Timothy Pope, singer for The Amenta, is discussing Flesh is Heir, the recently-released album from the Aussie industrial death masters.
“It’s a lot more of an organic album, but it’s still a very aggressive and ugly album,” he says. “It’s a bit more honest and a bit more real, and it’s the sound that we’ve been trying to get for at least three albums now.”
The band make a very conscious effort towards innovation and Pope makes continuing references to this as being the band’s “ethos”.
“I hesitate to say philosophical, but we have an agenda of sorts,” he says. “We believe in pushing ourselves and challenging ourselves in order to create something unique and interesting.”
This ethos is an embodiment of not only all that the band strives to achieve, but also a reflection of what they want to avoid – trite and clichéd signifiers of death metal are seen as the lazy band’s road to creating an identity.
“We’re still making extreme metal in a broad sense, but we’re trying to find our own way to do it,” Pope explains. “It’s about the interplay of instruments and finding ways to express ourselves with those instruments in a different way to anyone else.”
During recording for the latest album, anything that sounded too similar to the previous album was scrapped. As Pope explains, it wasn’t inspiring or exciting to them: “The thought of turning that idea into a song is a chore, so we play around and experiment and throw stuff at the wall to find something that is unique and has that spark.”
The Amenta aren’t interested in being the fastest or most brutal, either. Within the broad genre of metal, there’s often pressure to sound a certain way, and failure to do so can mean you’re labelled “soft”, but Pope laughs this off.
“We look for a certain kind of feeling and sound that, to us, represents The Amenta and it doesn’t necessarily need to be aggressive or ugly,” he says, adding, “It does tend to be dark though, and it does tend to be harmonically odd.”
The direction of the latest album took shape during walks that Pope would take around his home when struggling to find inspiration. Two bands inspired the idea of “the obliterate and the realist”, as Pope puts it, and the effects of these two bands couldn’t have been more starkly contrasted.
The first is Swan’s double-live album We Rose From Your Bed With the Sun In Our Head, which Pope says cleared his mind of everything.
“I walked out with the express interest of thinking about lyrics but, listening to this music, all of that got blown away and I realised I had been walking for an hour without thinking at all,” he says. “That pointed me in the direction of the idea of the obliterate, the part of me that wanted to be swept up in something, that wants to have the self annihilated.”
The second band is Stars of the Lid, a drone band that use guitars, electronics and strings to make minimalist pieces and Pope says this music has the opposite effect.
“It’s the kind of music that colours your surroundings rather than obliterates yourself, and it made it easier to think and to process things,” he says.
As the band gears up to tour the new album, Pope reflects on some of their past tours, making mention of “lots of boring downtime” that most people wouldn’t realise. Sitting in venues and staring at walls as you wait doesn’t make the life of a touring band sound quite as glamorous as you’d initially think, but he does highlight the one thing that makes it all worthwhile.
“There’s always a little sweetener at the end of the day. You get to be on stage and play to people that appreciate what you do,” he says.
Touring internationally is hard for a band like The Amenta, or any Australian band for that matter. Because of our geographical location, any Australian band has to spend thousands just go get overseas and start a tour, whereas other bands from different countries might be able to spend $100 on a flight to get an international tour going.
“We’re disadvantaged in that way, but the other side of it is that there’s a lot of cachet to being an Australian band – people don’t understand Australian bands, they find them ‘interesting’,” he adds. “Then there’s the other side of the coin where people are just thinking of Crocodile Dundee and they’re thinking it might be a bit of a joke, so it’s between those two that you strike a middle balance.”
Preparing for life after the tour, Pope says he’s already started thinking about directions for the next album: “We haven’t sat down and recorded anything yet, but I have ideas and I have a direction for the next album which I’m pretty excited about. We’re notorious for having a really long time between albums, so it’ll be an interesting challenge to try and do something in under five years this time.”
With The Amenta’s Flesh is Heir in hand, that wait just became a little more bearable.