After showing Australian crowds just how good they actually are on a national run supporting Emperor earlier this year, Sydney metal outfit The Amenta have delivered on their promise with their new EP Plague Of Locus.
Essentially an album showcasing the band’s many and varied influences, Plague Of Locus also acts as the catalyst for The Amenta’s first headlining tour in over ten years this November and December.
Looking through the bands and songs covered on this release it’s no shock to find that I don’t know even one of these tracks, which should hopefully allow for me to listen with virgin ears and without prejudice.
A one-minute intro sets the pace with an industrial, almost tribal-sounding opening salvo that offers a somber and deliberate tone that says nothing vocally but emphatically says more with intent.
Sono L Anticristo (Diamanda Galas) is apparently a song not meant for the metal realm, with the promise of guitars buzzing in place of piano sections an enticing proposition to be sure.
Again with an industrial underbelly, the song gathers momentum courtesy of devilish screams and frenetic drumming from Dave Haley before a sonic blanket of evil descends from the darkness.
The pace is violent and unrelenting, firmly held in check by Haley’s Herculean efforts behind the kit, but it is the almost pained and commanding vocal delivery by Cain Cressall that adds more than a degree of menace.
Keyboardist and sampler Timothy Pope provides an atmospheric backdrop to the carnage that only elevates the foreboding destructive nature of the track and the swirling of noises and images sweeping through my mind are testament alone to the graphic nature of the music.
Killing Joke’s Asteroid bounces up next, a rapid-fire call to arms drifting into chaos as The Amenta set about dismantling yet another sonic realm.
This is a quick as fuck and punchy number rooted deeply in hardcore punk and sporadically rumbles on a path directly summoned from the Metal Gods below.
There is a lot going on here musically, with Erik Miehs on guitars and Dale Harrison on bass attacking their instruments as though possessed.
Angry Chair from Alice In Chains is up next, and although I don’t know the song I am intrigued as to what The Amenta will do with it.
A stuttering jolt of musical electricity eases us into things as a swirling and edgy guitar interplay adds a touch of hypnotic aggression to the track.
It is almost haunting and just gets creepier before Cressall and Haley enter the fray simultaneously and lay the platform for a bleak and desolate trip down memory lane.
This track is groovy as fuck, despite hovering with an underlying sense of urgency that threatens to erupt at any time.
But The Amenta fail to give into temptation, instead allowing the song room to breathe and develop at its own snaky pace. It is an effective tool of less is more and is in direct contrast to the busy nature of what has come before. A tasty guitar solo from Miehs spices things up momentarily before retreating back into a steady, controlled pace that gains traction from its relative restraint.
The title track is next, and, if I’m not mistaken, is the only original song on the album.
And what a pearler it is.
There’s no setting the scene or easing into things. Plague Of Locus plunges headlong into a world of darkness and retribution, beautifully gathering momentum awash with keyboards and gently delivered bursts of solace.
These guys know how to build a song and don’t mind showing us, and why shouldn’t they? I haven’t heard anything as precise and threatening as this in a long time, and I’m loving it.
Wolf Eyes’ A Million Years shuffles to life on the back of some threatening industrial action, once more using an assortment of soundscapes to create mood and atmosphere. It is done in such a way to draw you deeper into each track and provide some form of visual accompaniment that is at the behest of your own imagination – it just guides you for the first step or two.
Two minutes in and things are still trudging along, albeit with a fresh assortment of sounds and visions to cloud your thoughts. It’s like static without the actual static and acts as a gateway of sorts into an entirely new plane of existence limited only by how far you wish to take it.
I didn’t know being scared could be so much fun!
Crystal Lakes from Lord Kaos comes out exactly the opposite, an avalanche of double kicks softening you up before Cressall re-launches his vocal tirade of oppression that seems impossible to resist.
The Amenta are tighter and more extreme than most slabs of music to have assaulted these ears and the amount of thought and planning that has gone into the execution of each of these tracks is thorough to the point of obsession.
But it not only works, it shows. Everything from the sound to the production to the atmosphere created on Plague Of Locus is world-class and unforgiving.
And as I type this Crystal Lakes lifts yet another notch of extremities and forces me to completely lose track of where I was.
Which is Rise from Halo.
Rapid fire drumming heralds the onslaught of another densely heavy number that would be impossible to walk around in. Screams and menacing cries of anguish fade only long enough for Haley to showcase a menacing but short lived drum pattern before the demons of the night return to claim our souls.
There is a sense of menace to The Amenta’s songs and music that should come with an 18+ label. And even then it is likely to scare the crap out of most people.
Nazxul’s Totem fires from the speakers next, a distorted splash of feedback announcing another shot in the direction of the damned before Cressall sets out to once more challenge the Underworld in a sonic dual to the death.
The whole band kicks into overdrive here and appears to be going at it with each other in a free for all pit of aggression that not once loses focus from the task at hand.
A mellower breakdown halfway through only adds another layer of dread that suitably arrives as the momentary glimpse of salvation is reclaimed by the void.
Black God from My Dying Bride closes the EP and wastes little time ushering in an almost sci-fi wave of pending doom that is perfectly harnessed on keys by Pope.
It builds tension tantalizingly slowly, a haze of electronics drowning out the menacing tones of Cressall who seems content to act more as narrator than instigator.
It is a welcome respite from the unrelenting cavalcade of intent heard on most tracks leading up to this point, but loses nothing by way of pulling back on the reigns.
Instead, Black God is further proof of the enticing and beautiful art of music, whereby sometimes heaviness isn’t measured in speed and aggression. It is more an easing of the sonic intensity that would otherwise have been difficult to cleanse and sees The Amenta leaving us with just as many questions as they gave us answers.
Which is an art form in itself.