rise from rubble and ash."
"Overpast", seems to have more of the DNA of prior Amenta songs flowing through its veins with jagged, rumbling cacophony of palm muted chromatic descents and flashing melodiously discordant guitar chords.
Opening with a white noise bomb blast, it is aggressively paced with a forward driven stomp, carried with continual injections of further bomb blasts a highlighting contrast that snaps the listener to and fro exceptionally and weaves between these passages of disconcerting fizzed out guitar that rise and fall unsettlingly, as they are underpinned by eerie and terrifying synths that feel reminiscent of the Occasus days.
Sickly electronics whine and bend in a wreathing manner around thunderous riffs that are infectiously percussive, and hearken to the twitching and cerebral tonalities of N0n.
Through an intermission of rotting and broken circuitry, we are carried through straining sounds of ill and bent tremolo guitars we are lead into a more traditional and satisfying sounding death metal esque section that has a fantastic counterplay between a feral guttural snarl and soaring and endearing melodic lines. We then are thrust back into a drum driven space in counterplay with ambient piano echoes before a triumphant return to the centrepiece crushing riff as the final moments of the song.
This track is a satisfying penultimate piece that has all the elements a fan of past Amenta records would be seeking if some of the more experimental changes throughout are a little alien to them. And certainly when the band make their return to the stage, I can see this being a crowd favourite.
"I ask you to enshrine my failures.
They are the synbols of man." Ending the record with triumphant defiance and resolve riding upon the trill of lumbering eight note kick and melodic palm muted swell, "Parse Over" seems to be a collected reflection of the merit of an individuals efforts and value felt expressed both sonically and lyrically.
There is an interesting juxtaposition in the name clearly in reference to the biblical Passover when the vengeful spirit sent by God decimated Egyptian firstborns. With the Israelites spared by painting their doorframes with sacrificial blood. And then to parse, to study and sift through text and decipher their meaning.
I get a sense that this is touching on the idea of the risk and damnation found in the words and expressions someone makes, possibly as an intellectual or creative. And that perhaps in the sincerity of blood shed, with weakness and vulnerability spent, perhaps a less harsh judgement is hoped to be cast upon them that their merit and well intent be seen and counted.
"I dig through my navel.
Feel the unravelling of bones
And the deltas of the vein,
Now noosely knotted.
This unspooling body…"
The song seethes with a truly powerful sense of the self being exposed in a resolute and confident animalistic manner that resounds as the defining melodic and thematic statement of the album.
This is carried by rousing and fist pounding riffs that drive forward in a desperate declaratory manner. It is just as soon as this infectious riff is given to us, we are pushed backwards and thrown into a quieter and more subdued and sombre space as tender piano chimes with the imposing tolling of a bell and tectonic, growled rumble of the imposing Dan Quinlan bass.
It is melancholic, evoking a hopeful pathos like the collection of the most sincere thoughts expressed to lure us into a reflective manner. Eric plays exceptionally melodic and emotive, nigh funeral doom toned guitars collaboratively with the soulful croons from Cain that caress the listener in a silken manner.
And once again just as soon as we have adjusted to the tempo and pace, the song once again takes to feet to explode back into a powerful forward motion once again. Driven by palm muted disconcerting guitars with horrific entwining electronics that mount in tension to break to silence, leaving a tail of distorted feedback like a breath hanging.
And then, we slam back into the intro riff resolving that lingering feeling of anticipation to allow the moment to carry forth twofold with even more resolve. We coast further from here upon the storm of growing and twisting passages of dramatically disturbed tonalitiy and rebellious inflection that mounts higher and higher as the depths of this dramatic resolve of the defiant individual are simultaneously dove deeper into. With furious tremolo and frantic double kick, we roar across the sonic plateau and climax of the album as Cain cries pleadingly,
"I ask you for silence on my soul.
I ask you to discard my flesh"
And just as we reach this explosive height, we are thrown back for a final time into a similar reflective passage as the early half of the song. Cain with layers of vocal harmonies sings longingly alongside that tolling bell. "I smear my prayer, crosswise, on the door." All the pressure built up like heated air stored in firm lungs is finally expelled in a breath as the album reaches a sudden but endearing end that seems to leave the listener on a cliffhanger. Revelator, is a defining moment in the bands career as a creative entity.
The band have certainly taken risks in deviating from certain tropes in their repertoire and shedding their skin. They have stated that the prior albums are considered a part of a trilogy seen to completion and this is the rebirth of a new beast. Coming into life with new questions, carrying both the blessings and sins of the father. This record may alienate certain fans who may be hungry for the instantly gratifying impact of abusively hostile blast beats and incessant scathing riffs.
At first as a long time fan I found myself hungry for the sonic abuse of previous albums.
But with an open mind and eagerness to appreciate the bands vision, I have found “Revelator” to be a cinematic sonic experience. Afforded to the band now as they move into a new era.
Though there is less intent on stocking every song with a bulging variety of musical ideas. There is however a expansive depth of bountiful creativity afforded by and behind the appearances of a more subdued and restrained Amenta.
As written for the classic track "Nihil" from the Occassus album,
"In the melody between notes"
This certainly finds new meaning and significance here. This is an album appreciated on a surface level, but will age like a fine wine, with every timbre and intonation appreciated in course. Symbolism both sensory and intellectual will find deeper meaning in time if someone takes hold of the bread trail left out by the band.
This album leaves much more room for thought and reflection and it is my hope that in the consumption of this record people are investigative on diving deeper into the band beyond the primal satisfaction of ugly sonics and powerful riffs. In closing, these are my more loosely poetic reflections upon the album. Revelator, the dissection of the self. Will unshackled from the tedium of weighted expectation and both personal and societal repression. Stretched and inspected, discarded and then self collected. Sent on its way into the fray of fraying sound. Listener left on/off/on/off ambiguous notes in arrest. Of rags gathered, spat again and walked into the waste. Relive Revile Reveal
Revelator will be released Feb 19th on Debemur Morti Productions and EVP Recordings.