While Amebix hasn’t exactly had the most fruitful of musical careers, their influence has reached out far and wide all across the world. Any type of band with an aggressive sound owes a lot of their success to Rob “The Baron” Miller and Stig Miller. Having released classic hardcore punk albums “Arise!” and “Monolith” in the 1980s, the band had solidified their presence with engaging and poignant song-writing. We have not had a proper release from Amebix since “Monolith” was released in 1987, and guess what? 24 years later this three-piece is back with a brand new album, “Sonic Mass,” that they released themselves. If the reasoning for that is because no label wanted to back their new record for fear of not enough units being moved, then shame on them. This is Amebix we’re talking about here! Units don’t mean a damn thing; only the thunderous hooves of “Sonic Mass” does.
Making sure to keep with the tradition of not being predictable, you are treated to the wonderfully soothing track known as “Days”. A four minute opus of Rob singing on top of an uplifting bass-line, finally being measured out with epic ambiance and string-synth that not only lulls you into a state of peaceful auditory bliss, but sets you up to be jolted back to reality with the crush of Stig’s guitar and the drums. Then, suddenly, you are thrust into the world of Amebix, where creative drum-fills are plentiful and the memorable and heavy riffs and bass-lines will always be there. “Shield Wall” is exactly that, protecting you just momentarily from seeing the tremendous flood of “The Messenger” splashing over the dam, washing away and decimating everything in its path. “Sonic Mass” is exactly what the album name advertises.
For those of you who think you’re just going to find hardcore punk on “Sonic Mass” are dead wrong. Amebix has created this incredible amalgamation of musical styles that travels through both diverse worlds of punk and heavy metal. Try taking the ridiculously heavy sludge sound of Neurosis, the beautiful and sorrow-filled ambiance of Ulver, and merge it with an apocalyptic and melodic version of Motorhead, with spatters of their old hardcore punk roots and hard rock influences thrown in for good measure. There are a good bit of spoken word portions in these songs, and fit in perfectly to the music that is backing them up. “Visitation” is a perfect example of this, as it has lots of dialogue from a contemplative and overly philosophical man, who even has short exchanges with what I perceived to be an extraterrestrial of some sort, making sure to give heed to its human counterpart to be careful of what he wishes for. The bass-heavy sound “Sonic Mass” has to it could not have been executed any better, as everything sounds nearly flawless. All of the ambiance and synthetic sounds create an atmosphere that most modern bands wouldn’t be able to pull off if their lives depended on it.
It feels like Amebix wrote “Sonic Mass” to be one giant epic tale that is split up into two halves, with the first half telling you that the ushering of the apocalypse has begun. Earth will be crushed under the weight of some type of catastrophic-sized meteor that nothing short of a miracle could stop, bringing forth a feeling of utter hopelessness, weakness, and questioning whether or not all the trouble life brings has been worth it. A story that humanity knows all too well, I’m afraid. The second half of “Sonic Mass” feels as if revelations had been discovered across the planet. The entire populous must somehow work together to thwart their impending doom as the music begins to take a more uplifting tone. The groovy rock sounds of tracks like “Here Come The Wolf” and “The One” restores the hope that was lost, an omnipresent feeling of victory is upon the human race… at least that’s just my interpretation of the album, anyway. Everything culminates in “Knights Of The Black Sun,” with Robert taking us back with his soothing and gravelly singing voice, shouting out these ever-so-triumphant words:
And I broke apart the graven seal
And these seven words I read
Rejoice, the great god fear is dead
So from the rooftops call it out
You where always free
Yes from the rooftops call it out
And ever may you be
After 24 years of not hearing anything from the Amebix name I was right to be skeptical about them coming back and releasing a new record. I should have immediately punched myself in the face for even thinking that, because “Sonic Mass” is absolutely brilliant from beginning to end. Not only was I greatly enthralled and invested in the music, but I was incredibly moved, as well. There is so much raw emotion in this album that it makes me irrationally angry at every other modern punk, metal, and hard rock act that sounds so incredibly soulless, robotic, and cold. “Sonic Mass” should be treated as one single entity; not 10 separate songs. Listen to it all the way through, and I guarantee that you will be screaming for more.
Bravo, Amebix. Bravo.